This is the moment a student with cerebral palsy surprises classmates by ditching his wheelchair and using a frame to walk to the podium to receive his diploma after weeks of gruelling training.
The moment was all the more poignant because the teenager is one of triplets, and he was graduating with his two brothers. As they were the only children of their parents and all the same age, it was the family’s only chance of a graduation ceremony which was almost cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The heartwarming scene was filmed at the Kingfisher High School in the city of Kingfisher in the US state of Oklahoma where Hunter Wittrock, who was born the youngest of three triplets, worked hard behind the scenes to surprise classmates by walking to the stage without his wheelchair.
His father Jeff Wittrock said: “I have 19-year-old triplets that graduated this year. We had two valedictorians in the group, and all three of them were National Honor Society. So, we got really lucky with kids that are really smart.”
Hunter Wittrock, the youngest of the triplets, has cerebral palsy and normally uses a wheelchair to get around.
Erin Scammahorn, manager of physical medicine at Mercy Hospital who helped Hunter to learn to walk, said: “About the beginning of this school year, Hunter told me that he was going to walk across the stage and so we set some goals.”
According to Scammahorn, Hunter wanted to walk across the stage to accept his diploma and wanted to keep the whole thing a secret from his classmates, so they began training behind the scenes.
Scammahorn said: “The biggest struggle was thinking Okay, every night he’s going to have to fit it into his busy schedule already. But if he was game, we were game.”
As Hunter has undergone multiple back surgeries in recent years, one hour of training a day was sometimes “pretty intense” for him.
Scammahorn said: “He kept going, he didn’t want to stop.”
The effort almost ended in vain when Kingfisher High School officials considered cancelling the graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hunter nearly lost out on his chance to walk on stage.
Luckily for the student, the school then decided to move the even outside where social distancing measures could be maintained.
His father said: “We have one graduation because of the triplets, that’s all we have, and we were going to get that moment taken away. I thought, ‘we cannot do this, he has worked for this’. Then, two weeks ago, graduation was back on.”
According to local media, before his name was called, Hunter quietly moved from his wheelchair to his walking frame.
He then surprised classmates by walking to the podium to receive his diploma, as seen in the video to cheers and applause.
His dad said: “It’s indescribable. You can’t put words to it. It’s too much.”
According to reports, Hunter is preparing to start college in the autumn.
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