Frankie Antonelli was more than halfway through his rendition of Darius Rucker’s “While I Still Got the Time” during Wando High School’s talent show Wednesday night when he turned around and realized his dream had come true.
From backstage appeared Rucker himself wearing jeans and a ball cap. The country music star put his arm on Antonelli’s shoulder and together they finished the song, high-fiving and embracing throughout.
It was a magical moment for a 16-year-old who’s been belting out Rucker songs at school talent shows since the fifth grade.
“He was so excited,” said mom Debbie, who planned the whole thing. The Antonellis have actually known Rucker for a while through husband Frank’s job and Rucker once promised Frankie he’d sing with him.
“He kept his promise,” Debbie said.
Frankie has Down syndrome, but his mother, a women’s basketball TV analyst, said they refuse to put limits or labels on him.
“He’s happy, he’s healthy, he’s funny, he’s athletic ... he is sweet and he is handsome,” she said. “He just happens to have Down syndrome. It doesn’t define who he is. He is uninhibited and he loves to perform.”
Frankie hardly seemed fazed at Rucker’s appearance, at least from the perspective of a grainy YouTube video shot from the dark auditorium. He kept singing and dancing just as he had before Rucker stepped on the stage.
Debbie, who was posting on Twitter both before and after the performance, at one point tweeted that so many people told them he couldn’t succeed because he has Down Syndrome: “He can and he will.”