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When Lyla asked, Phillip said yes; when the graduation crowd cheered, Phillip wept

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 1:49 PM CDT
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LAMPASAS, Texas (KWTX) – Just about everyone in Lampasas knows Phillip Hallahan, 18.

He has attended school there since moving from the Copperas Cove ISD when he was in the second grade.

Phillip has Down syndrome and is largely nonverbal but communicates by sign language and through technology.

The community has embraced him almost from the moment he arrived, his mother Shara Hernedez, and her wife Jana, say.

“Everybody knows who Phillip is. We can’t go anywhere without someone saying, ‘hello, Phillip, hey Phillip.’ When he was 11, they even let him play T-ball for 6- and 7-year-olds,” Jana said.

Phillip grew up participating in Special Olympics.

Through his high school work program, he held down a job folding boxes at Domino’s Pizza.

And this year he made a special friend, classmate Lyla Skiles.

“This year we had multiple classes together, so I really got to know Phillip a lot more and we started to grow closer,” Lyla said.

“As we started to grow closer, we instantly clicked.”

Lyla said she loves everything about Phillip especially the way he accepts her.

“I was like ‘this dude is so cool why don’t people hang out around him more?’” Lyla said.

“Phillip and I are literally best friends, and he just loves me for who I am, and he accepted me the instant he met me. I just love the way that we connect.”

So as prom approached, there was no doubt whom Lyla would ask to accompany her.

“I’ve been to prom every year and I was like Phillip has never been to prom so why don’t I give Phillip that experience that I’ve always had,” she said.

“I’ve always had such an amazing time and I wanted Phillip to experience that, too,” she said.

The ask took some planning.

Lyla dressed as a character from Phillip’s favorite movie, “Deadpool,” and approached him during lunch in the school’s crowded cafeteria carrying a pizza box.

When she reached his seat, she opened the box to reveal the words she’d written inside, “Prom? Yes or no.”

Phillip said yes.

And on May 15, Lyla in a teal sequined gown, and Phillip in a tux, posed for pre-prom photos and then headed to the dance.

Neither had any idea Lyla would be crowned prom queen.

Phillip Hallahan (center) with his classmates on graduation day.
Phillip Hallahan (center) with his classmates on graduation day.(Courtesy photo)

A week later, as Phillip made his way onto the field for the ceremony marking the end of his time in the Lampasas ISD, the crowd in the stands erupted in cheers and Phillip wept.

“We know that he understands how special Friday was because from the moment he walked out on the football field he was in tears, he was crying,” stepmother Jana Hernandez said.

“We could see him walking in line behind everybody and wiping his face and wiping his tears because he was so proud and so happy and happy for all of us to be there with him.”

Phillip’s moms say they are forever grateful for everything Lyla and the community of Lampasas have down for their son.

“Lampasas has really been instrumental in making him the young man that he has become,” Shara said.

“And just helping raise him and include him,” Jana added.

“When they say it takes a village, it really is true.”

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