A Kentucky elementary school teacher went to great lengths to make sure that a student with a physical disability wouldn’t miss out on one of the most important school activities of the year.
10-year-old Ryan King had Spina bifida, a condition that has made her paralyzed from the waist down ever since she was a baby. As a person who uses a wheelchair, being able to participate in school trips could be quite a challenge for the Tully Elementary School student.
When Shelly King learned that the fourth-grader had an upcoming field trip on September 20 to the Falls of the Ohio State Park, she worried that her daughter might not be able to go.
“We’ve had field trips before where we weren’t able to go and the school gives us alternate education days,” she told CNN.
“But when she goes back to school, her peers and classmates are all talking about the field trip, so she doesn’t have the same experience,” she added. “And when she’s not there, the kids really miss her, too.”
While most of the school’s field trips were easy for Ryan to participate in, this one would require a bit of hiking as the class would be going to to the park to observe the exposed fossil beds along the Ohio River. Ryan would surely learn a lot from this trip and Shelly didn’t want her to miss it, so she looked for ways to make it possible for her to go.
“I found this backpack that a friend had sent me and grabbed it, and said I’m just going to carry her so she can experience this,” she said.
She explained her plan to Ryan’s teacher when a fellow elementary school teacher named Jim Freeman volunteered to carry her daughter around on his back all day so that she could enjoy the trip with the rest of her classmates.
“I’m happy to tote her around on the Falls all day!” Jim said.
Shelly was surprised by Jim’s “out of the blue” offer, in a good way, because he wasn’t one of Ryan’s teachers and the two hadn’t interacted much in school.
“He knows who Ryan is, but they didn’t have any prior personal relationship,” she said. “I don’t think he had any idea what a big impact he was going to make on so many different people.”
In fact, Shelly didn’t even know Jim’s first name prior to his offer. This makes the gesture even more wonderful.
On the day of the trip, Jim carried Ryan – who roughly weighed 55 pounds – while exploring the river banks, state park, and observing the 390-million-year-old fossil beds along with her classmates and other teachers.
Shelly said that Jim’s act of kindness meant a lot to her and her family, especially because it allowed Ryan to enjoy the school activity with the whole class.
Shelly shared pictures of Jim carrying Ryan on his back on Facebook, in hopes that it will bring people’s attention to the state’s teachers who work so hard to give their students the best school experience.
She also hopes to inspire other people with disabilities that they didn’t have to miss out on doing things they love because of the fact that they use a wheelchair.
“To anybody else who is in a wheelchair, nothing should stop you … and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “There are good people out there who want to help you.”
As for Jim, the kind-hearted elementary school teacher he said that the gesture was his way of helping a student in need but emphasized that it happens frequently in Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public School District.
“This is just one physical act that you can see, but we do this countless times throughout the school day and throughout the year,” Jim told WLKY News. “All the teachers here at Tully and JCPS, they work harder than most people realize.”
Ryan is so blessed to be in a school where students are understanding and teachers are true role models. Kudos to Jim and all the other hardworking educators at the Jefferson County Public School District!