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High school trumpeter with spina bifida plays in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Posted at 5:41 PM, Nov 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-22 17:41:07-05

Drew Bell has spina bifida, but is able to play in his high school’s marching band with the help of a friend, who pushes his wheelchair during performances.

When 15-year-old Drew Bell started high school this year in Keller, Texas, he told his parents he wanted to join his school’s marching band. He was an enthusiastic trumpeter and had been playing throughout middle school.

But there was a small problem: marching.

Bell has had spina bifida since birth, a condition that meant he needed crutches for much of his life, and which now means he uses a wheelchair.

His parents had no idea how to make his band dream come true.

That’s when his angel appeared. The trumpet section leader, Kailey Summons, is a senior and was preparing for her final year performing. She stepped up to be Drew’s legs on the field. During the band’s “spirit show” before football games, she sets aside her trumpet and pushes Drew’s wheelchair on the field as he plays along with the rest of the band. (She’s still able to march and play herself at competitions and other performances.)

“I don’t think I’ve been able to watch them without crying yet,” Drew’s father, Bryan Bell, told WBUR.

On Thanksgiving, Drew performed with his school’s band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Bell’s school, Keller High, is one of 12 bands from across the country invited to play in this year’s parade in New York.

‘It’s not a sacrifice if you like doing it’

Bell and Summons formed a close bond.

“Oh, he’s great,” Summons told KXAS. “Very positive attitude. He’s so funny. He makes the best out of every situation.”

And she has never felt held back by her act of choreographed kindness.

“I mean, it’s not really a sacrifice when you like doing it,” Summons told KXAS. “I just did it to make sure he knew that he always had a place in the band, and he always will.”

Playing in the school’s marching band is a dream the freshman says he has held “for as long as I can remember.”

Bell was determined not to let spina bifida hold him back. He said it doesn’t frustrate him, “because I know there’s people way worse than me.”

Summons told WBUR that she was planning to push Bell in his wheelchair on Thanksgiving Day as he blows his horn through the streets of Manhattan, just like she’s done at shows all season. But Bell’s mother intervened, not wanting Summons to miss out on her own event of a lifetime.

Drew’s mother, Kimberly Bell, said she’ll push her son’s wheelchair this time. “I’m just thankful this worked out, because I want her to shine and have her moment,” she said.

Thursday is Summons’ last marching band performance before she hangs up her uniform and furled hat to pursue nursing in college.

Meanwhile, the band will play on — with a very special trumpeter rolling along with it.