Special-needs student thanks boy who made grad walk memorable

Special-needs student thanks boy who made grad walk memorable
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

AIEA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Aubrey McKenzie has down syndrome, is autistic, and hearing impaired. Her mother wasn't sure if Aubrey would want to walk in the Pearl City High graduation ceremony.

"Honestly, I didn't know if Aubrey would have the courage to walk," said Desi McKenzie. "If she doesn't have somebody who understands where her needs are."

So she was more than a little surprised to see her 4-foot-7 daughter walk out during the ceremony holding the arm of a 6-foot-5 boy.

"I didn't know who he was, but I could tell by his face, by his manner, that he was calming to her," McKenzie said.

She didn't get to meet the boy that day, so she posted picture of the two on Facebook, asking for help identifying him.

"My friend says, 'Isn't this your son?'" said Tiana Tui, the boy's mom. "Then it struck me, oh my goodness, he actually did something that was amazing."

That amazing boy is William Ah Chan, and he's the reason for a very special meeting on Friday at Aubrey's favorite restaurant, California Pizza Kitchen at Pearlridge.

After McKenzie's Facebook post, the two moms connected. And they all planned to meet up.

"I just want to thank you for raising such an amazing young man," McKenzie told Tui, during the emotional sit-down.

How were Aubrey and William paired up? They just happened to walk together at the graduation.

"I think she was actually paired with the guy behind me," Ah Chan said. "I think his girlfriend was in front of Aubrey ... so he wanted to switch."

Ah Chan did, and Aubrey was delighted.

McKenzie says she got emotional when Aubrey started doing the "princess wave" at the graduation as they walked past the crowd.

"A lot of guys that age might have been embarrassed by that, but William just went with the flow," she said.

On Friday, using sign language, Aubrey read a card she gave to William. It said: "Thank you for walking me at graduation."

Aubrey also gave William a gift: a tool belt and hammer because he'll be studying carpentry at Honolulu Community College and doesn't have the money to buy all of his supplies.

While the two didn't know each other before commencement, the culmination of their high school years brought them together -- and has forever connected their families.

"To me honestly, it isn't that big of a deal," William said, about all the praise. "Aubrey's cool."

And then, the two bumped fists.

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