Teacher gifts 30-year-old former student his 1st birthday party, complete with a fishing trip and cake

"He's never had a birthday present," said retired teacher Michelle Girard.

August 16, 2019, 7:01 PM

For the first time ever, Chris Barrington, a 30-year-old man with special needs, got to celebrate his birthday with a party -- thanks to his former teacher who hopes to adopt him.

Just two months ago, police found Barrington wandering the streets of Gatesville, Texas.

When officers asked, they said Barrington couldn't remember the name of anyone who could help him -- except his junior high school teacher, Michell Girard, who he hadn't seen in years.

Upon hearing this, Girard said she was willing to take Barrington in.

“I said, 'What happens if I don't take him? Will he get in a group home?'" Girard told CBS affiliate KWTX. "They said no, he'll go in to an institution. I said, 'Not on my watch he's not.'”

Local fishing captain Jimmy Bennett helps people with special needs and helped organize this fishing trip for Chris' birthday.
Jimmy Bennett/ JMB Fishing Foundation

Afterward, Girard said she realized how much her former student had missed from his childhood.

“He's never had a birthday present, a birthday party, he's never had Christmas, Thanksgiving, nothing,” said Girard. “So this year is going to be full of firsts.”

According to KWTX, Barrington's father was so sick with late-stage leukemia that he couldn't move. He died on Aug. 1.

For Barrington's birthday, Girard contacted local fishing captain Jimmy Bennett, the owner of JMB Fishing Foundation, which helps people with special needs. They organized a party that included a fishing trip on Lake Waco -- another first for Barrington, who had never been on a boat before.

"Michell reached out to me and asked me if we would take Chris on a fishing trip," Bennett told ABC News. "She told me his story. It touched my heart and I said, 'How about we do one better? I’d be happy to take him fishing.' She did not know that we were going to have a birthday party for him."

Retired teacher Michell Girard threw former student Chris Barrington his first birthday party at 30 years old.
Jimmy Bennett/ JMB Fishing Foundation

When Bennett met Barrington to take him out that day, he said the 30-year-old greeted him warmly.

"When I went out on the pier to meet him and walk him inside, he walked straight up to me and said, 'Hi, Jimmy -- I love you,'" Bennett said. "That was his initial response.”

While out on the boat, Bennett said that Barrington seemed nervous at first and "didn't want to go very fast." But that soon changed.

"The longer we were out, the more comfortable he got," Bennett said. "As we were driving across the lake, he just said, 'I love, I love you, I love you.' He was having such a great time."

Retired teacher Michell Girard threw former student Chris Barrington his first birthday party at 30 years old.
Jimmy Bennett/ JMB Fishing Foundation

In addition to the boat ride, they also threw Barrington a party with a Spider-Man cake.

"Michell told me he loves Spider-Man so we made a cake for him and put a Spider-Man on the cake," Bennett said. "I think Chris liked the Spider-Man cake as much as he liked the party. He had a blast."

Girard is now applying to become Barrington's legal guardian. In the meantime, he is meeting new friends, have new experiences -- and hopefully getting ready for a new family.