‘This photo made it all worth it.’: Teens build bus stop shelter for 5-year-old in wheelchair

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Waiting for the school bus every morning used to be a hassle for 5-year-old Ryder Kilam, but now it’s a highlight of his day.

Every morning, his parents push his wheelchair to the end of the driveway where they wait together for the bus to arrive. Some mornings are okay, but it all depends on the weather.

father pushing son towards bus stop
WJAR

“With Ryder being in a wheelchair, unfortunately, it’s about 75 feet from our house to the bus,” Ryder’s dad, Tim Kilam, said. “He’s not the typical child that runs out when the bus comes.”

For a while, they’d use an old patio umbrella to shield Ryder from inclement weather, but keeping him dry was impossible when the wind would blow. This led to his parents reaching out for help on Facebook by asking if anyone had a patio umbrella or something similar that they were no longer using.

The offer they got, however, was even better: Westerly High School’s Construction Technology class was more than happy to build Ryder the kind of shelter he deserves.

robotics team building a shelter for the wheelchair bound boy
WJAR

“We’ve done other projects before,” Dan McKena, the class’s teacher said. “I think it’s very important for my students to learn not only the aspects of construction but of being involved in the community dealing with people outside of the school environment.”

For weeks, three different classes worked hard to create the best shelter possible for Ryder. His parents helped pay for the materials needed to build it, but they also received $300 worth of wood from Home Depot.

Each student worked tirelessly to get this project done in time so Ryder had a proper shelter for winter, but one senior, Mason Heald, was so passionate about what they were doing that he decided to make this his senior project.

high schooler who helped build the shelter
WJAR

“It was a learning stretch for me,” Mason said. “I’ve never really done anything like that. I watched videos on how studs make things hollow. I didn’t really know too much about what I was doing.”

The class also included Ryder’s older brothers who helped make sure the shelter was Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible so that Ryder and his parents, or anyone else who may accompany him, could all comfortably fit inside.

Finishing this lofty project in a short period of time was no easy feat, but that didn’t stop them from making it happen! Rightfully so, Dan couldn’t have been more proud of his students.

father and son sit in shelter built for them at bus stop
WJAR

“They all worked together for a common goal and they really enjoyed knowing the end result and knowing where it’s going,” he said. “On days when it might’ve been like, ‘I don’t feel like working’ or whatever it may be, they just come in eager, ready to get going and get to work.”

The only person happier than Dan is Ryder himself, who is absolutely loving his new bus stop shelter.

“He loves it, he actually, after school, makes us stay out here and hang out now it’s his new fort so he gets home,” Tim said. “The community, they’re incredible, they’ve come forward a couple of times for Ryder. It’s unreal how everyone comes together to make things work for everybody.”

To show their appreciation, Tim sent Dan a photo of the adorable 5-year-old enjoying his new shelter.

“That one photo that the family sent me made it all worth it,” he said, “and I shared it with the students that were involved in the construction.”

“It definitely made it extra special,” Mason said. “I was really happy to help my community of sorts and it was pretty cool to do something like that because it’s not just a shed, I’m helping out somebody in need, and it’s just nice.”

little boy being pushed by his father to his bus
WJAR

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