The staff, students and families of Sunbrook Academy of Carrollton presented an unsuspecting James Jackson with a brand new riding lawn mower for his home, something he told ABC News “was a need” in his life.
“It was wonderful. I tell you, I cannot put it into words,” Jackson said. “It was a humbling experience. I’m so grateful and thankful because you feel people care about you, but when they express it in such a way, it leaves you speechless. Truly, it was a wonderful experience to go through. It was a needed gift, but you couldn’t even have paid me to even think about them doing that for me.”
Jackson, 72, has been working at the academy for seven years. Jessica Ealey, one of its directors, said he is a “celebrity at the school.”
“The kids literally get out of their cars searching for Mr. James in the morning,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. Even our 1-year-olds. It’s crazy how much of an impact he has on everybody in this building.”
Ealey said they had been working on getting the funds together for Jackson for two weeks before the unveiling, which took place on Dec. 19.
“We had enough money to get him the riding lawn mower, a $500 gift card and $65 in cash,” Ealey told ABC News. “It was so amazing yesterday. To be able to experience it and be present in that moment was just wonderful.”
Jackson said the students and staff were very clever in figuring out the perfect gift for him.
“They asked me how I cut my grass -- with a push mower or riding it,” he said. “I told them I pushed it, but after I cut it, I’m just about bushed. And I never I thought anything else about it.”
When it came time for the unveiling, the staff asked Jackson to come to the front of building. When he laid eyes on his new riding lawn mower, he said he felt weak at the knees.
“My knees got nervous and they got to shaking and my legs looked like they wouldn’t hold me,” he recalled. “I thought they were pulling my leg. It was so great. Everybody in the world should be able to experience something like that at least once. They have really touched my heart. I can’t stop smiling.”
Jackson added that he already has a nickname for his new gift: his "yard Cadillac."