SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A community is coming together after a 12-year-old with special needs had an interesting Christmas wish.
Gabby was born with a rare brain disease called bilateral periventricular nodular heterotopia. It affects only one in a million, and those affected must be cared for their entire lives.
And this year, she wants a school bus for Christmas.
“She always comes up with really great idea that would never really happen, and she asked this year for a real school bus! And I was like, ‘Okay…’” explained mother Abby Howell.
Abby is a healthcare teacher in Sumner County, and one of her students is hoping to make Gabby’s dream come true.
Jessi Smith says when she met Gabby, they had a special bond.
“We immediately started bonding and talking, and now I’m a senior, and I’ve like, watched her grow up,” Jessi explained.
A friend-of-a-friend gave her an old, rundown bus. Jessi and her friends then gutted it and cleaned it up.
Now they have big plans for what will eventually be Gabby’s bus.
“She always wants to get into people’s cars and pretend like she’s driving, and she’ll talk to her students in the back. It’s a pretty long bus, so we’re turning the rest of it into a classroom,” Jessi explained.
The community has jumped in to help. Dad’s Towing will help deliver it for free Christmas Eve, and numerous businesses have donated supplies to help make the inside beautiful.
“There will be six seats, and all of this will be carpeted with thick padding,” Jessi said. “She has epilepsy so we don’t want her to fall and hit her head.”
She continued, “Behind that, you can see where we’ve already started to paint it with chalkboard paint, so she can draw on that.”
It’s an idea that has turned into a massive community project, all for one little girl.
“She’ll live with us for the rest of her life. This will never be outgrown for her; she will constantly play with this, so it’s exciting,” her mom Abby told News 2.
She continued, “The love and the willingness to come in and volunteer for this one little girl, to make her special dream come true, it’s just amazing what Sumner County’s doing.”
The Howells recently moved to a farm in Westmoreland and said the bus will be put in the yard and serve as a playground for Gabby.
Anyone who wants to get involved can visit Operation Christmas bus for Gabby on GoFundMe.