A special education teacher refused to let her student’s cerebral palsy stop her from missing out on the school’s annual camping trip. She went to extreme lengths just so the 10-year-old would be able to enjoy hiking like her fellow classmates.
Maggie Vazquez, a 10-year-old who has cerebral palsy, requires a walker to help her get around. She loves the outdoors but sometimes it can be difficult for her to do the things she enjoys to because of her condition.
So when her class was planning to go on a camping trip, the chances of Maggie joining them were pretty much non-existent. Maggie’s walker wouldn’t work in the woods and so there was no way she would have enjoyed hiking with her friends.
However, her teacher, Helma Wardenaar, wasn’t about to let that happen, even if that meant carrying the 10-year-old on her back during three days of hiking.
“I really believe that everybody should enjoy [the trip]. If we provide this to our walking students then Maggie should be just as much a part of our community. We have students who have learning disabilities or speech problems or medical issues and we say, ‘No, we’re going to try.'” Wardenaar told InsideEdition.com
With the help of Maggie’s parents and staff at local outdoors stores, Wardenaar tried different ideas to get Maggie to go on the trip.
First, she checked to see if wheelchairs would work, but it turned out they wouldn’t be able to handle the terrain.
She then considered renting a pony for Maggie to ride on, but they’re not allowed on pedestrian paths. “I considered accepting a fine if we would be caught, but figured that it would set a bad example.” Wardenaar said.
Then, they decided to try out a $300 Freeloader Child Carrier, even though Maggie was a little too big for it.
Wardenaar said, “The first time we did that, it was a bit clumsy. We had to stand on the table and then get on, right? Now we learned you can kind of squat down and she can be guided on that way. At 45-minutes [into] the hike, you said, ‘My legs hurt, it’s not comfortable,’ so we looked into making adjustments.”
With the carrier, Wardenaar carried Maggie on her back and she was able to enjoy the trip a great deal.
“We saw deer footprints, butterflies, birds, etc. Maggie sang along while I hiked. She wrote an original song about the camp and how much fun the time together is,” said Wardenaar.
Maggie’s mom who was incredibly appreciative of Wardenaar and her efforts said, “Ms. Helma really took this on personally and spent a lot of time tracking down this piece of equipment for Maggie.”
Despite working out daily, Wardenaar was left pretty sore but she said it was a small price to pay for her student not to feel left out and enjoy the trip with her friends.
What an amazing human being Helma Wardenaar is, she went above and beyond to make her student feel loved and included.
To support Wardenaar’s department, visit their GoFundMe page.