A 17-year-old girl with a rare condition that prevents her from exposing her skin during daylight hours had her night in the sun on Friday when she was crowned homecoming queen of Dana Hills High School.
Riley McCoy was awarded the honor over five other finalists from a pool of more than 200 girls at the Dana Point school — all seniors whose names were included on the initial ballot.
McCoy's journey has been special because of a rare skin disease she was born with that prevents her from exposing herself to sunlight, which has ultraviolet rays that can lead to a range of severe effects including painful burns and internal organ damage.
The condition, called xeroderma pigmentosum, affects only about one in 1 million people nationwide, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
The disorder has altered her way of life and was, in fact, the reason McCoy was enrolled in Dana Hills High School, which has more classrooms opening to hallways than most Southern California campuses, according to the Orange County Register.
Despite this, she must still take protective measures such as wearing long gloves and a UV-blocking mask given to parents by NASA, and her parents use a sensor every night to detect when it is safe for her to go outside uninhibited, the newspaper reported.
Hundreds of supporters chanted the 17-year-old name from the stands at the school's 45th-annual homecoming Friday night. McCoy, clad in a blue gown and free to shun her protective gear under the cover of darkness, fidgeted with anticipating as the candidates lined up for the announcement of homecoming queen.
“I felt very surprised," she recalled later that night. "I was nervous I wasn’t gonna get it, and now I got it, so I’m super happy.”
She told KTLA she even voted for another candidate, not expecting to win herself.
Her dad, Mike, said he wasn't shocked by the annoucement, having seen how his daughter's limitations have molded her into an inspirational force.
“This kind of stuff happens all the time with her," he said. "She’s a special, special child, and she’s an angel. She’s positive every day, she gives it her best, and people just appreciate the effort she gives.”
Her mom Pam, however, said it was still an emotional moment.
“When they started chanting her name I just lost it. I just couldn’t stop crying.”
Riley said the moment was about sharing it with her community of cheerleaders, who have been by her side every step of the way.
“I’m very blessed to have such amazing people in my life,” she said.