A terminally ill 6-year-old from Waverly, Illinois, was honored at a local high school's graduation ceremony last week after the senior class requested that he be given a diploma.
Jordan Planitz, 6, who suffers from MPPH syndrome (megalencephaly, polymicrogyria, polydactyly and hydrocephalus) has cognitive issues and a shortened life expectancy due to his illness. But after meeting with the graduating class of Tri-City High School in Buffalo, Illinois, earlier this year, Planitz made a lasting impression that inspired students to want to include him in their commencement.
"Earlier in the year, the principal at the time, Dustin Day, had a program called 'Principal for a Day' where he would invite sick children to the school to act as principal," Jordan's mother, Deanna Planitz, explained to ABC News. "Jordan was invited, and we went and met the most amazing senior class that you’ll ever come across. They took care of him all day, surrounded him going up and down stairs. It was a wonderful experience."
Following the "Principal for a Day" event, Planitz invited the senior class to Jordan's birthday party in April. But the celebration conflicted with a pre-scheduled senior class trip.
The principal attended the party in the students' absence and in turn invited the Planitz family to join him at the high school graduation ceremony on May 31.
"Then, a few days before the graduation, Day called me back and said 'the seniors came to my office and told me since Jordan is terminal and won't be able to have his own graduation ceremony, they wanted to make him part of theirs,'" said Planitz. "I was shocked. You just don’t find an entire senior class with that much sincerity."
The experience was an emotional one for Planitz.
"It was bittersweet at first," she said. "I was watching all of these high school students getting up, receiving their diplomas and sitting down and knew that I won't have that. Then Dustin Day announced Jordan, who was wearing his own little cap and gown, and the class president came out into the audience and they walked him up on the stage."
As Day presented Jordan with his own diploma, the entire gymnasium erupted with a standing ovation.
"It was so loud, you couldn’t hear yourself!" said Planitz. "I was crying so hard I couldn’t even get pictures or video. I got to see a dream come true for Jordan and for myself."
While she cannot say how much Jordan understood, Planitz said the moment was clearly a happy one for him.
"All he knew that day was that he was on stage and everybody was standing and clapping for him," she said. "It was one of the most tearful and emotional days of my life."