STATESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Anyone inside the West Iredell High School gym Thursday morning was reminded of the positive power teenagers CAN have. The entire student body – about a thousand kids – hosted a pep rally in honor of one of their classmates, a 21-year-old high school senior.
Tyler Bowie lives with autism. He faces challenges, but never meets a stranger. Everyone knows him.
"I would say he's a celebrity in the school," said junior Allie Johnson. "I came down here today to play in the drum line inside the auditorium. I knew surprising Tyler was going to be a great experience."
The students of West Iredell High School started working on this surprise six months ago. A group of kids within the school started what they call the "Junior Dream Team."
It's an extension, they say, of Charlotte charity "Dream On 3," which makes sports dreams come alive for kids who face uphill medical battles. These kids have been raising money – over $8,000 – to send him on a dream trip. The whole school chanted as Tyler finally walked into the gymnasium.
He looked around in awe, smiling, waving to everyone, a look of joy across his face.
The students had asked our Molly Gr antham to emcee the morning.
"We know you like NASCAR," she said to Tyler once the crowd calmed. "Look around! You have your whole school here for you today… are you feeling pretty good?"
"I sure am!" Tyler answered confidently, "Always!"
The Junior Dream Team members then took turns saying how much he meant to all of them. How it felt to really give back and create such an experience for someone else. In exchange, Tyler gave them all a theory he tries to live by.
"Have a smile on your face," he said. "That's what life is all about."
Then it was then revealed to him that not only were all his friends there in one room to support him, cheer him on and celebrate his positive attitude and ability to overcome challenges, they were there to tell him they're sending him on a dream trip.
"As soon as this assembly is over," they explained. "We're whisking you off in a big limo Hummer to an airport. From there you are flying to Daytona for the Dayton 500 for the weekend. You're going to see all your superstars!" Tyler's mouth fell open. "Your parents are here already. They're going with you. Your Dream starts right now!"
Mom Tammy Bowie was in tears.
"Oh my gosh, these kids," she said. "I love all of them. They love my son. And my son loves them."