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South Dakota high school boy takes dying little sister to Valentine’s Winter Formal

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — A South Dakota high school student shared an important night with his younger sister. A.J. Spader’s sister Rebekah was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome — or MDS several years ago. After a bone marrow transplant failed, the family decided to forgo any further treatment. They say the 10-year-old girl might not live to see high school — so her big brother is making sure his sister enjoys every moment she has left.

“What girl doesn’t like to get all dressed up and beautiful?” Mom Stephanie Spader said.

On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 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,” Dad Troy Spader said.

“It’s like they live in, you know, that princess world,” Stephanie Spader said.

Rebekah would be her big brother’s date for his Valentine’s Winter Formal at O’Gorman High School.

“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?'” A.J. Spader said.

It could have been A.J.’s first dance with a date from his school.

“I guess — but Rebekah kind of trumped them all,” A.J. Spader said.

“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,” Troy Spader said.

A.J. made sure his sister got the complete formal experience — taking her out 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,” Troy Spader said.

While this day may have been all about his sister, it was clear the evening wasn’t 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,” A.J. 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,” Troy Spader said.

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