“It gives hope to all of us that there’s more Brees out there, and more coaches and teams like this out there who are going to say, ‘Of course, we’re going to make a place for you.'”
Bree Cox, who was 14 at the time, had some big news to tell everyone: she had made the high school drill team! The Utah teen became famous on social media after a video of her proudly and excitedly telling her dad that her dream had finally come true touched people’s hearts. Bree, who has Down syndrome, became a role model for many people as she dispelled common myths about the condition and opened the door for more people with special needs.
Kecia Cox, the girl’s mother, told PEOPLE that it has been a “really touching” few weeks since her daughter found out she made the Murray High School competition dance team. Bree follows in the footsteps of her 18-year-old sister Kyra and her 16-year-old sister Adrie, whom she calls “role models” and who both helped her become interested in dancing. She went to all of Kyra and Adrie’s competitions over the years and learned all of their dances in the hopes that one day she would also be on the team. But Cox, who has a 14-year-old daughter named Mia, twins named Claire and Livvy who are 9 years old, and a 5-year-old son named Noah with her husband Kris, says she wasn’t always sure if Bree’s dream would come true.
“When Bree saw this new thing — not just classes at the neighborhood dance studio, but they got to be on the football field, and the basketball court and part of the school — that just lit her up in a different way,” she explained. “Bree didn’t understand that she had a disability, so she saw [Kyra and Adrie] doing things and she was just going to do them too. It almost broke my heart back then, because I really didn’t know if she would ever get to do it, and how was I going to explain that to her if she didn’t? I don’t want to limit her by any means, but I also want to protect her.”
“She just beams when she dances,” Cox recalled. “She just goes in there, doesn’t worry about what people think of her, steps on the floor, does what she loves and that’s where she’s the most at home.” Bree and Adrie each got a letter three days after tryouts telling them that they had made the team. Cox says that when Bree first heard the news, she was very calm.”When they first told her she made it, she’s like, ‘I know.’ Like no big deal… She was so proud,” said the 42-year-old. Later that night, though, Bree got emotional as she told her dad the good news. Cox said of the sweet moment that went viral on social media,” She’s never felt happy tears before,” Cox said of the sweet moment that went viral on social media. “She’s cried when she’s sad. But she was like, ‘I’m not sad.’ We had no idea that she would get that emotional.”
“We can shout their worth and their capabilities all day long, but if nobody’s willing to listen, then it doesn’t really get very far,” Cox said. But Bree didn’t let her fears stop her from going after her dream. The teen’s family “took Bree’s lead” and kept trying to help her. Bree and Adrie worked on their audition dances together, and when it came time for the tryouts, they each did a dance for the judges and coaches. Bree says she wasn’t scared, even though she had never been on a team before.
Bree said that she was only crying because she was so happy and likes “being part of the group.”
“We’ve gone to doctor’s appointments this week, and anywhere basically, and she’s like, ‘Mom, tell them,’ Cox said. “”Tell them what?” I asked. “Tell them I made the drill team!” she’ll say.” The happy mother hopes that her daughter will always feel like she belongs and be happy.
“Our greatest hope is that she never feels like she wants to change the fact that she has Down syndrome, or that she’s not good enough because she has this disability,” Cox explained. “Bree is the happiest when she feels like she belongs and she can do something she loves. To have her be in a situation where she gets to do what she loves, and be accepted, and treated as an equal… We can’t really ask for anything else. And that’s where she belongs. You fight for your kids with special needs every day, to some degree, because you’re their voice. So when these little victories happen, you’re like, ‘Okay, it’s worth it. They’re seen by somebody and they’re valued.'”
“She doesn’t like to talk about it, but she knows that she’s different and has different struggles. For her to have this moment where she didn’t feel different was worth it all for us. And the fact that she could do it with her sister is huge,” Cox added. “It’s more than just a spot on the team — not just for our family, but for everybody to see this is possible. It gives hope to all of us that there are more Brees out there, and more coaches and teams like this out there who are going to say, ‘Of course, we’re going to make a place for you.’ People believed in her and saw her, and that’s really hard to do with kids with disabilities sometimes. There’s plenty of people who are nice, and who are going to be kind and talk to you, but to find a place where you’re really seen and believed in is like a whole different world. It’s beautiful, and she deserves it.”