Eric's Heroes: The sweetest kindness of all
BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Kindness can be a quiet, personal thing.
But there is also a bold, open-hearted form of kindness that needs to be a public thing, out in the open for all to see.
And sometimes that is the sweetest kind of all.
On a Friday night at Newport High School in Bellevue, the anticipation builds for a game against Issaquah.
The students fill up the stands, the parents take their seats, band members warm up their instruments.
Cheerleaders Savannah Roberts and Addy Concannon bounce about in their white uniforms with scarlet trim. They are seniors. And close friends.
In the stands, they see their friend Latrelle. He's an autistic student with short hair and a big grin. They each give him a hug. They know him from a class they had together. It's a class for special-needs students, and Savannah and Addy are what's called, "social coaches."
And here comes a boy named Albert into the gym with his dad. Albert is a special-needs kid, too. He was in that same class with Addy and Savannah.
The two girls see other friends too before game time. They are nice to everybody. When you are a senior, you start to become aware of how special these times are. At least Addy and Savannah see it that way.
At some point during the game the two of them left the gym for a moment, then came back in carrying a giant folded piece of construction paper. They seemed to be in a hurry, and they walked it back behind the bleachers and stuffed it between some metal risers.
Then they returned to their cheering.
It was a good game. The players played hard. The band played hard. The cheerleaders cheered hard. So did the parents and all the kids, including Latrelle and Albert.
And then it was halftime, and the Newport Knights cheerleading team really went to work.
Savannah, tall with very long hair told us, "I think it could be a really life-changing experience to look back on and a proud moment not just only for me, but my peers."
Addy smiled. "I hope so," she said.
Something was up. The girls retrieved the giant folded construction paper.
The other cheerleaders organized themselves for some kind of formation.
Savannah's mom, Michelle, knew what was happening. We asked her what she did when she first heard about the plan.
She thought for a moment, then said, "I teared up, I wanted to cry. I am just really proud of them."
Two cheerleaders climbed up onto the shoulders of their friends. They were to be makeshift sign-holders.
And then Addy and Savannah handed the paper up to them, and they unfurled their masterpiece directly in front of the student section.
It said in big, bold bright letters, "Latrelle and Albert, will you be our Knights in shining armor at Tolo?"
A big cheer rose up from the students. Addy and Savannah looked at their prospective dates and yelled.
"Hey Latrelle! Albert! Come here!"
And down came the boys, a little dazed maybe, with everyone watching and cheering.
They walked up to the girls, and there were hugs, and Addy said, "Albert, will you go to the dance with me?" Albert smiled his approval.
They all hugged again, and the girls gave the boys some roses.
Latrelle seemed to soak up the moment. "It was pretty great," he said a few minutes later.
And so the date was set right there on the court. Savannah and Addy wanted everyone to know about it. They were going to Tolo with Latrelle and Albert.
"Yes, that's nice," smiled Albert.
We spoke briefly to the girls. Addy seemed relieved. "I'm so excited. I take it as an honor."
Savannah added, "They really are our friends."
Almost a month later, the two of them are at Addy's house, in the bathroom, getting all glammed up. They're in their best dresses, working on their makeup.
Addy runs her fingers through her friend's hair. "Silky smoooothe..." she says.
Savannah said, "I think it's something we'll never forget."
And that's what dances are for, right? Memories.
The boys would be there soon.
With their hair just right, and their dresses, the girls sat waiting on the couch in the livingroom.
And then through the window by the entrance they saw a happy anxious boy bound down the stairs and make a beeline for the front door. He was in a black tuxedo, and he didn't bother knocking. He just walked right in.
Not far behind him were his parents, and then Latrelle and his folks.
The girls greeted them with open smiles and big hugs.
"Hey Albert! Oh my gosh you look so good!"
"Hi Latrelle! You look great!"
Albert puffed out his chest and grinned.
Latrelle said, "Thank you!"
And so began a ritual that could have been happening in any living room before any dance.
The torturous ordeal of pinning on the boutonnieres.
The endless photos taken by proud moms and dads.
And then, as they stood there shoulder to shoulder, Latrelle blurted out something he just couldn't keep in.
He looked at Savannah and said, "You look astonishing tonight!" And everybody laughed.
Albert said at one point, "This evening I am looking forward to going to the Tolo dance." Everybody believed him.
Waiting out front was the biggest, longest stretch limousine that anybody could remember seeing. All of them walked out, and Savannah couldn't believe it.
"Oh, look at that limo!"
And all of them piled in through the back door.
Once inside somebody yelled, "How excited are we!"
And everybody else answered, "We're so excited!"
Latrelle let out the silliest, giddiest laugh, and it went on and on as the black limo slowly pulled out of the driveway and slowly oozed down the street.
And someday two ex-cheerleaders will remember back to being 18 years old, when opinions mattered so much and conformity was the rule, and they'll think about the decision to step out with their own special brand of kindness. The bold, open-hearted kind that needs to be a public thing, out in the open for all to see.
For one night at least, it was the sweetest kind of all.
Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.