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Merritt Island homecoming king gives crown, sash to classmate

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MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – James Verpaele’s thoughtfulness stood out Friday night during his last football home game at Merritt Island High School.

The senior student was crowned homecoming king but hundreds of students and parents witnessed him handing his crown and sash to his classmate Parks Finney.

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“All the senior guys got together, and we just kind of all agreed that Parks should get it — that we’d give it to Parks after we’d found out who would be king,” the 17-year-old senior said.

When Finney was asked what he said to Verpaele after his gesture of kindness, he said he was shocked and thanked him.

It was an emotional night for Amy Finney, whose son was born with a condition known as Periventricular Leukomalacia or PVL. It’s a brain injury 19-year-old Parks Finney suffered at birth.

“You know we see a lot of a lot of criticism of teenagers, that they’re only into their phones and that they don’t care about what’s going on, but this shows that they do, and it’s the magic of teenagers and just the magic of inclusion and acceptance,” said Amy Finney.

Despite her son’s condition, it hasn’t prevented him from being a welcoming and bright-spirited young man.

“He can strike up a conversation, he’s funny, he’s a nice guy and he’s the mayor. He’s mister mayor is what we call him,” Verpaele said. “He’s just like a brother to all of us.”

For Parks Finney’s mom, who is also an English teacher at the high school, the gesture sets an example everyone can learn from.

“I would like to say thank you, first of all, to the young men here at Merritt Island High School for including him and I think that the message that comes from this is just people are people and be accepting and be kind,” she said.


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