Dublin City Schools bus driver Brent Rapavy's mother suffered from a disability, prompting his desire to work with special-needs children.

Dublin City Schools bus driver Brent Rapavy's mother suffered from a disability, prompting his desire to work with special-needs children.

His mom, Judy, who died in September at 68, was struck by polio at 15.

Rapavy, 38, donated her power wheelchair to one of his passengers, Sumin Lee, a senior at Jerome High School.

"I didn't expect this and am really glad he's giving me something that meant so much to his mother," said Lee, who has used a manual wheelchair since she was paralyzed from the waist down at age 6 because of a virus in her spinal cord.

"I feel like I'm loved."

Rapavy said his special-needs students, like Lee, inspire him.

"When you get on the bus and see kids with more challenges daily than we have, yet they come in smiling, that means a lot," he said.

When he and his three older brothers were going through their mother's belongings, he asked them if he could give her wheelchair to someone he knew. He felt Lee, who will attend Ohio State University in the fall, could use the wheelchair to help her get around campus.

"They could've said they wanted to sell it and get money for it, but they didn't even bat an eye," Rapavy said. His oldest brother helps with Special Olympics, his middle brother adopted a child who has spina bifida from China and his third brother runs marathons to benefit charities.

Rapavy said his family's giving nature "all comes back to my mom and dad. The story is not about me. It's about raising children right. That's all I want for my children. My parents were awesome," said Rapavy, who also owns a home business, works part time at the Refectory Restaurant & Bistro and is married with two adopted children.

Transportation assistant coordinator Mary Ann Petty, who nominated Rapavy for a staff award, said he has gone above and beyond in his job.

"We usually don't find young men who connect so well with the special-needs students. He had instant rapport with them," she said.

Transportation supervisor Jeff Cosby said Rapavy is well suited for his job.

"When a driver is schedule driven, the kids get frustrated," Cosby said. "Brent is flexible and cares enough about them to make sure their needs are met. I've watched him interact with these kids. He's willing to spend whatever time is needed to make sure they're comfortable. I thought his decision to donate the wheelchair was very special."

Several modifications needed to be made to the power wheelchair that Rapavy donated for it to be suitable for Lee.

Dublin schools physical therapist Brenda Applegate contacted the Dublin Women's Philanthropic Club because she knew the group supported district causes through its teacher grants.

The club donated $1,644.69 for a new chest strap, lateral positioning pad with bracket and clamp, seat cushion, tray, desk arm pads, swing-away footrest and a portable five-foot ramp for the family van.

"The donation of that chair was life-changing for Sumin because there is no way she could be successful at Ohio State with a manual chair," Applegate said. "The campus is just too big. What Brent and Dublin Women's Philanthropic Club did was amazing."

DWPC philanthropy chair Karen Brown said, "Mr. Rapavy's donation of the chair was generous and selfless. His generosity set things in motion to accomplish an honorable task that we were proud to share a part in."