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Couple with Down syndrome get engaged at charity fashion show

First, they walked the runway. Next, they’ll walk down the aisle.
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 2:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 7:08 AM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - It was a night of high fashion, generous donations, and love Thursday at the annual Renaissance the Runway fashion show in Biloxi.

The show is held each year to raise money for the Bacot McCarty Foundation, but this year’s event contained a special surprise: a proposal.

Kelsi Dungan and Derek Medjesky both have Down syndrome and have become the faces of the Dream Program, one of the many nonprofits that is funded through the Bacot McCarty Foundation.

With a big smile on her face, Kelsi walked the runway showing off a floor-length, off-shoulder white evening gown. Her smile would grow even bigger just moments later.

As she turned to walk back down the runway, the event’s emcee announced that there would be a special surprise. Derek then walked out dressed in a a tuxedo and got down on one knee. After slipping the ring on her finger, Kelsi grabbed the microphone from him and enthusiastically said, “Yes, I will marry you!” With loud cheers and applause from the audience, the couple shared a kiss.

Sweetest proposal yet! Kelsi says this is the last proposal- that Derek got it right this time! 😁❤️💐 #jollymccarty #Shesaidyes #RenaissancetheRunway

Posted by Dawne Wilson Jakubik on Thursday, September 23, 2021

The couple met more than 10 years ago at the Dream Program when they were playing basketball. Over the years, their friendship has grown into love.

“To have somebody in my life, always been here for me, always haves my back, and a best friend that I never had,” said Kelsi.

This isn’t the first time Derek has proposed. He popped the question four years ago at Renaissance on the Runway.

“Kelsi says this is the last proposal - that Derek got it right this time,” quipped Kelsi’s mom Dawn Jakubik in her Facebook post.

Their love story is now serving as an example of the full life that people with all sorts of abilities can enjoy.

“Their goal is to show everyone that they deserve a life just like everyone else,” said Kelsi’s mom. “People with Down syndrome have hope and dreams just like us all.”

The couple are looking forward to building their dreams together.

“Trust your heart with what you want and someone comes around that’s right to you and will help you with anything, and I found mine,” said Kelsi.

The Dream Program was founded to serve and enhance the quality of life for people who are differently abled on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. However, the program is inclusive and available to all individuals. Currently, there are nine recreational offerings and all are free for participants. Those recreational activities are funded through donations and grants, and ran by volunteers.

Renaissance the Runway is one of the signature events that helps raise money for the Dream Program and others funded by the Bacot McCarty Foundation. The fashion show is held each year at the IP Casino and features local boutiques and “model citizens” from across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

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