A visit by a 2-year-old Hampton boy who has spina bifida inspired first-graders at Poff Elementary School to never give up and to treat all people the same.
Levi Walls spent close to a half-hour showing off his mobility skills.
Walls was born with the condition that affects the spine and makes him unable to walk without support. He receives physical therapy twice a week, and went from crawling to gliding on parallel bars his father made, to a gait trainer and walker.
The next step is crutches.
First-grade teacher Courtenay Garrett decided to invite Levi and his family after reading “Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,” to the class. The book is based on a true story about a West African boy who bicycled across Ghana despite a deformed leg.
Levi’s brother Noah, 7, shared with the students how Levi has progressed and works hard to become more independent. He and his mother, Julie, a former Hampton teacher, talked about how Levi can do everything any other 2-year-old can do.
“They reminded the students the importance of being kind and including others that may act or look different than us,” Garrett said.
In a video, a beaming Levi darts around in his wheelchair as the class cheers and a student is heard saying, “that is so incredible.”
“He kind of hammed it up,” Julie Walls said. “He was really showing off.”
Garrett said the visit tied in beautifully with the school’s #bethekindkid initiative.
“It was a real-life experience for (students) to connect what we have been talking about all year,” Garrett said.
Dylan Ford said the biggest thing he learned is that just because you’re different doesn’t mean you can’t do the same things other people can.
Charlee Stritzinger was amazed that Levi could figure out a way to do anything he set his mind to, and that it should be a lesson to others that if “something doesn’t work, find another way to do it.”
Liam O’Connor said he learned that even if you have spina bifida, you can have a good life and do all the things other people do.
Noah Walls loved showing off his brother’s wheelchair, which was provided by Bella’s Bumbas, a nonprofit that builds wheelchairs for children at no cost to families except for shipping.
“It’s cool and he can go wherever he wants,” Noah Walls said.
Julie Walls said parents should be proud how receptive their children were, and that the visit shines a light on Garrett.
“What a great teacher (for giving) real-life learning experience,” Julie Walls said.