A group of high school students from Rhode Island helped a wheelchair-bound five-year old to stay warm while he waited for his school bus every morning.
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 easier than others. It all depends on what the weather is like.
“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.
Ryder was protected from the New England weather by a patio umbrella that was tied to a fence. However, it was difficult to keep him dry in strong winds.
His parents reached for help via Facebook and asked for any friends who had a patio umbrella that was no longer in use. However, they got an even better offer—and from a group of strangers, no less.
A local guidance counselor saw the post on Facebook and advised the Killams that Dan McKena, a Construction Technology teacher at Westerly High School, had been notified.
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.”
Ryder was sheltered by 14 other classmates from the class, who were all more than happy to help.
“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.”
The group worked for nearly a month to complete the shelter before winter. 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 about 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 hut, 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.
The group was able to complete the project in a very short time. It was not easy, but they persevered.
“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.”
The story spread and inspired more kindnesses 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 thrilled to have a bus stop that can protect him from all 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.”
Tim sent Dan a photo showing the youngster in his new hut as a gesture of appreciation. The teacher said the picture “made it all worth it.” He also shared with the high school students involved in the construction.
Watch the video below to see how these students came together to help this child.
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