Several middle school basketball players earned recognition and respect after walking off the court during a game to tell off bullies in the stands that were teasing cheerleader Desiree Andrews, who has Down Syndrome.

“We walked off the court and went to the bullies and told them to stop because that’s not right to be mean to another person,” said one of the players, Miles Rodriguez. “We were mad; we didn’t like that . . . We asked our sports director to talk to the people and tell them not to make fun of her.”

After the game, Cliff Andrews, Desiree’s father, said he was more emotional than Desiree. “She threw her arms around me, gave me a big hug and told me, ‘Papa, it’s okay. I still love them, even if they don’t like me,’” he said. “She’s good with it. Desiree loves unconditionally.”

Desiree is a cheerleader in the eighth grade, who loves cheering because it combines two of her favorite hobbies: music and dancing.

Andrews said that his daughter was inspired to join the cheer team by her favorite character from the show Glee—also a cheerleader who has Down Syndrome.

“She told me, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ So I approached the school about it, and they were more than happy to accommodate her,” said Andrews.

Andrews asked the athletic director to pass on his gratitude to the team for standing up for his daughter. He said he felt too emotional to thank them personally.

Athletic director Tim Nieman expressed admiration toward the team for having the courage to do what they knew was right. “It truly does take a village to do great things,” he said.

“The students at Lincoln Middle School have just been phenomenal,” Andrews continued. “The cheerleaders and everybody there all help keep an eye on her throughout the day.”

Many students and faculty at the school have begun calling the gymnasium “D’s House” to honor her spirit and devotion to the team.

Basketball player Scoter Terrien was among the students who stood up for Andrews.

“It’s not fair when other people get treated wrong because we’re all the same,” he said. “We’re all created the same. God made us the same way.”

Hana is currently pursuing an undergraduate English degree with a Spanish minor at Concordia University Portland. She loves creative writing and reading children's books and someday hopes to publish her own. Favorite hobbies include cooking, cleaning, eating ice cream, and singing Disney princess songs.