It was the fall of 2017 — high school percussionist Rachael Steffens’ final season as a member of the Laingsburg High School Marching Band.
It meant the last homecoming game Rachael would march in, the last season she would don her uniform and take the field with some 100 of her classmates to perform at halftime and in marching competitions.
For high school freshman Autumn Michels, the fall of 2017 was a year of firsts.
Autumn entered high school with an earnest desire to be a marching band member. But Autumn lost her optic nerves to surgery to remove a brain tumor when she was 4 years old. She is now completely blind, and wasn’t sure how her dream would come to fruition.
“I really, really, really wanted to march,” Autumn told USA Today.
Laingsburg High School Band Director Thomas Cousineau was expecting the eager young freshman to enter his band, and wanted to do what he could to help her succeed on the field.
“On one hand, I knew it was going to be a challenge and kind of scary, the whole proposition, but then, on the other hand, it was like ‘If I just go into it thinking there are no limitations, and there’s nothing to hold her back, I know we’ll be successful,” Cousineau said.
During the band’s preseason camp, Cousineau approached Rachael about helping the clarinet-playing Autumn on the field by marching with her and being her eyes.
It was supposed to be just a week-long commitment, but Rachael soon found herself loving her new role as Autumn’s marching eyes.
By the time the camp was over, Rachael wanted to assist Autumn for the whole season, even though it meant giving up her spot on drumline as a cymbal player.
“I like it this way,” Rachael said. “We already had such a set way, and it’d be hard to just put somebody else in. You can’t change something that’s going so good.”
To Rachael, her sacrifice was really no big deal. She still got to play cymbals when the band was in the stands, and she still had a place on the field helping Autumn live her dream.
Plus, she’d already spent three years marching on the field and wanted to share the joy with someone else.
“I’m still marching. I’m still on the field. I’m still with the band,” Rachael said. “I’m essentially doing the same thing I would be doing. I’m just doing that with Autumn.”
Someone get these girls a pair of golden Dinkles — they’ve certainly earned the highest of honors when it comes to teamwork, determination, and loyalty.
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