Bus driver builds wheelchair ramp for special needs student

Bus driver builds wheelchair ramp to help special needs student

HAMILTON, Ohio — After watching a mother and her wheelchair-bound daughter tumble bloodied to the ground, Hamilton school bus driver Bob Thacker knew he had to do something to help.

Thacker, a decade-long veteran of the city schools, dashed out of his bus to help mother Tonya Uhl and her special needs daughter Katelynn to right themselves and tend to their injuries.

“She (Katelynn) was all bloody so I said, ‘I got to do something,’” Thacker said of the accident last month.

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The solution would be a wheelchair ramp, but Thacker said the Uhl family couldn’t get any local agencies to pay for and install it.

“So I decided to build it myself,” he said, adding the ramp he created out of sturdy wood is detachable, portable and can be used on other stairs should the Uhls move from their Pleasant Avenue home.

Uhl, whose seventh-grade daughter attends Garfield Middle School, said of Thacker, “he doesn’t know how much he did for us.”

“It’s really appreciated. He went the extra mile to help us out like nobody else has before,” said Uhl.

Becky Goosey, director of transportation for the city schools, praised Thacker for going far beyond his bus driving duties after witnessing how difficult it was for Uhl to push and pull Katelyn in her wheelchair up the steps of their home.

“The student fell out of her wheelchair and had a significant injury to her mouth, and the parent had trouble getting up after she fell,” said Goosey.

Joni Copas, spokeswoman for Hamilton Schools, said, “Bob is just one great example of our staff members going above and beyond the call of duty.

“He saw a need and wanted to help Katelyn and her mother. He witnessed the daily struggle they had getting in and out of the house, so he took it upon himself and his own expense and built a ramp for them.”

Thacker also arranged for another city resident to donate an electric, motorized wheelchair to Katelynn so she can more easily move about the neighborhood and school.

“Sometimes, you just got to help people,” he said.

Veteran Hamilton Schools bus driver Bob Thacker pushes special needs student Katelynn Uhl up the access ramp Thacker built for her after helping her off his bus at the end of the school day. After watching Uhl and her mother fall and suffer injuries last month while struggling to get Katelynn’s wheel chair down the stairs, Thacker says he had to act.
Veteran Hamilton Schools bus driver Bob Thacker pushes special needs student Katelynn Uhl up the access ramp Thacker built for her after helping her off his bus at the end of the school day. After watching Uhl and her mother fall and suffer injuries last month while struggling to get Katelynn’s wheel chair down the stairs, Thacker says he had to act. (Michael D. Clark/Journal-News.com)