Bucket list of memories: teen takes dying sister to dance

Sioux Falls, SD “What girl doesn't like to get all dressed up and beautiful,” mom Stephanie Spader said.

This Valentine’s Day, 10-year-old Rebekah Spader was transformed into a princess.

‘It's a lot of fun watching her, she's so excited and she's smiling,” Rebekah’s Dad Tony Spader said.

Rebekah’s princess evening was all thanks to her big brother AJ.

“I wanted to ask my sister because she's most likely not going to be able to experience high school. So I just thought why not ask her to formal,” AJ Spader said.

The Valentine's winter formal at O’Gorman High School could have been AJ’s first dance with a date.

“Ya, I guess but Rebekah kind of trumped them all,” AJ Spader said.

Instead, AJ came up with the plan to make sure Rebekah got to experience this important rite of passage.

“He's thinking about his sister and she's not going to get to go to the prom or the formal when she's in high school because she's probably not going to make it to high school, so he just wanted to give her that memory,” Tony Spader said.

AJ made sure Rebekah got the whole formal experience, bringing her to dinner with his classmates and their dates.

“It’s fun to watch her live part of life where the disease doesn't creep in, where she is just excited to be going and doing something that every child and every teenager gets to do,” Tony Spader said.

While the day may be all about his sister, it’s clear the evening is not just for Rebekah.

“Her laugh is pretty great, It’s really fun to just be around her and just make memories…I want to spend as much time with her as possible while she's still doing good,” AJ Spader said.

“A lot of times there's a joy filled moment, but yet there's a little sorrow because you know this is probably one of her last opportunities she's going to have to do something like this,” Tony Spader said.

Rebekah was diagnosed with MDS, pre-leukemia, several years ago. After a bone marrow transplant failed, the Spader family decided to forgo any further treatment. While the Spader family works to ensure Rebekah can live the rest of her life to the fullest, her illness often gets in the way.

After all of the fun at dinner Valentine’s night, Rebekah wasn't feeling up to going to the dance. But AJ says she still had plenty of time to enjoy a night with the older kids, dressed like a princess.


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