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School bus driver builds wheelchair ramp for 10-year-old girl on his route

When Thomas Mitchell noticed a mom struggle to get her daughter up and down a ramp outside their home, he jumped into action.
/ Source: TODAY

Thomas Mitchell is a school bus mechanic in Clarksville, Tennessee, but he occasionally fills in as a driver.

On his route one day he noticed a 10-year-old girl named Lydia, whose mom was struggling to help her get her wheelchair up and down a ramp outside their home.

Thomas and friends pose in front of newly built ramp
Thomas Mitchell and his friends worked hard to build a new ramp for Lydia. (From left: Nick Puckett, Randall Puckett, Mike Greene, Anthony Puckett and Thomas Mitchell)Courtesy of Thomas and Jennifer Mitchell

“The ramp they were using was like a temporary aluminum ramp, like a folding ramp,” Mitchell told TODAY. “It didn’t go all the way to the top step.”

Mitchell had an idea. He remembered having seen organizations that help people with these types of projects, so he took it upon himself to call a few of them to explain the situation.

The guys worked hard to finish the ramp for Lydia!
The guys worked hard to finish the ramp for Lydia.Courtesy of Thomas and Jennifer Mitchell

Unfortunately, due to tight budgets, a new ramp wasn’t going to be a possibility ... not without their help, it seemed. But Mitchell was determined.

“I decided to call Lowe's to see if they would help,” explained Mitchell. “I got to the manager, David Adams ... he didn’t even bat an eye, he just asked me to get a list together.”

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After picking up his supplies, Mitchell reached out to some friends who were more than excited to pitch in.

Lydia and Verna DeSpain
Verna DeSpain and her daughter Lydia sat down to talk with Thomas Mitchell's employer, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.Clarksville-Montgomery County School System

Mitchell then gave Lydia’s mother, Verna DeSpain, a call to let her know what he had arranged.

“You know, I wasn’t expecting anyone to just call and volunteer to do that,” DeSpain told TODAY. “After we got off the phone, I was so happy I was just crying happy tears.”

Mitchell explained that he and his crew showed up and built the ramp in one day. DeSpain and her daughter made sure to come out and express their appreciation.

Verna DeSpain helps Lydia go outside and use the ramp for the first time
Verna DeSpain helps Lydia go outside and use the ramp for the first time.Courtesy of Thomas and Jennifer Mitchell

While Lydia is nonverbal, her elation was apparent.

“I told her, ‘This is all about you,’” DeSpain said. “‘They’re here for you.’ She just gets really excited.”

And we’re excited, too. It’s always good to remember that there are people out there who care.

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“I’m just so glad that this is touching people and inspiring them,” said DeSpain. “And maybe making them more aware of the special-needs community and what they take for granted.”