When Colleen Powell, a SPED teacher, walked down the aisle at her wedding, she knew that she wanted two people to give her away to her future husband – her father, Greg Costello, and her 10-year-old student, Dominic May.
Dominic has Down syndrome and is non-verbal, yet he’s touched Colleen’s heart in so many ways. That’s why she decided to include him and her two other students with disabilities – Jay Hurt who has cerebral palsy and Korde Solomon who has autism – on her special day.
“I’d always said my boys are going to be in my wedding because they’re just the biggest piece of my heart,” Colleen, 25, told TODAY Parents. “They mean as much to me as anyone else that was there.”
The Milledgeville, Georgia, resident has been a SPED teacher at Lakeview Academy for three years. Dominic, Jay, and Korde have been her students for two years, and though they don’t talk much, she immediately bonded with the trio.
“They can all communicate their wants or needs or their feelings,” she said. “It’s really funny because they will argue with me and it’s so hard not to laugh.”
During the wedding, Korde and Jay were the ring bearers. The latter, who was in a wheelchair pushed by Korde, carried with him a huge button that when pressed, says “Here comes the bride.”
Dominic also had with him a prerecorded message. When the officiant asked, “Who gives away the bride?” Dominic played a recording of Colleen’s father saying, “Her parents and I do.”
When Dominic gave away his SPED teacher to her now husband, Ryan, everyone was touched.
“It hit me very hard emotionally because I lost my father in August,” Ingreid Banks, Dominic’s mom, told TODAY Parents. “For (Greg Costello) to share that day with Dominic it meant so much to me.”
When Colleen first told Ingreid that she wanted to include Dominic at her wedding, she thought that the teacher was just trying to be kind. But she eventually realized that the offer was genuine.
“It just rocked my world. It meant a lot,” Ingreid said.
Camellia Hurt, Jay’s mom, also thought that Colleen was just being nice when her son was invited to be at the wedding.
“Originally, I thought she just kind of said it to be kind because I was in the classroom while she talked about planning the wedding,” Camellia recalled. “She was serious.”
Camellia felt so happy knowing that Colleen really wanted Jay at the wedding, but she also worried that three 10-year-old boys might cause a bit of trouble during the event.
“At first I was on pins and needles but thank God nothing happened,” she said. “He was really involved in the wedding and this was so beautiful.”
Mid-reception, Camellia found Jay showing off. He was out of his wheelchair being passed around by people on the dance floor. It was evident that he was enjoying the party.
“He was laughing and giggling,” she said. “It is so important for our society to see children with special needs included because … they are children, just like other children.”
Korde’s mom, Shiquana Solomon, couldn’t agree more.
“We all need to open up a little (about people with disabilities),” she said. “He’s labeled special needs, but he’s still a person.”
Korde played his part perfectly and even added his own flair to his ring bearer role.
“Korde danced going down the aisle, he had to bust out a little dance move. They started clapping,” Shiquana said with a laugh. “I was happy. I was crying.”
Towards the end of the party, Dominic almost had to be dragged off the dance floor because he was having so much fun that he didn’t want to leave.
“He did not want to go home,” Ingreid said. “He enjoyed being around all the different bridesmaids.”
The three moms wanted to share this story because they truly believe that Colleen is a very special teacher. During the summer, she taught Korde how to swim. Colleen also makes her students deliver coffee to all the teachers every Friday so that they feel included. Seeing their boys involved in Colleen’s wedding means the world to them.
“It was wonderful. I never never really thought about a family member having Dominic in a wedding,” Ingreid said. “It was such a wonderful occasion. I am still on cloud 9.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Colleen’s wonderful relationship with Dominic, Jay, and Korde.