SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Prom night is supposed to be special and for the students at Bingham High School it will be special and memorable. Friday night the student body crowned Hayden Nickel, a junior with Down syndrome, as this year’s prom king.
The applause and excitement after the announcement echoed off the capitol rotunda walls - where the event was held this year - for several minutes. And the smile and excitement on Hayden’s face was something that no one will soon forget. It was capped off when Hayden and Madison Watts – the prom queen - began a slow dance and then half-way into the song were joined by their classmates.
Students who counted the ballots for prom royalty tell me that Hayden “won by a landslide.” And they say it wasn’t a sympathy vote for a special needs student. No, they say it was a show of love and support for one of the most popular students on the Bingham campus. One of Hayden’s classmates and friends, Shane Callihan, says "The whole school has heard of Hayden and wants to be with Hayden because of how positive he is how energetic he can be. It’s no surprise he is prom king. Why wouldn't he be prom king?"
Tyler Winkelkotter, another one of Hayden’s friends, says some people may think that because of his limitations and needs their friendship is about them helping Hayden. But he says it’s really the other way around. "He's just one of the guys. It’s been a true blessing for us, in our group of friends." Some say Hayden is so loved at school because he is so loving. His teacher, Jared Denslow, says Hayden "loves the most unpopular and the most unpopular kids. It doesn't matter who you are." He says that love and his outgoing spirit touch everyone around him in positive ways.
His friends say in addition to that love and despite his limitations – classmate Steve Forsyth says “He is one of the funniest kids” on campus and he is “nice to everyone and loves to meet new people." Plus, they say – despite his small stature – Hayden is Bingham High’s biggest supporter. Callihan says, when he is at a sporting event “everyone around him is super pumped up about it. He's a great cheerleader." We saw that love and that humor when we sat down to talk to Hayden about becoming the prom king.
He told me that it makes him “feel happy.” Then he looked up and saw his dad trying to help him with what to say during the interview he smiled, paused then told everyone what his dad was doing. (see video)
His friends say Hayden is not a charity case - just one of the guys. Tyler Winkelkotter says, "He has hung out with us for so long we really don't see him as special needs anymore." However, everyone who knows him will tell you Hayden is indeed, special. .