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WJBD - Local News - Salem High Prom Draws High Marks For Including A King With Down Syndrome

SCHS Prom King Zack Hays with Queen Charli Decker.

Charli Decker, Zack Hays and his father Brad Hays at the WJBD studios talking about Prom.

Salem High Prom Draws High Marks For Including A King With Down Syndrome

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

Salem High School Prom Queen Charli Decker admits surprise with all the attention Friday night's Prom is receiving.  

Charli considers her date and Prom King Zack Hays a friend like all her others.  But Zack has been afflicted with Down Syndrome from birth.  That led some to believe he couldn't handle the role of King.  Zack's father said his son proved them wrong and is glad the student body and school administration gave him a chance.  Brad Hays describes Charli as the best girl in the world who doesn't see Zack's disability, but just sees Zack.  

Charli and Zack have gone to school together all their life.  She has helped him with Special Olympics.  This is the second year Zack has been Charli's Prom date.    "I was so proud of him especially because so many people doubted him.  It was like 'oh, he's not going to be able to dance'.  He knew the dance.  There were a couple of times where he was like 'hello, this is what we do next'.  And I said 'okay'," explained Decker.

But Charli does admit to having one concern. "The one thing I was extremely stressed out throughout the whole process, because when we were at practice he wanted to dance with all the pretty ladies and he's such a ladies man, I was afraid he was going to ditch me for one of the other pretty girls," said Decker.  "Five seconds before we were going out, he was following Chelsea Burroughs around wanting to dance with her.  I was like 'no you have to come with me, we're about to go bow'.  And he said 'ohh Chelsea'".

When Post Prom was over at four Saturday morning, Zack wasn't ready to go home and wanted to continue dancing.  And Zack was still wearing his crown on Sunday, drawing some questions from Charli.  "Do you like being Prom King?" to which Zack responded "ooh yes".  Do you wear your crown all the time? "Yes"  Have you taken it off yet? "Almost".  Are you going to wear it to school? "Ooh boy".  

Zack and Charli's friendship has also had another impact on Charli's life.  "I'm majoring in communication disorders.  I kind of want to do sign language, but I want to fit in special education somehow just because Zack has been such an amazing part of my life.  I want to continue having people like him in my life," said Charli.  

Her comments brought a response from Zack, "oooh love".  

Zack's dad says he's always been pleased with how fellow students have accepted his son.  "I went on every school trip they had from kindergarten through eighth grade.  All those kids were always looking out for Zack, making sure he was okay and wasn't running off," said Brad.  He says Zack running off was a major problem when he was younger, but not so much anymore.

Brad is optimistic his son can find a job matched to his abilities when he graduates from high school.  He says his son has a good life despite his disability, but adds those with Down Syndrome are prone to heart problems.   Zack had open heart surgery at four months of age.  Brad calls his son an exceptional child and says he's lucky God pick him to be his father.  

Zack and Charli have also won the hearts of thousands who were in attendance at Prom Friday night or who have since watched the You Tube videos.  Charli says at times she was getting a Facebook message or like every two seconds, something she says has made the experience even more amazing and incredible.   

Click here to see the photo guide from the 2013 SCHS Prom.

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