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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Valentines from Buster the Bus

Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Buster the Bus, a robotic, animated bus owned by Falcon School District 49, visited the pediatric ward at St. Francis Medical Center in February. Accompanied by D 49 transportation department employees, Buster visited seven children in the ward and gave each one a Valentine bag that included a stuffed animal, coloring books and stickers.”The kids really enjoyed the visit,” said Kathleen Woodard, neonatal and pediatric clinical manager. Woodard said the pediatric ward houses 15 beds – all private rooms – and it was about half-full the day of Buster’s visit.Some of the children were initially too shy to take interest in Buster, but others couldn’t wait for their turn, Woodard said. “One little guy, when he saw Buster coming down the hall, jumped out of bed, oxygen tank trailing behind him,” she said.Cindy Hardin, D 49 transportation director, said the experience was wonderful. “We visited every room, every child,” Hardin said. “Even the very sick children got a smile when they saw him. We hope the memory will help them feel better.”Because of the great reception they received at St. Francis, Hardin said Buster will make a return visit, possibly as soon as Easter. Next time, Hardin said they will bring gifts for the sibling visitors and present an autographed photo of Buster as a souvenir.Buster joined the D 49 transportation team last November and is being introduced to students district wide. “All the children are mesmerized by Buster,” Hardin said. “They see him and talk to him, even the older kids get into it; they want to know how he works.”Hardin said bus driver Mike Ingram raised funds for Buster, which cost about $9,000. The funds came from Parent Teacher Associations across the district.Buster’s main purpose is to teach bus safety and proper behavior on school buses, but Hardin said Buster is in high demand from schools as a reward for good behavior.

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