Several high school students in Rhode Island helped a five-year-old wheelchair user stay sheltered while waiting for the school bus every morning by building him a bus stop shelter.
Waiting for the school bus may be a simple activity for some, but that isn’t the case for Ryder Killam, who was born with spina bifida and is completely wheelchair-dependent.
Ryder’s parents push his wheelchair to the end of their driveway every morning to wait for the bus to arrive. Some mornings are easy, but it all really depends on the weather.
“With Ryder being in a wheelchair, unfortunately, it’s about 75 feet from our house to the bus. He’s not the typical child that runs out when the bus comes,” said Tim Killam, Ryder’s dad.
For a time, they used an old patio umbrella tied to a fence to shield Ryder from the harsh New England weather, but keeping him dry was impossible when the winds were strong.
His parents reached out for help on Facebook and asked if any of their friends had a patio umbrella that they were no longer using. However, they got an even better offer—and from a group of strangers, no less.
A local guidance counselor caught wind of the Facebook post and told the Killams to contact Dan McKena, a Construction Technology teacher at Westerly High School.
Tim’s email reached his inbox as he was sitting with one of his students, Mason Heald, who was trying to figure out his senior project. Right then and there, the teacher told him he was “designing a bus stop.”
Fourteen other students from the class were more than happy to help with building the bus stop shelter and give Ryder the protection he deserves.
“We’ve done other projects before,” Dan said. “I think it’s very important for my students to learn not only the aspects of construction but of being involved in the community dealing with people outside of the school environment.”
For about a month, the group worked hard to finish the shelter before winter came. Ryder’s parents helped pay for the materials needed to complete it, but they also got help from Home Depot, which donated $300 worth of wood.
“It was a learning stretch for me,” Mason said. “I’ve never really done anything like that. I watched videos on how studs make things hollow. I didn’t really know too much about what I was doing.”
The students obviously put a lot of thought into building Ryder’s bus stop shelter, making sure that it was Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible so that the kid and his parents—or anyone else who may accompany him—will comfortably fit inside the small structure.
Completing the project in such a short time was no easy feat, but the group pulled it off with their consistent efforts.
“They all worked together for a common goal and they really enjoyed knowing the end result and knowing where it’s going,” Dan said. “On days when it might’ve been like, ‘I don’t feel like working’ or whatever it may be, they just come in eager, ready to get going and get to work.”
As the story spread, it inspired more acts of kindness in the community. Someone sent a heated blanket for Ryder to wrap himself in, and one of Dan’s former students, who now owns a landscaping business, volunteered to pick up the hut and deliver it to the Killams’ home for free.
Ryder is absolutely thrilled to have a new bus stop that could protect him from any weather.
“He loves it, he actually, after school, makes us stay out here and hang out now it’s his new fort so he gets home,” his dad said. “The community, they’re incredible, they’ve come forward a couple of times for Ryder. It’s unreal how everyone comes together to make things work for everybody.”
As a gesture of thanks, Tim sent Dan a photo of the youngster enjoying his new hut. The teacher said the picture “made it all worth it.” He also shared with the high school students involved in the construction.
Check out the video below to learn more about how these students banded together to help this kid.
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