When Colleen Powell walked down the aisle at her wedding, she was accompanied by two important men in her life: Her father, Greg Costello, and 10-year-old Dominic May.
Dominic has Down syndrome and doesn’t talk, yet he’s made a huge impact on Powell, his special education teacher. That’s why she knew that her nuptials would not be complete without him and two other special guests.
“I'd always said my boys are going to be in my wedding because they're just the biggest piece of my heart,” Powell, 25, of Milledgeville, Georgia, told TODAY Parents. “They mean as much to me as anyone else that was there.”
For two years, Powell has been teaching Dominic, Jay Hurt and Korde Solomon, and she immediately bonded with them, even though the three do not speak much.
“They can all communicate their wants or needs or their feelings,” she explained. “It's really funny because they will argue with me and it's so hard not to laugh.”
She decided that Korde would push Jay, who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair, down the aisle as the ring bearers and Dominic would give her away. Because they can’t speak clearly, Jay carried a button that when he pressed it said, “Here comes the bride.” Dominic also carried a prerecorded message. When the officiant asked, “Who gives away the bride?” Dominic played a recording of Costello saying, “Her parents and I do.”
When Dominic gave her away to her now husband, Ryan, everyone was moved.
“It hit me very hard emotionally because I lost my father in August,” Ingreid Banks, Dominic’s mom, told TODAY Parents. “For (Costello) to share that day with Dominic it meant so much to me.”
But when Powell first told Banks that she wanted Dominic in the wedding, Banks thought the teacher was just saying it to be kind. When she realized the offer was genuine, she felt touched.
“It just rocked my world. It meant a lot,” Banks said.
Banks wasn’t the only parent who believed Powell just trying to be nice.
“Originally, I thought she just kind of said it to be kind because I was in the classroom while she talked about planning the wedding,” Camellia Hurt, Jay’s mom, told TODAY Parents. “She was serious.”
While Hurt feels thrilled that Powell wanted Jay to be included, she also worried that three 10-year-old boys might cause some extra stress.
“At first I was on pins and needles but thank God nothing happened,” she said. “He was really involved in the wedding and this was so beautiful.”
She enjoyed watching Jay showing off. Mid-reception she saw Jay out of his wheelchair being passed around on the dance floor.
“He was laughing and giggling,” she said. “It is so important for our society to see children with special needs included because … they are children, just like other children.”
Shiquana Solomon, Korde’s mom, agrees.
"We all need to open up a little (about people with disabilities)," she told TODAY Parents. “He's labeled special needs, but he's still a person."
Korde has autism and Solomon worried he might not listen to directions. But he did everything perfectly and added his own flair.
“Korde danced going down the aisle, he had to bust out a little dance move. They started clapping,” Solomon said with a laugh. “I was happy. I was crying.”
Banks practically had to drag Dominic off the dance floor.
“He did not want to go home,” she said. “He enjoyed being around all the different bridesmaids.”
The moms wanted to share the story because they think Powell truly is a special teacher. Over the summer, she taught Korde to swim because she wanted to help. Hurt, who teaches third grade at Powell’s school, says Powell has her students deliver coffee to all the teachers on Fridays so the children feel included in Lakeview Academy community. Seeing their children involved in the wedding means the world to the mothers.
“It was wonderful. I never never really thought about a family member having Dominic in a wedding,” Banks said. “It was such a wonderful occasion. I am still on cloud nine.”