CUMBERLAND COUNTY, North Carolina (WRAL) — When a Cumberland County high school senior’s disabilities prevented her from walking across the stage at graduation, strangers stepped up to celebrate.
They came by the hundreds to honor 19-year-old Leianna Smith.
“She was really excited,” said her mom Terry Cavalier. “She loves loud vehicles, and there was a lot of them”
Smith has autism, Down Syndrome and is nonverbal.
“She has overcome so much,” said Cavalier.
Unable to wear a face mask, Smith couldn’t participate in Cape Fear High School’s graduation.
That’s when her mom posted to Facebook.
“I wanted the community to come together to celebrate Leianna because she is often overlooked,” wrote Cavalier.
That initial Facebook post for a drive-thru graduation didn’t get much attention.
But when Terry Cavalier posted again- this time about her disappointment — people took notice.
“She deserved just as much as any other kid deserved to graduate,” said drive-thru organizer Robert Kitchen. “She did it. She graduated.”
“It’s wild how mean the world can be, and one angel brought us all together,” he added.
Amongst the 750 cars that attended the celebration were firefighters, troopers, bikers and even strangers.
“Everybody’s hearts opened up. It’s like God was telling everyone, ‘Open your hearts. Come together [and] let’s do this,'” said Cavalier.
“There was many times I had to choke back tears. It was special. It was wonderful to see it was laid on so many people’s hearts to show up like they did,” said Smith’s father Bobby Cavalier.
A community celebrating a major milestone — and hopefully inspiring a new wave of kindness.
“Maybe this will touch them in the special way they need to be a giving person too,” said Bobby Cavalier.
Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.