LIVINGSTON, LA (WAFB) - I am personally touched by each and every Hand It On segment we do at WAFB because every single one reaches a special part of my heart and soul.
But once in a while, a particular story ignites emotion on a much deeper level. This week's Hand It On is one such story.
It all started back in November 2016 when I received an e-mail from Keri Scott in Arkansas. Keri used to live in Baton Rouge, but her husband's situation required them to relocate to Cabot, Arkansas. But she still watches WAFB whenever she can via the WAFB app on her smartphone. On this particular evening, we aired a Hand It On about a custodian at Woman's Hospital who took Thanksgiving meals to families that had children in the hospital Thanksgiving Day.
Later that evening, a friend posted a video to Keri's Facebook page totally unrelated to the Hand It On she had seen earlier. It was a video of Livingston Parish school bus driver Beth Guidry. Beth called the video "I'm Just The Bus Driver." In the video, Beth delivered a very emotional observation she made about her elementary school students following the August 2016 floods. With tears in her eyes, Beth explained the confusion and fear she saw in her students' eyes as they boarded her bus each morning. They couldn't understand why things couldn't be normal again and why their toys and other belongings were still in piles in their front yard. As a Livingston Parish school bus driver, the majority of Beth's student passengers were victims of the August flood.
Keri's e-mail described the video. Keri wrote how a complete stranger on Facebook brought her to tears with the video. Since Keri was an active WAFB viewer even in Arkansas, she knew of the Hand It On program and knew Beth Guidry would be a perfect recipient. After watching Beth's Facebook video myself, I, too, was brought nearly to tears. I phoned Keri in Arkansas to discuss logistics.
Beth has made several trips to and from Baton Rouge in the past several months. However, one thing or another prevented us from connecting until last week. Keri had come to Baton Rouge for a family member's graduation. She contacted me as she did every time she came to town to see if we'd be able to connect this trip or not. And, with school dismissal this week for summer break, it was not looking good.
I phoned the Livingston Parish School Board's Transportation Department and got the head of transportation, Jeff Frizell, in on what we wanted to do. He phoned Beth and asked her to come into the office after her morning route. We were there as was Keri Scott, who extended her stay for this Hand It On presentation.
Beth just knew she was in trouble. She had never been called into the office before and has been driving for Livingston Parish Schools for more than four years. We entered the room, with Keri and camera in tow. Keri, who had never met Beth, recognized her from the Facebook video and immediately began revealing the surprise.
"Hey Beth, I'm Keri Scott," she said. "I live in Arkansas but originally from Baton Rouge. I saw your 'I'm Just The Bus Driver' video on Facebook. To so many of the kids, you're not just the bus driver. You're their sunshine in the rain; you're a lot that those kids don't have."
"We have a gift for you and say, 'Thank you,' for all you do for these precious children," Keri continued as she handed Beth $300 cash.
Beth immediately began shaking and crying. Through the tears, Beth explained why she was so very emotional.
"What y'all don't know is my son's in boot camp and he graduates on the 8th of June," Beth said. "And, I couldn't go cause I couldn't afford it. And my mom was going to pay and I know that puts a strain on her. So, I just asked God to make a way. So, thank you. I'll be able to go see my son. I thank y'all so much."
As hugs circulated the room, there was not one single dry eye in sight. And, what makes this particular graduation so much more important to Beth is she, herself, was an active member of the United States Air Force and was stationed in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. So, to see her own son follow in her footsteps, graduating from the Air Force Academy, was special beyond words.
Yeah, this Hand It On was a "gut punch." I used to say, "Ordinary people making extraordinary differences in their communities." But, as with most of our nominees, Beth Guidry is no ordinary individual.
Thank you for your service, Ms. Beth Guidry.
To nominate someone for Hand It On, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information, especially phone number.