Thursday, February 16, 2017

Substitute bus driver sees a mom struggle, builds her a ramp

Thomas Mitchell works as a bus mechanic for Tennessee's Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. Sometimes he's called upon to be a substitute bus driver, as happened one day last fall.

His route that day included pick-up of 10-year-old Lydia DeSpain, who uses a wheelchair. Mitchell watched Lydia's mom Verna struggle to get Lydia and her wheelchair out to the bus. The home's front steps had a portable ramp which was flimsy and too short - it forced Verna to back the wheelchair down a stair before connecting with the start of the ramp. Verna confessed to Mitchell that she worried about Lydia's safety, and that she herself had been injured more than once maneuvering the wheelchair on the awkward setup. Afterward, the conversation and image of the struggling mother haunted Mitchell. 

He decided to act. He spoke with district officials who supported his efforts. Contact was made with the local Lowe's, who donated materials for a proper ramp. Mitchell called Verna DeSpain with the news - he would build a new, customized ramp for Lydia free of charge.

So late last month, Mitchell and four fellow volunteers built a new ramp for the DeSpain's home. Now Verna and Lydia can both be safe as they enter and exit their home.

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