Friendship is one of the most valuable things that we can have in life.
When you think back to high school or college, what are the things that you look back on most fondly? Although there’s plenty to be said about being intellectually challenged and getting excited about the future, probably the best thing about our youth is the close friendships that we make along the way. There’s something really special and unique about being in such close proximity with the same people day in and day out that is much harder to come by in adult life.
And sometimes, incredible things can come out of those kinds of close friendships.
One of these such stories recently came out of Caddo Hills High School in Montgomery County, Arkansas.
The story is that of a friendship between schoolmates Tanner Wilson and Brandon Qualls. Qualls has cerebral palsy and, for most of his high school career, had been riding around in a manual wheelchair that he had to push on his own. Though it was somewhat functional, Qualls reported that his arms would get really tired through using it too much. Knowing that Quall’s wheelchair was causing him problems, Wilson came up with an idea.
Although it took about two years to pull off, the story has since spread around the world.
Even though it was expensive, Wilson saved up all his extra money to buy Qualls an electric wheelchair.
According to Wilson, he was able to save the money by working for a few hours a day almost every day after school at a mechanic shop in town. Though it took a whole two years to get enough money to afford it, he couldn’t have been happier to put in the time to surprise his friend. “He’s just been a really good friend,” Tanner said, “and I wanted to do him a favor.”
Needless to say, the new chair is a huge improvement over the old one!
When Qualls finally got the chair, he was completely surprised and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
In an interview with CBS News, Qualls elaborated on his reaction:
“My face just blew up. I was crying everywhere. It was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe her did that for me.”
For his part, Wilson said that all the hard work was definitely worth it just to see the look on his friend’s face. “Brandon has always been there for me,” Wilson said. In addition to just presenting the chair to him, though, Wilson went the extra mile. Before giving him the gift, he gave his teachers advance notice and asked them to contribute to the surprise.
To add a little something extra, one of the teachers even added some decorative flames around Qualls’ last name emblazoned on the back of the chair!
At the end of everything, Wilson says he was pushed to do what he did by relatively simple motivations.
For him, the surprise was simply about doing something selfless for a good friend. “I wish other people would care more about others than just themselves,” Wilson said. So far, this story has been covered by major news outlets including CNN, Inside Edition and the New York Post. For their part, Caddo Hills High School has shared the story on their Facebook page as well:
Still, while this story is certainly a beautiful and inspiring one about friendship, other media outlets have raised some bigger questions about the story.
While the individual actions are beautiful and commendable, the underlying issues raise some serious questions about the healthcare system.
In an article published on The Mighty, author Karin Willison raised questions about the underlying conditions of the story that are a little harder to face:
“Wheelchairs are medical equipment and they should be covered by insurance. The real story here is that they often aren’t—but that’s not pretty or uplifting . . . people with disabilities who need anything other than the most basic, hospital-style mobility devices face an uphill battle.”
Though she praised Wilson’s generosity and the friendship between the two boys, this story raise concerns about why these situations are allowed to happen in a country as rich as ours in the first place.
Fortunately, if we use these stories as an entry point into a larger discussion, we can create even bigger changes!
For anyone who was moved by this story, consider researching or donating to various organizations that help solve these problems!
Though we encourage you to do as much research as you can, check out the Wheelchair Foundation, Wheelchair Charities Inc or the Free Wheelchair Mission as places to get started. Though Wilson and Qualls’ story is inspiring, it doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. Still, for the moment, we’re glad that the friendship between these two could lead to such a positive result.
Thanks to Wilson for his generosity and congratulations to Qualls!
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