Fill-in school bus driver builds Tennessee girl a wheelchair ramp after seeing mom struggle

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — If you ask Thomas Mitchell about the fleet he looks after, he’ll rattle off a long list of checkpoints for each machine.

As a bus mechanic, he says finding and fixing problems fits his personality.

“From what my wife tells me, I’m an instant gratification kind of guy.”

Gratification he sometimes gets to see firsthand.

But while driving one route as a substitute driver for a special needs bus with about five students using wheelchairs, he noticed a problem he couldn’t let go, WTVF reported.

Verna DeSpain’s daughter Lydia was born with a seizure disorder, stunting her development.

“Initially, there was no ramp at all [leading to the front door]. Then I bought a ramp, but it was still difficult to use,” DeSpain said.

Small things, like moving Lydia, are difficult, made even worse by a set of stone steps standing between Lydia and her school bus.

“Everyday she would come out and struggle with this small little area and this aluminum ramp that didn’t go to the top step,” Mitchell said.

“He just called and said I was wondering if it was OK with you if we could build your daughter a ramp,” DeSpain recalled.

“She was just overjoyed, telling Lydia in the background, ‘You’re not going to believe what somebody wants to do, somebody wants to help you, somebody wants to help us,'” Mitchell said.

That is exactly what Mitchell and four of his friends did, giving Lydia and her mother one small victory.

“I just never thought anyone would even take notice. It’s those little things that people take for granted. And maybe I didn’t even realize my predicament, because I’m so used to doing it solo.”

Mitchell is no longer filling in as Lydia’s bus driver, but for Verna, his kindness gives her hope that other small victories may be just around the corner.

“All I want is for my daughter to eventually mumble a few phrases, maybe walk eventually. I believe she will eventually it might take years, but those are little things I pray for.”