-- A Pennsylvania high school senior with a rare brain disorder got her wish and more when she was crowned homecoming queen Friday.
MichaelAnn Byrne, 18, has always had trouble making friends at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg because of beta-propeller protein-associated Neurodegeneration (BPAN), a rare brain disorder that makes her unable to walk and talk, her mother, Sherry Byrne, told ABC News today.
It wasn’t until last year in a jewelry class that the high school senior was able to start forming friendships. Her teacher “really promoted her” by including her in conversations and asking her questions even though she could not respond without an aid, her mother said.
“I noticed that MichaelAnn changed because of these friendships; she was much happier,” Byrne said. “She got excited if you were talking about her friends.”
This difference in attitude prompted MichaelAnn to make a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She wished to have 100 new friends, a goal that her mom said she thinks her daughter has almost reached.
She also received help from country singer Brad Paisley, who made a video that was shown at the school’s senior assembly. Paisley discussed the difficulty of making friends and encouraged students to introduce themselves to MichaelAnn.
“Then when homecoming came around, I got a call from the school saying MichaelAnn made the homecoming court,” Byrne said. “I, of course, started crying.”
Out of about 600 students, MichaelAnn Byrne received enough votes to make homecoming court and was then voted the homecoming queen at Friday’s football game. Her father escorted her onto the field to receive her crown.
“I know when they announced her name she started smiling,” Sherry Byrne said, adding that she can usually tell how her daughter really feels at home where there is not as much stimulation.
“She really likes her beauty sleep and is usually asleep by 8,” Byrne said. “But she was up until 1 a.m. laughing and giggling in her room. She’s pretty excited about it.”