Teacher Refuses To Leave Student with Cerebral Palsy Behind on Class Hike, Carries Her on Back


Maggie Vazquez is a 10-year-old girl who has cerebral palsy.

People with the condition are usually born with it, but there are a few people who get it after birth.

In Maggie’s case, she needs to use a walker to help her get around.

“She has a funny and quirky sense of humor,” Maggie’s mom, Michelle, 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 class was planning to have an overnight camping trip, and Maggie’s walker wasn’t going to work in the woods. Her teacher, Helma Wardenaar, wanted to try to find a way to help Maggie keep up with the rest of her class on the trip.

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Wardenaar checked to see if a traditional wheelchair would work, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t be able to function well on the trails.

“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.”

The dedicated teacher tried to contact big brands for help with her situation, but they weren’t able to give her a solution. One employee, who she knew as Greg, asked Wardendaar to meet him at the store in Chicago. He spent an hour with her trying to find something that could help, but they couldn’t find anything.

Two weeks later, Greg reached out again to Wardenaar, explaining that he found a backpack called the “Free Loader.” It was a special backpack that could help Wardenaar carry Maggie on her back as they hiked.

The Free Loader wasn’t cheap at $300 and it wasn’t the most comfortable, but Maggie 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,” said Wardenaar.

Maggie’s family and teachers plan to never stop searching for new ways to help her be included in school activities. To Wardenaar, Maggie “is valued in class.”

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

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Maggie’s mom Michelle Vazquez is incredibly grateful for Wardenaar and all the effort she puts into making Maggie feel included.

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

Wardenaar is happy to help Maggie. “I really want to make a difference,” she said.

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Allison Kofol is an editorial intern for The Western Journal. She is a student at Grove City College and will receive her Bachelor's Degree in Communication next year.
Allison Kofol is an editorial intern for The Western Journal. She is a student at Grove City College and will receive her Bachelor's Degree in Communication next year. In her spare time, she sings, writes music, crochets, and eats Chick-fil-A. She also loves to spend time at a local jail, where she leads Bible studies with incarcerated women.
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