- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) - It was no ordinary halftime Monday, as the Gadsden City Titans’ Special Needs basketball team was halfway to winning a game over Helen Keller of Talladega.

As players gathered around the bench, David “D.J.” Hodges got a surprise and a special invitation, when 11th-grader Kelcey Shaw approached with a sign and a basketball with “Prom” spelled out on it.

Shaw, a member of the Titans’ cheerleading squad and competition squad, asked Hodges to the prom in April, and he agreed.

Hodges, 20, is a member of the state champion special needs basketball team, and was named state Athlete of the Year last year.

Was he surprised? “I was. I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.

But maybe he should have, according to his guardian David Champion, considering he gave himself the nickname “Doctor of Love.” When Hodges calls Champion, the ringtone that plays is “Calling Dr. Love.”

Hodges said Shaw has been a friend since ninth grade.

“I just have a special bond with him,” Shaw said, and she wanted to go to prom with the nicest guy she knew.

“I’d been planning it since a month ago,” she said, after Hodges was recognized for his athletic skills. “I talked to his parents about it then.”

“He inspires me,” Shaw said, and she has admiration for his classmates as well.

“I’ve always had a thing for special needs kids,” she said, for their ability to overcome adversities and their drive. “When I was in sixth grade at Litchfield, I just thought ‘They’re mine!’”

Champion said Hodges has had some adversity to overcome. Hodges has lived with his family since 2014, after Hodges’ father passed away.

“He was part of my youth group at Goodyear Heights Baptist Church,” Champion said.

Champion was stepping up for the “dance dad” role. He told Hodges he’d gotten the couple a limo for prom night.

Hodges said it’ll be his first school dance with a date; Shaw’s been around the dance floor before.

Still, Hodges said, he learned to dance for a caterer’s dance.

Both he and Shaw said they might get together to practice before the big night.

___

Information from: The Gadsden Times, http://www.gadsdentimes.com

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