Teacher carries student with cerebral palsy on class hike


(ABC NEWS)- It’s the dream of every parent with a child who has a disability: To have a teacher who goes above and beyond to make sure their child is included with their peers.

For 10-year-old Maggie Vazquez, her teacher Helma Wardenaar — whose students know her as Ms. Helma — was that dream come true.

Maggie has cerebral palsy and uses a walker. When her class overnight camping trip was being planned, it became clear that wasn’t an option. Neither was a traditional wheelchair, said Wardenaar.

“I looked into renting a pony, but those aren’t allowed on the pedestrian path,” she told “Good Morning America.” “I considered accepting a fine if we would be caught, but figured that it would set a bad example.”

She reached out to some big brands with little luck and then she turned to Facebook. Although, she had initially struck out with the outdoors company REI, one employee who she only knows as Greg said he would meet her at the store in Chicago. There they spent an hour looking at options, Wardenaar said. No luck.

But then two weeks later Greg reached out: He found the “Free Loader,” the backpack that Wardenaar would ultimately carry Maggie in for the hike.

The Free Loader coast $300 and wasn’t so comfortable for Maggie, she said. But still, “… she loved the trip. 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.”
Singing is one of the many things Maggie enjoys, her mom, Michelle Vazquez told “GMA.”

“She has a funny and quirky sense of humor,” the mom said. “She loves to work on fine detailed art coloring books and has started some independent drawing. She loves music. She loves being outside, but the motor challenges make it difficult.”

Maggie’s family and teachers won’t give up.

“We think we may need to work on stirrups to elevate her feet, but that will be a work in progress,” Wardenaar said.

As for Maggie, she “is valued in the class,” her teacher said. “Some accommodations for students with a disability can be challenging. We sometimes have to admit: We don’t know what to do anymore! Communication with the parent is key at that moment.”

They keep at it because it’s worth it.

“Thank you, Michelle Vazquez, for being an amazing mom,” Wardenaar wrote on her Facebook page. “It’s a pleasure working with you. Together we always find solutions!”

Vazquez has tons of appreciation for her daughter’s teacher.

“Ms. Helma really took this on personally and spent a lot of time tracking down this piece of equipment for Maggie,” Vazquez told “GMA”.

For Wardenaar, aiding Maggie is just her way of making a difference.
“I really want to make a difference,” Wardenaar said.

Daniella Hankey

Good Morning West Virginia! Daniella Hankey is the Morning and Noon newscast Anchor. Daniella joined Newswatch as a Multi-Media journalist and quickly moved her way up to an Anchor. Before landing in the beautiful Mountain State, Daniella called her home Orlando, Florida. Armed with a major in Communications and Media Studies and a minor in Education, Daniella relocated to further her career. During her time at Stetson, she covered several big stories on and off campus including the June 2016 Pulse Night Club shooting and Hurricane Matthew. She worked as a news anchor and reporter for her college news station and enjoyed an internship in productions at PBS. Her love for journalism started in high school when she was selected as a Bright House Varsity Reporter as well as the school anchor. When Daniella is not working, you can find her exploring West Virginia especially the Greenbrier and engaging with community members. As a morning anchor, Daniella loves putting a smile on viewers faces in the morning and informing them of community events. If you have any story ideas or news tips, please email Daniella at You can also follow Daniella on Facebook at DaniellaHankeyTV.

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