Child who survived crippling accident participates in Meek homecoming

By JENNIFER COHRON, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 9/22/16

All eyes were on 6-year-old RaLynn Laurent as she rolled onto the football field for Meek High School’s homecoming festivities Friday night.

Five months ago, doctors delivered the devastating news that RaLynn had been paralyzed following a …

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Child who survived crippling accident participates in Meek homecoming

Posted

All eyes were on 6-year-old RaLynn Laurent as she rolled onto the football field for Meek High School’s homecoming festivities Friday night.

Five months ago, doctors delivered the devastating news that RaLynn had been paralyzed following a head-on collision on Highway 195.

Though her grandmother, Susan Laurent, is still praying for a miracle, she acknowledges that RaLynn’s spinal cord injury has been classified as complete. The little girl who once turned perfect cartwheels will never regain feeling below her chest.

When RaLynn came home after 29 days at Children’s Hospital, her medical team assured her grandmother that she would have a normal life.

“I got real angry. I said, ‘How can you look at me in the face and tell me this 6-year-old little girl is going to be normal? She can’t walk,’” Laurent said. “But Friday night when I looked down on that football field and saw her roll herself out, I knew that she is going to have a normal life. She won’t be standing, but she’ll be rolling doing anything she wants to do.”

RaLynn shared the spotlight Friday with 16-year-old Amanda Cunningham, an 11th grader who was named this year’s Senior High Princess.

Members of Meek’s homecoming court traditionally pick a kindergarten or first grade student to serve as flower girls.

When Amanda’s first choice, a family friend, was unable to fill the role, a coach at the elementary school recommended RaLynn.

“He told me about this little girl who had a bad accident last April, and she is in a wheelchair now. He said if I wanted to make her day and really make her feel special, I should consider her,” Amanda said.

RaLynn won over Amanda at their first meeting with her energy and sweet spirit. The job seemed meant for her.

During homecoming week, RaLynn could hardly contain her excitement. She participated in every one of the student body’s dress-up days, each one getting her one step closer to the most important dress-up day of all.

She asked her grandmother “Is today the day?” too many times to count.

“All the other little girls were excited too, but it didn’t mean to them what it meant to her,” Laurent said.

Finally, the big night arrived. Wearing a white gown and child-sized crown, RaLynn carried a bouquet of roses to Amanda just like she had practiced.

As cameras flashed all over the stadium, RaLynn and Amanda smiled and soaked in the moment that they both will always remember.

“Everybody deserves to feel like a princess, and I hope she felt like that,” Amanda said.

Amanda is just one of the many people in the Arley community to reach out to RaLynn and her grandmother.

In a school of 240 students, RaLynn is the only one who uses a wheelchair. She is also one of the most popular.

Her classmates are so eager to help her get from one place to another that a rotation has been put in place to avoid fights.

When RaLynn returned to school following the accident, she discovered that a swing designed for children with special needs had been installed just for her.

The students at Meek Elementary spent a day cleaning up the paths on the playground to make them more wheelchair friendly.

Since then, community leaders have agreed to donate labor and materials so the paths will be fully accessible.

Principal Heather Tucker said RaLynn doesn’t let her wheelchair stop her from doing anything she wants alongside her classmates.

“I’ve never heard anybody say she has said, ‘I can’t do that because...’ She just gets in the middle of everything and goes for it,” Tucker said.

This week, it was back to the usual routine for RaLynn.

On Monday, she sat near the office talking about her homecoming experience while twirling a friendship necklace that her grandmother recently bought for her.

“It says, ‘Be friendly,’ I think,” she said of the necklace, shaped like half a heart and containing only a partial message.

Because the set had already been separated by the time her grandmother purchased the necklace, RaLynn doesn’t know who owns the other half signifying that the two are “BEST FRIENDS.”

RaLynn doesn’t have just one best friend, though. She has a community full of them.