He was flying.
That was the only thought soaring through his mind as Jesus Cardoza Uribe rocked back and forth on a playground swing for the first time in his life.
The popular activity is something most kids take for granted, but for the kindergartner who uses a wheelchair, swinging is a fantasy that only recently became a reality.
During his recess at Richardson Elementary School in Lee’s Summit, Jesus spent most of the year wheeling around the grass playing kickball with his classmates or gleefully racing his friends. But swinging was never an option for the 5-year-old, who has spina bifida. It simply wasn’t safe enough.
Not until two sixth-graders at his school took action, that is.
Caleb Gates and Seth Cooper, who act as helpers during the kindergarten recess, loved seeing Jesus laugh and play with his friends. They were upset, though, that there wasn’t a proper swing he could use.
So, they approached Richardson Principal Kelly Seitz to see if an accessible swing could be installed on the playground.
Their request shocked and delighted the administrator.
“Of course, I thought it was a great idea,” said Seitz. “It was a perfect example of kids helping kids, which is incredibly inspiring.”
After school administrators gathered the funds, an $800 swing was installed on the playground two weeks ago.
Caleb and Seth even got to help the district’s staff assemble the giant red and blue swing.
It wasn’t until they saw Jesus’ face upon arrival, however, that the boys realized their impact.
“He couldn’t keep the smile off his face, which made me feel really good inside,” said Caleb. “I’m really glad we were able to give him this opportunity.”
Now at recess, Jesus loves to get in his swing, with the help of teachers or older students.
On a chilly Wednesday last week, a gaggle of his best friends offered to help push him.
“It’s fun,” said Jesus, shyly, looking down with a smile. “I really like to swing. It’s exciting.”
As Seitz witnessed the adoring crowd surrounding the popular kindergartener, the principal wasn’t surprised.
“Jesus is an awesome kid with a smile that lights up a room,” she said, beaming at the scene. “He’s full of life and he’s sweet and kind and funny. He has a lot of friends.”
She’s glad the swing will benefit Jesus throughout his years at Richardson. She’s also excited that the swing will benefit the district as well.
“This swing is such good quality that if no other students need it here once Jesus goes off to middle school, we can give it to another school that does,” Seitz said. “It’s going to last a long time.”
The boys’ kindness and the school’s generosity haven’t gone unnoticed by Jesus’ family.
“I am very thankful and blessed,” said his mother, Ana Saavedra. “As a parent, you want your kid to be happy because that makes you happy, especially if you have a child with special needs.”
Caleb’s and Seth’s actions have even impressed their parents.
Seth’s mom, a third-grade teacher in Belton, couldn’t be prouder.
“Sometimes I come home and talk about how kids with special needs should be treated like family, because they don’t always have the opportunity to play and socialize like other students,” said Elena Cooper. “I’m thrilled he obviously listens. Now I’m thinking I would like to bring their idea to my own school.”
She pointed out that adults can learn a lot from kids like her son and Caleb, despite their young age.
Janna Gates, Caleb’s mother, agrees.
“I had tears in my eyes when my son told me what they were doing for that little boy,” she said. “It made me so proud.”
And although the deed may be over, the friendship between the three boys isn’t going anywhere.
“We’re definitely going to come back next year when we’re in middle school and visit Jesus and push him on the swing,” said Caleb. “He’s a fun kid.”