Ryan Neighbors has spina bifida and she goes to Tully Elementary School using her wheelchair and with the help of her mom Shelly King. One day her class planned a field trip to hike at Falls of the Ohio State Park and King thought she would strap her daughter to a specialized backpack so she can join the trip without having to bring the wheelchair.
King was discussing her plan with her personal assistant at school when Jim Freeman, a science teacher, overheard their conversation. Without hesitation, he volunteered to carry the girl on his back for the duration of the hike.
“I overheard their conversation and said, ‘We can do that. We can make that happen. Done,'” Freeman said in an appearance on TODAY.
“That was just one obstacle we got over quickly. … When it was time to strap her in, she was ready to go. She was pumped and had a big smile on her face,” he added.
Kelly said Ryan had missed similar field trips in the past because she could not bring her wheelchair. So they would usually take an “education day” and have their own field trip in the city. But thanks to Freeman’s kindness, her daughter was able to enjoy the trip with her classmates. King said her daughter felt independent somehow because she wasn’t there hovering over her.
King said she is grateful for Freeman’s help and for stepping in to help her and her kid. She considered his help a big deal. “
For him to step in and automatically take that responsibility on himself, and not give it any second thought — I mean, it’s not even her teacher. This is somebody I’ve seen in passing at school, but never really spoke to, and out of the kindness of his heart, he wanted to make a difference for her,” King told Today.
“When you’re a special needs mom, you’re used to doing everything yourself. To know that someone else out there has the empathy and compassion to step up and say ‘Hey, let me help out, let me give this opportunity, and I want to do this’. … None of us ever thought it was going to end up like this,” she added.
King shared the unforgettable and touching experience on the Team Ryan Facebook page, where she chronicles her daughter’s daily life, struggles, and achievements. Her post quickly went viral and praises and commendations poured in for Freeman’s selflessness and kindness. King said that the world needs more people like Freedman who is a ray of hope and love and who reminds people that it is not awkward to lend a helping hand to people with disabilities.