9-year-old Emma Lindner from Katy is a good friend. How good? If fellow third grader John Hitt could talk, he'd likely say "very." "She thinks he's a special kid. They just get along," said Joanna Hitt, John's mom.
They met at Shafer Elementary School's "Special Buddies" program, which matches special needs students with full-functioning classmates to create a more inclusive school community. "He's just really fun to play with and he's always happy," said Emma Lindner.
But one day while playing on the school's playground, Emma realized John -- wasn't. "I saw he was kind of lonely," she said.
He simply couldn't. "He just wants to play, he wants to be a kid, and he wants to be with his other friends," said Joanna Hitt.
The 8-year-old little boy is developmentally delayed. He cannot walk or talk and has breathing issues. There really isn't anything he can do during recess -- except sit and watch from his wheelchair. "As you can see we have tons and tons of playground equipment, but nothing that is inclusive," said Heather Lindner, Emma's mom.
Emma and her mom, Heather, are now on a mission to change that. "I was kind of upset that no one cared to do it, so I thought I could do it," said Emma.
They're spearheading a fundraising effort to get what's called a "Sway Fun Glider" that fits 2 wheelchairs and plenty of other kids too. The price tag is not cheap costing about $28,000. "We should all learn from our children. The students don't see that, they don't see the differences very clearly as adults do," said Heather Lindner.
"Emma's Special Knight Project" on www.youcaring.com has raised nearly $20,000 so far. "Be an Angel" children's charity has promised to make up the difference after all the fundraising is done. "'What do you think having that Glider will mean to John?' I think it will really make him happy, I think he'll really love it," said Emma.
"He understands friendship and if he understood exactly what Emma was doing for him, he would grab her by the neck and give her a huge hug," said John's mom.
Emma Linder... a young friend helping a friend -- and taking the time to care. "If your different in any way you should still be friends with that person, because it's what's on the inside not on the outside," said Emma.