A 19-year-old from Arkansas who has been in a wheelchair since last year stood up and walked at his high school graduation as his classmates, friends and family gave him a standing ovation.
Doug Haynes, of Bearden, Arkansas, set walking at his school’s May 20 graduation ceremony as his top goal after a surgery last November to treat the muscular dystrophy he has had since age 12 left him unable to walk.
“Doug is a very determined guy,” his mom, Robin Doherty, told ABC News. “He faces things head on and just attacks it.”
Haynes has undergone hours of physical and occupational therapy daily since the surgery, all while maintaining his course work so he could graduate on time. He told only his family, one classmate and the school’s principal about his plan to take his first steps to receive his diploma.
“If he got scared or nervous, we didn’t want people expecting it,” Doherty explained. “When they stood him up, I thought, 'Okay, he’s really going to do this.'”
Haynes was helped out of his wheelchair and across the stage to receive his diploma by his physical therapist. A classmate moved his wheelchair to the end of the stage.
The crowd inside the auditorium where the graduation was held gave Haynes a standing ovation. Most of them knew Haynes from when he was a boy and had watched him deal with muscular dystrophy.
“His town has rallied around him and provided so much support and become a big family for him,” said Cheryl Tucker Carlin, a family friend who captured the video of Haynes walking and posted it on Facebook.
Doherty described the moment as a “roller coaster of emotions” and said her son nearly got caught up in the crowd’s reaction as well.
“He said, ‘Mom, when they stood up I almost lost it,’” Doherty recalled of Haynes, who plans to start at a local work program now that he has graduated.