GREENSBORO — Northwest High freshman Eric Walker may use a wheelchair, but that has not stopped him from reaching out to help others.
Born with cerebral palsy, Eric communicates using a computer board he operates with his knee.
This school year, Eric started the Happy Not Mad club at Northwest.
He wanted to offer students “a place to come together, interact and share struggles, challenges or celebrate success and amazing stories,” said Deborah Caddell, Eric’s personal-care assistant since sixth grade. “Eric is full of joy, has an amazing sense of humor and is a great student, characteristics that are contagious to anyone that has the pleasure to be around him.”
As the holidays approached, Eric came up with the idea for the club to have a bicycle drive for students in need in the community.
More than 20 Northwest students helped with the project, which they named Vikings for Biking.
With the help of Eric, Caddell and science teacher Patrick Sams, during a two-week period, students collected, cleaned and made repairs to more than 60 bikes. They also collected some new bicycles.
The bikes were delivered to Ward Street United Methodist Church, which presented to them to local families.
“Vikings for Biking was my way to teach compassion and teamwork,” Eric said. “The reason I wanted to give a child a bike is because on Christmas Day, I always get nice things, and I wanted a child to wake up on Christmas with a new bike in their living room.”
Helping others, Eric said, makes him a better person.
“I take great pride in making people smile and knowing that I can make changes in another person’s life,” Eric said. “My club, Happy Not Mad, is to encourage my friends to be stronger and to appreciate all that we are given in our own lives.”
Caddell said she was amazed at Eric’s determination to start the club and initiate the bike project.
“Eric uses himself as a testament to how someone can take what they are blessed to have and not worry about what they don’t have,” Caddell said. “He uses the abilities he has and the things he can control to enjoy every day of life.”
Principal Ralph Kitley has gotten to know Eric and sees him as an asset to Northwest.
Kitley has had several students tell him how they have been affected by the example Eric sets for everyone around him.
“We are so lucky to have a young man among us who has the ability to lead and affect others in such
a positive way,” Kitley
said. “His positive outlook, concern for others and work ethic motivate those around him, both students and staff, to reflect and think about their own lives and how they can make a difference in the lives of others.”
After working with Eric for almost four years, Caddell said she has come to be almost overwhelmed by Eric’s caring attitude.
“For him to be able to do so much for others greatly warms my heart,” she said.
“I am blessed to be an everyday part of his life, and helping with this bike project opened my eyes even more to the fact we should all take a moment and be grateful for what we have.”
Contact Jennifer Atkins Brown at (336) 574-5582.