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Published: Sunday, February 10, 2019 @ 3:02 AM
FRANKLIN, Mass. — Franklin High School in Franklin, Massachusetts, is known for its special education and inclusion programs, and on Friday night, the school helped mark the life of one of its own.
Taylor Padula, who has Down syndrome, started for the first time in a girls varsity basketball game.
The high school senior has never let any obstacle get in the way of her high school experience and showed how her passion for the sport moves her.
Padula's captains and best friends asked the coach to put her in and share in their senior night.
"I'm so proud," said Taylor. "They are my best friends and my teammates."
She's the Franklin girls varsity basketball team manager, and for the first time in four years, she started Friday night's game against Taunton.
Here’s an amazing story about what it means to be a team! #Franklin High Senior Taylor Padula, who has Down Syndrome, gets the start in tonight’s Girl’s Varsity Basketball game 🏀 🏆 @boston25 pic.twitter.com/InYgxUJwuE— Nicole Oliverio (@NicoleOliverio) February 9, 2019
Sure enough, with a little planning and a lot of good sportsmanship, Padula, wearing jersey No. 5, had the night of her life.
"Taylor’s a very serious basketball kid; don’t let her smile fool you," said John Leighton, the team's coach. "She’s a cold-hearted killer on the court. She’s out to score."
Her family, watching from the stands, cheered Padula on with proud smiles on their faces.
"She pretty much died and went to heaven tonight, yeah, she did," said Michael Padula, Taylor's father.
"It was so special, something that I’ve waited for since the day that she was born," said Kelley Padula, Taylor's mother.
To make the night even more memorable, her sister, Stefany, a freshman who plays in the junior varsity girls basketball team, pulled up to play along with Taylor.
"Unforgettable, the best, the best, amazing," said Kelley.