INDEPENDENCE, Ky. - Tears begin to flow when you mention the name Brittany Depew in Northern Kentucky.
Some cry from heartache. Some cry for joy. Some cry because they don’t have the words to express what the 20-year-old means to the Independence community.
Depew is an exceptional person. She’s always friendly, warm and supportive of her family, community and classmates at Simon Kenton High School. But that’s not what makes Depew special. What makes her stand out is the way she manages to wear a smile on her face despite all she’s gone through in life.
In her two decades on earth, the young woman has battled various obstacles including Down syndrome and leukemia, which she has beaten twice before. Just about a week ago she found out her disease has returned and she'll have to undergo leukemia treatments for a third time.
Despite those challenges, Depew has never been down on herself or angry at life. She just finds a way to continue to smile and carry on with the grace of a queen, a homecoming queen to be exact.
A Path To Coronation
Depew's unwillingness to give in to the physical and emotional pain caused by the hardships of life has served as an inspiration to many in her community. One such person is Megan Leggett.
“Once you meet her she leaves an impact on you,” said Leggett who has called Depew a friend since the two met in middle school. “Luckily after my senior year I was able to stay in touch with her family. She is a part of my life, my family’s life.”
Leggett works at Simon Kenton High School where she mentors students, including her longtime friend. Although she spends her days helping to guide students through the school, Leggett believes Depew is the one teaching her how to live life.
"She's just an inspiration," Leggett said.
As a way to say thank you for all she has taught the community about life and overcoming challenges, the people of Independence decided to come together to do something special for Depew.
“A bunch of the community is coming out, wanting to support her, help her, be there for her,” Leggett said.
One way Depew's classmates are doing so is by making her childhood dreams come true. They nominated her for homecoming queen.
Instead of focusing on pain and medical treatments, Depew was given a chance to fixate on what dress she'll wear, the songs she'll dance to and helping to plan one of the most special nights of her life.
But Depew isn't the only person working to make Simon Kenton's homecoming dance memorable. It seems like everyone is pitching in somehow.
Posters have been made, special T-shirts and bracelets have been designed, and a "Vote for Brittany" (#voteforbrittany on Twitter) social media campaign has been launched to earn the 20-year-old her moment in the spotlight.
“It’s awesome. You can’t go anywhere where people don’t know her," said Depew's father, Terry Depew.
On Thursday, the school held its homecoming parade through the streets of Independence. While other members of the homecoming court rode in the parade and there were other floats to be seen, Brittany Depew was the person most of the people lined along State Route 17 came to see.
While they've always shown his daughter love and respect, Depew's father says he has been humbled by the community's efforts over the past few weeks. Even the other students competing for the title of queen are in her corner.
"To see other cars saying 'Vote For Brittany' is cool. The way everybody has pulled together to do this for her (is humbling)," said the proud father.
Terry Depew's little girl was an overwhelmed high school student Thursday as she smiled and waved at the crowd while propped up in the backseat of a convertible. At times she was visibly choked up as her friends and loved ones, donning Simon Kenton's school colors and teary eyes, waved and chanted her name.
Emotions continued to run high after the parade when Depew was embraced by her loved ones.
Surrounded by her mother, grandmother and siblings, an ecstatic Depew broke down, overcome with joy about homecoming and all the love-filled support she was receiving. After all she has gone through, the typically composed young woman finally let her emotions get the better of her.
Depew’s mother, Tina, said her daughter, like any teenage girl would be, is excited about the prospect of being named homecoming queen. But the (somehow) unexpected outpouring of love from the community is what she appreciates most.
“It’s not just our family and friends. It's friends and family of friends. It's just the whole community," said Tina Langguth. "It just means a lot (to her).”
The Simon Kenton homecoming queen will be announced Saturday during the dance. But regardless of the outcome, it's clear the admiration the people of Independence have for Depew can't be measured by a single vote.
Leave a message of support for Brittany Depew in the comment section below.
Author's note: Brittany Depew was named Simon Kenton's homecoming queen Saturday evening.
In this photo, which was submitted by Twitter user @vina_gray, Depew is standing with her homecoming king, Nick Mosley.
Congrats to the king and queen, and to the entire Simon Kenton student body for being awesome!
Brittany Depew (L) stands with her homecoming king, Nick Mosley.