FOLKSTON, Ga. - A Folkston boy looking for the “Beauty” to his “Beast” found her in his longtime teacher.
Jared Cook, a third-grader at Folkston Elementary School, has Williams Syndrome. The rare genetic disorder is associated with a host of characteristics including some intellectual delays and cardiac problems.
One thing Jared has never had a problem with: Being social.
“He walks down the hall greeting you like he’s the president,” said Melissa Allen, a special education teacher at Folkston who has known Jared since he was five. “[He’s like] ‘Hey, how you doing, what’s going on, good to see you!’”
Jared’s fairytale begins in late September. He felt sick and his blood pressure rose to a dangerous level. To distract him, Allen asked about his Halloween costume.
Jared planned to dress as the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast.”
“And then he goes ‘Ms. Allen I got the best idea!’” Allen said. “‘And I said ‘What’s that?’ He goes ‘You could be my Belle. Would you be my Belle for Halloween?’ Well, a handsome man asks you on a date, you say yes.”
Finally, Halloween day arrived. Jared recalled first laying eyes on his Belle.
“It felt like my heart was, like, starting to cry,” Jared said. “’Cause it was, like, amazing and wonderful about this. It started to cry.”
Jared’s mother, Melissa Hodges, was crying actual tears.
“When they started dancing, that was the moment that just brought it full circle,” she said. “And I was in tears the entire time that I was videotaping that.”
Hodges uploaded the video on Facebook where it continues to spread. She said she’s received messages from families with Williams Syndrome from as far as Canada, saying what an inspiration Jared’s story has been.
Her main message is about the teacher who took the time to make Jared feel special.
“If you don’t teach from your heart, you’re not going to get the same results,” Hodges said.
She hopes that message spreads just as far as the video.