Strangers build 10-year-old girl a wheelchair ramp after seeing her mother struggling

School bus driver says he could not shake the image from his head, 'It just didn’t seem right for somebody to have to struggle like that'

Charlotte England@charlottengland
Thursday 16 February 2017 09:21
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Man builds ramp for little girl after seeing her mother struggle to lift her wheelchair up steps

A stranger and his friends have built a custom ramp for a disabled girl after seeing her mother struggling to lift her wheelchair.

Mechanic Thomas Mitchell offered to design and build the ramp for Verna DeSpain and her 10-year-old daughter Lydia free of charge, after he saw how much difficulty they had getting out of the house.

Mr Mitchell, from Clarksville, Tennessee, occasionally works as a substitute bus driver for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS). He was collecting a group of disabled children when he saw Ms DeSpain lugging Lydia’s wheelchair down the steps of their front porch.

He told the school district, which posted the story on Facebook, that he could not get the image out of his head afterwards.

“There was just hardly any room for her to manoeuvre this wheelchair,” Mr Mitchell said. “It just didn’t seem right for somebody to have to struggle like that.”

A few days later, Mr Mitchell telephoned Ms DeSpain, who is a single mother, and offered to build a special ramp for Lydia.

“I was just so shocked,” Ms DeSpain told CBS News. “I got a call from him out of the blue.”

The ramp took several months to design and plan. Mr Mitchell gathered tools, recruited four friends, including a construction worker, to help and persuaded a local home improvement store to donate the necessary materials.

On a Sunday last month, the group assembled the wooden ramp, complete with a small fenced deck, in less than three hours.

“I thought it was going to be all day, so when he told me we were done I was just shocked and actually very impressed,” said Ms DeSpain. “They went above and beyond what we were expecting.”

For more than a year, Ms DeSpain told CBS news, she had to guide her daughter down the steps in reverse using a basic portable ramp because it was all she could afford.

“It worked better than not having one at all, but we had to put it on the second step and it was flimsy,” Ms DeSpain said. “It wasn’t the best or the safest.”

She added that a few months before Mr Mitchell intervened, she had hurt her shoulder carrying her growing daughter.

As Lydia gets bigger, the ramp is likely to become even more vital to the family.

“I’m every thankful and grateful,” said Ms DeSpain. “It’s a major blessing. This is the best year my children and I have ever had.”

Mr Mitchell said he is just happy to have helped.

“Everybody should be helping out their neighbour, and so many people just drive by,” he said. “So many people comment, you know, that it’s such a great thing. I challenge them to do the same. There’s no greater feeling.”

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