The sun isn’t Riley McCoy’s friend, but fortunately the students at her high school are.
Riley suffers from Xeroderma Pigmentosa, or XP, and must protect her delicate skin from the sun’s rays with protective clothing and a plastic hood. Even the slightest bit of sunlight through a cracked door or open window can cause horrible blisters and burns.
She is also among the fewer than 100 people living with the rare “D” strain of the disease, meaning she also has neurological degeneration. According to the Orange County Register, her parents believe Riley has lost 20 points off her IQ since her freshman year as a result.
One of the reasons the McCoys chose to enroll Riley at Dana Hills High School is because it’s one of the few campuses in Southern California campuses with enough classrooms that open up to hallways, rather than the outdoors. Still, Pam and Mike McCoy feared their daughter would be bullied.
Instead, the school and the community have rallied around Riley and her condition. Pep rallies have been moved indoors, moonlit walkathons have been organized to raise money for XP research, and friends have tinted their windows so Riley can visit. There is even a “Best Buddies” program in which members come to Riley’s house for midnight movies and pool parties.
Recently, her fellow students nominated her as one of six finalists for Homecoming Queen. Under the moonlight, Riley wore a beautiful dress instead of her protective clothing, her disease unable to touch her on this special night.
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for. The whole school, went silent as they waited for the name everyone wanted to hear.
The stadium announcer said, “And now, our 2017 Dana Hills homecoming queen is … Riley McCoy!”
The students erupted in applause as a smile beamed across Riley’s face. She was officially the Homecoming Queen.
Riley told FOX 11, “I got a lot of encouragement after all this time, and I’m very thankful and very blessed to have these amazing people in my life.”
Her father escorted her to the 50-yard line, and students chanted her name.
“Look at these kids the way they treat her,” her mother Pam McCoy said tearfully. “The way they act. It’s just that they want her to win… they want her to succeed.”
Who needs the sun when you have that much love to keep you warm? Watch the video to see Riley’s beautiful night.