A Kentucky teacher went to extreme lengths recently to ensure that one of his students didn’t miss out on a class field trip because of her physical disability.
When Shelly King learned that her daughter Ryan was having a class field trip on Sept. 20 to the Falls of the Ohio State Park near the border of Indiana and Kentucky, she instantly began to think about creating a plan B.
“I was preparing for an ‘alternate field trip day,'” King wrote on the “Team Ryan” Facebook page, created for her 10-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with Spina bifida as a baby.
The birth defect, which happens when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly, has caused Ryan to rely on a wheelchair to get around — so a hiking trip was less than ideal for the Tully Elementary School student.
“Obviously, NOT accessible,” King pointed out.
That is, until, Jim Freeman, a teacher at the school, offered to carry Ryan around on his back all day so she could explore the fossil beds with the rest of her classmates.
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In several sweet photos, Freeman was captured carrying Ryan on his back in a carrier — her holding onto his shoulders — as they explored the river banks, state park, and 390-million-year-old fossil beds beside the other students and teachers.
King said on Facebook that the gesture meant a lot to her and the family, especially because it prevented Ryan from feeling left out and missing the class trip.
The Kentucky mother also explained that she was sharing the photos in a bid to raise awareness about the state’s excellent teachers, who often go out of their way to help children in need and inspire people around their community.
“She is sooooo excited to do this independent from me ❤️” King wrote in her post. “Omg MELT MY HEART … We are sooooo blessed to have an ENTIRE school that is so compassionate and empathetic and NEVER make her feel left out ❤️”
Speaking to USA Today, King called Freeman’s offer to carry the 55-pound fourth-grader “out of the blue,” noting how he wasn’t Ryan’s teacher and that they had rarely ever interacted at school.
“That’s how wonderful this man is,” King told the outlet. “We’ve never really talked. I didn’t know his first name before he offered to do this.”
“It melted my heart,” she shared, adding that she hopes this story will inspire other physically-disabled people that they don’t need to miss out on things because of their wheelchair.
“To anybody else who is in a wheelchair, nothing should stop you … and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help,” King said. “There are good people out there who want to help you.”
As for Freeman, he said the gesture was nothing more than a way to help a student in need but pointed out that it happens often 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,” Freeman told WLKY News. “All the teachers here at Tully and JCPS, they work harder than most people realize.”
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