We all hold the ability to improve the lives of others, and these Rhode Island high students did exactly that through a personalized bus stop.
“The joke is we’ve built every picnic table, lifeguard stand that’s located in the town of Westerly,” says Dan McKena. McKena teaches construction class at his Westerly, Rhode Island high school. To him, “It’s just something we kind of do quietly.”
Their latest project, however, is far from quiet now that the internet has gotten ahold of it. “This story just kind of got put out there on social media and it kind of blew up and took off,” McKena adds. And he’s right.
McKena and his students just finished building a personalized bus stop for a local elementary school student. The 5-year-old recipient, Ryder Killam, is wheelchair-bound and has to wait on the bus at his stop every morning. His father, Tim, reached out on Facebook to see about replacing their shelter for him – a patio umbrella tied to a fence. His community came through.
“Our door to the bus stop is approximately 75 feet and in inclement weather, it was very difficult to rush Ryder out to the stop,” Tim Killam tells Fox News.
Ryder was born with spina bifida and is wheelchair dependent. His parents were looking for a way to shield him from the harsh New England weather; no easy feat. Once the bus finally shows for Ryder, “it takes time for the wheelchair lift to deploy out of a school bus so we needed this to be able to shelter him as best as possible,” his father adds.
“I Said, ‘You’re Designing a Bus Stop'”
Thankfully, Tim’s Facebook post would catch the eye of a school guidance counselor. The Killam’s were sent Dan McKena’s way, and the construction teacher knew exactly what to do. One of his seniors, Mason Heald, was attempting to nail down their senior project just as the Killam’s email came through.
“I looked at him – I said, ‘You’re designing a bus stop,'” McKena recalls. And with 14 other students there to help, Ryder’s bus stop would begin construction.
It’s a good thing, too, because “the weather can change instantly,” the teacher continues. “We’ve had snow on Thanksgiving before. I just kept visualizing that I didn’t want him sitting under an umbrella that I initially saw in a snowstorm.”
That mental image was all it took for McKena to ensure this wish came true as soon as possible. He and his students “just kept pushing and pushing to get it done,” and after a month of construction, they did exactly that.
McKena’s class would design the bus stop so Ryder could sit inside it in his chair and see the bus pull up. It’s an ADA-compliant hut fit for a king, too. There are two windows and a heater for the winter months. A local Good Samaritan even dropped off a heated blanket for the little guy after hearing of the project.
All in all, the Killam family is beyond thankful for McKena’s class, the hut, and their community.
“This makes loading and unloading on the bus flawless,” Tim Killam says. “Ryder can be anxious, so having one of us with him is so important,” which ADA compliance allows for.
Well done, students!