‘A place to shine’: High schooler with Down syndrome breaking barriers on drill team

Local News

Bree Cox and her sister, Adrie, pose with letters informing them that they had been selected to dance on Murray High School’s drill team. (Courtesy of Kecia Cox)

MURRAY, Utah (ABC4) – Kecia Cox has been a drill team mother for years. Out of all her children’s performances, one of her favorites came when her oldest, Kyra, was a junior at Murray High School.

For Murray’s dance at the state competition, each of the drill team members was asked to write the name of someone they were dancing for on their arms. Kyra chose to write the nickname of her younger sister, Bree, who has Down syndrome.

Recalling that particular dance, Cox tells ABC4 “it was her most emotional, best performance of her five years on the drill team.” Emotions ran high as the family watched their oldest dance with Bree’s name on her arm. They figured it might be the only time Bree, who has always idolized her sisters and loved dancing, would ever be on the drill team, in a way.

Turns out, they were wrong.

Members of the Murray High School drill team pose after the tryouts. Bree is on the bottom row, far right.
(Courtesy of Kecia Cox)

A couple of weeks ago, Bree tried out for the drill team at Murray High, and to the delight of the whole family — including Kyra, who has graduated from the school, and Adrie, their 16-year-old sister who is currently on the team — she made it.

While the whole family was thrilled Bree’s dream had come true, no one was more excited than Bree herself. On the day she learned she would have a spot on the team, she eagerly Facetimed her dad while he was getting in his car on his way home from work.

The video of Bree passing the good news to her dad and shedding happy tears went viral on social media. Her mom believes it might have been the first time in her 14-year-old life she cried out of joy and happiness.

Growing up and watching her older sisters excel at dancing, Bree found a love for movement as well. When Kyra made the drill team at Murray, Cox says that Bree went to every performance and learned every dance. Cox says while Bree sometimes struggles to express herself vocally, dance has always been an avenue for her to show emotion.

“Although she communicates really well, now she couldn’t always do that. Dance has always been a place for her to shine without having to overcome those communication barriers,” Cox says of Bree.

Although Bree had a passion and talent for dance, her parents were always concerned that being on a drill team wouldn’t be possible due to her special needs. That made Kyra’s performance, which she dedicated to her sister, especially powerful.

“You wouldn’t think that we wouldn’t have these fights still in this era we live in, that we wouldn’t have these battles over inclusion with special needs, but we do,” said Cox, who also raises two other children with Down syndrome besides Bree.

To have someone who believes in Bree and is willing to make her a contributing part of a team and more than just an accessory on the side is huge for the Cox family. Murray’s drill team coach, Keylee Mundee, is that someone for the Cox bunch.

“I want Bree to do the very best she can,” says Mundee. “I want her to be capable of hard things and know that she’s capable of doing hard things and she can. I’m not setting any limitations for Bree.”

Bree, Adrie, and the rest of the Murray High drill team are set to give their first performance next week. Chances are this one will be right up there with Kyra’s from a few years back as one of the most important for the Cox family.

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“The team has given her a place and is willing to include her and figure out what it means to help her have that place, right alongside her peers. And her being able to feel like she belongs is all that matters,” Cox says.

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