Anaheim 6th-graders donate all-terrain wheelchair to San Gorgonio Outdoor Science School

Lord Baden-Powell Elementary School sixth-graders, from left, Jerry Aguayo, 11, Ariana Martinez, 11, and Lezlie Moreida, 12, and sixth-grade teacher Laura Cox helped raise money for an all-terrain wheelchair that the school donated to the San Gorgonio Outdoor Science School.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

At 6,500 feet up in the San Bernardino Mountains, San Gorgonio Outdoor Science School is nature’s classroom, where hiking along rugged terrain and snow-covered trails is part of the curriculum.

When a group of sixth-graders from Lord Baden-Powell Elementary School in Anaheim attended the camp last year, many were disheartened when one of their classmates, who uses a wheelchair, was unable to enjoy the entire experience the way they could.

Navigating the wheelchair over parts of the camp’s landscape was difficult and some areas were off limits.

When the students returned to school, they got an idea.

Lord Baden-Powell is in the Magnolia School District, which promotes an initiative involving “unlimited acts of kindness.”

In line with that theme, students held a school-wide fundraiser with all 750 of them selling enough T-shirts and “kindness grams” to raise close to $2,000 for the cost of a specially-constructed wheelchair, equipped to roll over uneven terrain.

“Honestly, it was amazing,” said Lord Baden-Powell Principal Rudy Aguila. “That month or so when the initiative was really going strong, it really gave me chills. I was so proud of them, not only for coming up with the idea, but running it. It was truly something beautiful to watch.”

When Lord Baden-Powell sixth-graders went to the outdoor science school in March, the wheelchair, a Convaid Cruiser, was put to use by a special needs youngster from the Anaheim Elementary School District.

But instead of taking the wheelchair back after camp, the students donated the chair to the science camp for future use.

“They can have more experiences and go on all the hikes and go through the trails that maybe they couldn’t go on with another wheelchair,” said Lord Baden-Powell sixth-grader Ariana Martinez, a member of the student council, who made the donation presentation along with their teacher Laura Cox.

Said Cox: “I’ve been there in other years and we have had students in wheelchairs and it’s hard. There are kids that don’t go to camp because they can’t get around and now they will have that opportunity.”

In the past, San Gorgonio Outdoor Science School has had to turn some non-ambulatory students away because the camp wasn’t equipped to meet their needs, said Kelley Brunson, a nurse at the camp who handles children’s medical needs.

Acquiring a special chair to enable students with disabilities to enjoy the entire camp had been “high on our wish list,” Brunson said.

Recently, a student with cerebral palsy and her aides were able to reach Inspiration Point, located at a high elevation, using the special wheelchair, Brunson said.

“This beautiful overlook, Inspiration Point, is a difficult area to reach in a wheelchair and because of their gift, this student was able to share the experience with her fellow students,” Brunson said. “Through the thoughtful and generous efforts of the staff and students at Lord Baden-Powell Elementary, students who use wheelchairs are now able to access areas of our camp that were extremely challenging to reach before.”

Sixth-grader and student council member Jerry Aguayo, 11, also was on hand when the wheelchair was given to the science camp.

“To me, when I gave the chair to them, I felt good inside knowing that people who need wheelchairs can go to science camp as well,” Jerry said.

Lou Ponsi is a contributor to Times Community News.