LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An elementary school teacher made the day of a 10-year-old girl with spina bifida — and captured the hearts of everyone on the internet — when he carried her on his back through the Falls of The Ohio State Park during a school field trip.
Ryan King is a fourth-grader at Tully Elementary School just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. But because of her spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly, she’s in a wheelchair. And that makes school trips kind of tough.
“We’ve had field trips before where we weren’t able to go and the school gives us alternate education days,” Ryan’s mother, Shelly King, told CNN.
“But when she goes back to school, her peers and classmates are all talking about the field trip, so she doesn’t have the same experience,” she said. “And when she’s not there, the kids really miss her, too.”
While most field trips are accessible, this one was a little more adventurous. The class was going to see exposed fossil beds along the Ohio River. King really didn’t want Ryan to miss out.
“I found this backpack that a friend had sent me and grabbed it, and said I’m just going to carry her so she can experience this,” she said.
She had explained all this to Ryan’s teacher when a fellow elementary school teacher, Jim Freeman, stepped in and said, “I’m happy to tote her around on the Falls all day!”
“He knows who Ryan is, but they didn’t have any prior personal relationship,” King said. “I don’t think he had any idea what a big impact he was going to make on so many different people.”
The children in class loved having Ryan be a part of their day, laughing because she got a piggyback ride around the Falls while they had to walk.
“We’re blessed at our school — the kids there are so compassionate and understanding,” King said.
But the biggest thing that Mr. Freeman did for Ryan? He gave her independence.
“She doesn’t want mom tagging along to everything,” King said.