A school custodian who was called to the gym to clean up a “big mess” was instead surprised with an honor from the entire student body.
The idea to declare Feb. 14 "Mr. Ricky Day" came from two students at Tamarack Elementary School in Owensboro, Kentucky. The day honors the school's beloved custodian Ricky Young.
“We were waiting in the car ride line and we saw Mr. Ricky wiping water and blowing leaves off the playground,” said Addilyn Simpson, a fifth-grade student, about why she wanted to honor Young. “We just thought teachers get appreciation a lot but Mr. Ricky doesn’t.”
“He always just goes above and beyond at his job to make our school as clean as it is,” added Layliana Calmese, Addilyn’s fifth-grade classmate, who also organized the surprise. “When people come in the school they always compliment on how clean and nice the school is and that’s thanks to Mr. Ricky.”
When Young entered the school’s gymnasium on Feb. 14, the 500-strong student body yelled, “Surprise,” and broke into song, changing the lyrics of “Hey Mickey” to “Hey Ricky.”
“They sure got me,” Young said of the surprise. “I was just overwhelmed and shocked.”
Young has been a custodian at the elementary school for nine years. He is known for giving students fist bumps, talking to them any time they need and always fielding requests from students who want to help him clean, according to Tamarack Elementary principal Carrie Munsey.
“He’s the first one here every morning to start our day and make it safe and ready for learning,” Munsey said. “He treats our students with respect and he builds relationships with students and staff and they’re meaningful and genuine.”
Munsey said when Addilyn and Layliana approached her with the idea to honor Young, she asked them to come back to her with a full proposal.
The students developed a full plan for the day, engaged their fifth-grade classmates and went to each grade to ask them to contribute, too.
On Mr. Ricky Day, each grade presented Young with some type of handmade sentiment. One grade, for example, gave him a bucket filled with Lifesavers candies because he is their "lifesaver." Another grade gave him a cape, which he wore all day, because he is their superhero.
The school staff gave Young Reese’s Pieces because the school would be in pieces without him, according to Munsey.
A state senator was on hand at the school assembly with a letter declaring Feb. 14 as Mr. Ricky Day. The teachers and staff also pitched in to clean the confetti after the assembly so Young could take the day off his normal duties.
Young, a diehard Kentucky Wildcats fan, was also given two tickets to a University of Kentucky basketball game.
“That was just icing on the cake,” he said. “I know the kids like me and I love all the kids, but I never dreamed of anything like this.”