A 12-year-old girl has the playhouse of her dreams thanks to a group of high school students who were determined to make her wish come true.
Gabrielle “Gabby” Howell loves school buses so much that she asked for a real one for Christmas this year.
Gabby’s mom, Amy Howell, a teacher at Gallatin High School in Gallatin, Tennessee, told her students about her daughter’s wish, and in just over a month, the kids made it happen.
“For me personally, it was just so sweet,” Howell told ABC News of the gift. “You put so much of your life into your students. To see it happen, that they want to give back like that, they don’t want to do it for the glory, they want to do it because they love you. It was a really sweet thing. Santa was in the driver’s seat and some students were there. It was a big party. It was so fun.”
Howell of Westmoreland, Tennessee, said her daughter Gabby was diagnosed with periventricular nodular heterotopia (PVNH), a rare brain disorder, when she was 8 years old.
“She will develop normally on the outside,” Howell said. “She’ll always look normal, but neurons don’t send information back and forth like they’re supposed to. They’ll get stuck … so today, she can tell you the ABCs and tomorrow she can’t. So she’ll be like a little 3-year-old for the rest of her life.”
Regardless, Gabby is a fun-loving child who enjoys visiting her mother’s students and often stops at the high school on her way home.
“She’s here every afternoon and all the kids love her and play with her,” Howell said. “Before that, [the students] would just hear stories. She’s a funny kid. Last year, she wanted an ambulance. This year, we moved to 20 acres and she said, ‘I’m asking Santa for a school bus.’ I told the story because I thought it was a funny thing for a kid to ask for.”
Jessi Smith, a senior at Gallatin, told ABC News that she gathered donations from community members and with the help of her peers, renovated the inside of a bus. The classmates repainted it yellow, added working lights, a horn and decorated the inside with bean bags and furniture provided by a local middle school.
On Dec. 24, Jessi and friends enlisted the help of a tow company and “Santa” to pull Gabby’s new school bus onto the Howells’ property.
“Gabby, she ran up to me, she gave me a hug,” Jessi, 17, said. “She ran to Santa and said, ‘I love you Santa, thank you so much.’ She was screaming and she almost started crying and it was so sweet.”
Jessi said the gift, on behalf of the students, was to thank Mrs. Howell for being so kind.
“She such a sweet person and she goes above and beyond every single day for all her students,” Jessi said. “I wanted to do something to make her happy. Gabby is so sweet too, so I wanted to do this mainly for Mrs. Howell, but also for Gabby.”
Ron Becker, the principal of Gallatin High School, told ABC News that he was pleased by the gesture made by his students.
“It’s kind of like a parent where your kids do something that makes you proud,” Becker said. “We always hear when people do wrong, the negative things. That’s our goal as a school, is not just the academics piece, but the whole person … to develop good citizens in the next phases of their life.”