Choctaw teen becomes first to represents Oklahoma in international Down Syndrome fashion show

CHOCTAW, Okla. - Cheering just might be Courtney Gaines' favorite activity at Choctaw High School, but she is involved in a lot of different organizations.

"She is in JROTC. She's in the student council. She's a member of the Shining Stars cheer squad,” DeAnna Gaines, Courtney's mother, said.

She also is a soccer player, choir singer, actress and an ambassador for Girl Trek, a nonprofit organization for African-American girls.

However, there is one other thing to add to the list.

"Yes, model,” Courtney Gaines said.

Gaines will head to the 'Be Beautiful, Be Yourself' pageant later this month to represent Oklahoma. It's the largest fundraiser for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Many celebrities including Denver Broncos legend Terrell Davis will be there as this 16-year-old walks down the catwalk.

Courtney's the first person from Oklahoma to participate in the event.

“She auditioned in 2017. She didn't get it that time. She was encouraged to come back and audition again, so we went back in April and she was chosen to participate,” DeAnna Gaines said.

Courtney advocates for others with Down Syndrome in many ways. In fact, a week ago she sat down with Congressman Tom Cole to ask him to be on the National Down Syndrome Task Force, which he accepted.

Her mother has been by her side the whole way, working to change perceptions of those with disabilities.

“Because they have a disability that they don't really know what they're talking about when they do know what they're talking about. They just struggle to get that out,” DeAnna Gaines said.

“She has feelings, wants, desires just like anyone else,” DeAnna said.

Just a normal teen doing extraordinary things with a smile and a big thumbs up.

The family started a GoFundMe page to help with travel expenses to Colorado.

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