LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBS Local) — A 10-year-old Kentucky girl who is confined to a wheelchair was planning to miss yet another field trip until a teacher stepped in.
Ryan Neighbors, a fourth grader at Tully Elementary in Louisville, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.
While Neighbors excels in the classroom, her condition had been an obstacle for field trips.
“We’ve had field trips before where we weren’t able to go and the school gives us alternate education days,” Neighbors’ 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.”
As her class planned a trip to the Falls of the Ohio State Park on the banks of the Ohio River at Clarksville, Indiana, it was assumed Neighbors wouldn’t be able to go. But Jim Freeman, a teacher in the class next to Neighbors’ classroom, refused to leave her behind.
“I was preparing for an ‘alternate field trip day’ when [Freeman] reached out and said, ‘I’m happy to tote her around on the falls all day!'” Ryan’s mother, Shelly King, said in a Facebook post.
Freeman used a special backpack to tote her through the rugged outdoor terrain at the park.
“As soon as we got her strapped in, she’s like, this is the part I’ve been waiting for,” Freeman told CBS affiliate WLKY.
King shared photos of the day, which showed Freeman trekking through the park carrying Neighbors inside a special backpack.
“It melted my heart,” King told WLKY-TV. “He’s not even Ryan’s teacher and he was so pure-hearted that he wanted to make sure that she was included and not left out and she got to feel like one of her peers.”
Neighbors says she’ll never forget the experience.
“When I got to see the fossils and stuff, I was like, wow, that’s like, really cool. I haven’t gotten to see that before,” she said.