Sometimes it does take a village, especially if you happen to be lucky enough to live within the quaint historical and picturesque New England town of Westerly, Rhode Island. Random acts of kindness seem to come easy to the roughly 23,000 residents living within the beachfront community on the south shore of the state.
For over 2 decades, Dan McKena’s high school students at Westerly High School had a proud tradition of quietly building projects within his construction class that benefited their city. If the local municipality needed a park bench or a wooden flower bed in front of the cities historic Town Hall, the students would build it as part of their school project.
However, all that changed when social media got wind of their next school protect, when they decided to build a bus shelter for one of their neighbors, a little 5-year old wheelchair-bound boy. He was in desperate need of having something to protect him from the harsh New England storms when he waited for his school bus to pick him up.
“The joke is we’ve built every picnic table, lifeguard stand that’s located in the town of Westerly,” McKena told Fox News. “It’s just something we kind of do quietly and this story just kind of got put out there on social media and it kind of blew up and took off.”
The school project began when 5-year-old Ryder Killam’s father, Tim, posted a request on his Facebook page in September. He was seeking some type of bus stop shelter to replace the crudely made makeshift one he had assembled, made of nothing more than a large patio umbrella loosely tied to his fence.
"*" indicates required fields
Little Ryder was born with”spina-bifida” a debilitating birth defect condition which has him totally confined to a wheelchair.
“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 told Fox News.
Killam continued, even when he rushes out to the bus, “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.”
Tim’s Facebook post lit up social media, and it also caught the attention of Westerly high school’s guidance counselor who contacted Tim, and told him to reach out to shop teacher, Dan McKena, who just happened to be with one of his students, Mason Heald, looking for a new project for the class.
“I looked at him. I said, ‘You’re designing a bus stop,’” McKena recalled.
The next day McKena informed his class of the project, and picked 14 students to begin construction before the weather turned nasty.
Grateful for this teacher & his construction students. ❤️🙏— Ancora Imparo (@MadFatTeacher) November 23, 2021
High school construction class builds bus stop shelter to protect student who uses wheelchairhttps://t.co/DQtkl5LWBB
“The weather can change instantly … we’ve had snow on Thanksgiving before,” McKena said. “I just kept visualizing that I didn’t want him sitting under an umbrella that I initially saw in a snowstorm.”
He said they “just kept pushing and pushing to get it done.”
After about a month of hard work, the project was completed before the weather actually turned cold. The bus stop shelter is designed so that Ryder can actually sit in his wheelchair inside the shelter protected from the elements, complete with two windows, along with electric power for a heat lamp.
“After the community caught wind of the story, someone dropped off a heated blanket for Ryder to wrap himself in,” Tim Killam said.