People usually think of ribbon-cuttings as something for new businesses, but on Feb. 13, a crowd gathered in Ringgold to see 7-year-old Riley Hill cut a big red ribbon to dedicate his new wheelchair ramp.
"This ramp has changed Riley’s life," says Kim Gardner, Riley’s grandmother. Before the ramp, Riley was dependent on a manual wheelchair. Because the family’s driveway was so steep, Riley’s older brother or mother would have to carry Riley, who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, up their steep drive on their back and transfer him to the car, which had to be driven up ahead of time.
The 68-foot ramp made an electric wheelchair possible and opened new doors for Riley. "It had reached the point," says Gardner, "that Riley wasn’t going to be able to go to school anymore."
Not only were the mechanics of getting Riley to school becoming overwhelming, but he didn’t like school anymore. He was unable to play with the other children and was dependent on teachers for every move he made from one place to another.
"Now," says Gardner, "Riley has his own wheels. He was only driving a week when he had his first fender-bender." Gardner says Riley was on his ramp, racing his 13-year-old brother, who was running down the yard, when he had a minor accident. He has since become a better driver.
"Riley can go out on the playground at school now," Gardner says. "Other kids can chase him. He can take walks with us around the neighborhood. He can ride up to the end of the ramp and watch cars go by. He likes to go outside and sit in the middle of the ramp and watch the moon at night."
Gardner says the ramp is an answer to prayer. "It’s better than anything I could have dreamed of. The house is almost paid off, but I was thinking we were going to have to move. Now we can stay."
Gathered at the ribbon-cutting were the two teams of volunteers that helped build the ramp, teachers from Riley’s school, friends and family. Riley cut the ribbon and thanked everyone who came together to help him. Then it was back to being an active little boy.