When Shelly King’s daughter’s class was headed on a field trip to see the fossil beds at Falls of the Ohio State Park, she knew she’d have to be creative to find a way for her child to attend. Ryan has spina bifida and is often unable to go on field trips for accessibility reasons. This time, however, King was determined to find a way for her daughter to participate, so she arranged to use a specially-designed backpack to carry her in.
King was ready to carry her daughter herself, but Jim Freeman, a fourth-grade science teacher at Tully Elementary School (who is not Ryan’s teacher), stepped in and offered to carry the girl on his back instead. Ryan was able to join her classmates on the fun trip without her mom, just like the other kids.
“I overheard their conversation, and said, ‘We can do that. We can make that happen. Done,'” Freeman told NBC’s “Today” of overhearing a conversation between King and Ryan’s personal assistant about carrying her for the field trip. “That was just one obstacle we got over quickly.”
“When it was time to strap her in, she was ready to go,” he added. “She was pumped, had a big smile on her face.”
King took to Facebook to thank Freeman for his selfless act, posting about the experience on a page dedicated to her daughter called Team Ryan:
“If I haven’t bragged on my kid’s school enough — well, listen to this,” she wrote alongside photos of Ryan and Freeman enjoying the field trip. “They are going on a field trip to Falls Of The Ohio today. Obviously, NOT accessible. I was preparing for an ‘alternate field trip day’ when a male teacher reached out and said, ‘I’m happy to tote her around on the falls all day!'”
“She is sooooo excited to do this independent from me,” King she added. “Omg MELT MY HEART.” She also thanked the person who them the backpack carriers.
“We are sooooo blessed to have an ENTIRE school that is so compassionate and empathetic and NEVER make her feel left out,” she said.
The post went viral, and now has more than 5,000 reactions, more than 400 comments and more than 2,500 shares.
King told CBS News that having the teacher be so willing to step in to carry her daughter was overwhelming. “So many special needs moms reached out and said it meant the world to see,” she said.
Ryan weighs 50 pounds, and it was 90 degrees on the day of the field trip, King told CBS. “Usually I’m used to doing these things for her because I’m a mom and that’s what moms do,” she said.
Freeman carried Ryan around on the shore of the Ohio River for about an hour. Way to step in to help! “We have a wonderful village at home — and it takes a village,” King said during her interview with “Today.”
It certainly does! Bravo to Freeman, and welcome to Team Ryan!