Celebrate Tennessee: Clarksville Bus Mechanic Helps Disabled Student's Family

Posted at 9:00 PM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 22:00:55-05

A school bus mechanic for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System is being honored for helping a students and her mother after noticing a problem along a bus route. Thomas Mitchell has worked for the school system for about two years and sometimes subs in as a driver, when needed.

That’s when he first noticed a problem he couldn’t let go.

“From almost the first time I saw it, I came home and told my wife something really needs to be done,” Mitchell said. “From that point on, it was just kind of how fast can we get this done for her?”

Mitchell noticed a mother struggle with a too-short, flimsy, aluminum ramp as she worked to get her wheel-chair bound daughter in and out of their home each day as her handicapped accessible school bus pulled to the end of the family’s driveway.

That mother was Verna DeSpain, who is a full time caregiver for her 10-year-old daughter Lydia.

“Lydia was diagnosed with a rare seizure disorder in infancy,” DeSpain said. “She no longer has the disorder, but she has delays.”

Lydia can only walk with assistance and is non-verbal.

“She’s getting very heavy,” DeSpain said. “She’ll pass me in height before long.”

That’s why Mitchell decided he needed to do something about the inadequate wheelchair ramp he watched DeSpain struggle with twice a day.

“He just called and asked if he could build Lydia a ramp,” DeSpain said. “I was just overwhelmed.”

“At the end of the phone call, I was pulling the phone away from my head and she was just overjoyed, telling Lydia in the background, ‘You're not going to believe what somebody wants to do, somebody wants to help you, somebody wants to help us,’” Mitchell said.

Mitchell rallied together four friends who helped build the ramp in one afternoon. Lowe’s donated all of the materials.

DeSpain said the gesture may seem small to some, but to her it’s an act of kindness she won’t soon forget.
“Just to know that there’s good people that are kind and just willing to do random acts of kindness for people they see are in need,” DeSpain said. “That really just touched my heart.”