Helma Wardenaar is a teacher at The Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago, Illinois and would do anything to make sure her students felt included. She became a viral sensation after proving herself to be the very definition of “putting the team on your back.”
Maggie Vasquez, Wardenaar’s adorable 10-year-old student, has cerebral palsy. Because of her condition and dependence on her walker, Vasquez would not be able to attend the three-day class camping trip to Camp Sullivan in Oak Forest, Illinois.
When Wardenaar heard the news, she began brainstorming. After scrapping the idea of renting a small pony for the girl to ride, Wardenaar decided to purchase a $300 harness and carry the girl instead.
“When I showed it to Maggie her eyes became really big,” Wardenaar said. “She was like, ‘Ms. Helma! You found something?’ I showed it to her in the classroom so everybody saw and they were like, ‘Yay! Maggie can do this!’”
Wardenaar said she was confident that she could carry the girl because she exercises daily. Although the 60-pound piggy-back ride became a challenge at times, Maggie would sing songs and encourage her. The humble teacher was just happy that she could include every student.
“We didn’t think twice about doing this for Maggie,” she said. “It’s ingrained in the culture of our school to help each other and to help make the world a better place.”
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