Helma Wardenaar is a special ed teacher and the director of student services at the Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago.
Every year, she and her class look forward to their annual camping trip.
During this two-day excursion, Helma’s students explore the woods and wildlife while hiking and staying physically active. But for her student Maggie, the trip seemed implausible.
Maggie, whom Helma has worked with since kindergarten, has cerebral palsy and relies on a walker or wheelchair. There was no real way for Maggie to go on the two-day hike and keep up with the class.
Still, Helma knew how important it was not to exclude Maggie from the rest of the group; she was determined to find a solution.
Helma reached out to Greg Coleman, an employee at her local REI store, but he had a hard time finding a travel carrier or sling that could hold Maggie’s weight. She tried borrowing a friend’s pony, but the forest preserve said it was against the rules. She experimented with a wheelbarrow, but it wasn’t sturdy enough.
And then, just days before the big hike, Helma received an email from Greg at REI. “I couldn’t let go of that idea,” he told her. “I really want to help you out.”
That’s when the determined teacher made a breakthrough, and now the result is going viral.
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