There are a number of ways that a student body marks the end of a school year. But instead of reflecting back on their own accomplishments, students at Anderson County High School in Lawrenceburg, Ky., decided to shine the spotlight on someone else.
The 1,200 students who attend the school wanted to show their appreciation for custodian Ricky Spaulding. The janitor works in the building alongside his wife, a secretary. On the last day of classes Wednesday, a pep rally was held in the gymnasium. With the girls' softball team making it to the state tournament for the first time, there was plenty of reason to cheer.
But the celebration over one of the school's teams was just a ruse. That soon became apparent when Principal Chris Glass grabbed the microphone.
"Somebody has made a huge mess again in this gymnasium," Glass told the gathered students and faculty. "Oh no. What to do?"
Spaulding was called in to the gym and cleaned up in a much different way — students presented him with a check for $1,900, money that they had begun collecting earlier in the year. The funds will be used to fly his family to Italy to visit his son Jacob, who is stationed there with the U.S. Navy. Spaulding has not seen his son in a year and has yet to meet his new granddaughter. The latest addition to the family is named Harper Elaine, and she just turned 2 months old.
"I was shocked," Spaulding told Trending Now via telephone. "And the bad thing about it is, my wife was in on this as well."
As off guard as the gesture caught him, Spaulding found it amazing that as the school's janitor, any secret in the building could be kept from him. He simply could not believe that this was even possible with his wife in the know.
"I was just absolutely speechless," Spaulding recalled. "When I think of the generosity of the students and the staff here, just for me, just overflowing with emotion."
Jacob, who has been in Italy with the Navy for three years, was unaware of the surprise until he saw a Facebook post about it.
His father said, "I Skyped with him that afternoon and he said, 'Dad, I heard you had a pretty good day today.' I said, 'Yeah, it was a pretty good day!'"
Spaulding said the vacation will be "a whole family thing" because they consider this a once-in-a-lifetime trip. He hopes that they can sightsee as well during the visit.
"We are very blessed," he said. "I just can't say any more than that."