Carson Jones didn’t think he was doing anything special last August when he asked his buddies on the Queen Creek High School football team in Queen Creek, Ariz., to help watch over a special-needs sophomore who was getting picked on by other students.
“I just thought if the other kids saw us treating her nicely, then maybe they’d do the same thing,” recalls Jones.
The 18-year-old quarterback with a 4.3 GPA had no idea how his good deed would end up changing the life of Chy Johnson, whose neurological disorder limits her cognitive abilities to that of a third-grader. But over the past three months, Johnson, 16, has gone from being a bullied outcast to becoming one of the most celebrated kids at Queen Creek High.
“If it wasn’t for Carson, I honestly think we would have pulled her out of school and homeschooled her,” says Johnson’s mom Liz, who first met Jones years earlier while working as a teacher’s aide at his elementary school.
When Chy started coming home from her classes in tears, describing how kids were throwing trash at her and calling her names, Liz wondered if maybe the “wholesome, good-natured” Jones might be able to help.
Liz tracked Jones down through his Facebook page and asked if he could find out who was picking on her daughter. The next day, Jones found Chy sitting alone in the cafeteria and asked her to come sit with him and a group of other seniors on the football team.
“She’s pretty much been with us ever since,”says Jones, who ended up “having a talk with her tormentors.
Not only has the bullying stopped, but the players have made Chy an unofficial member of their team – walking her to classes, taking her to dances and parties, even inviting her down to the sidelines during games.
Carson and the rest of the team’s kindness hasn t been lost on Chy.
“They’re my boys and I’m their lucky girl,” she says. “They’re awesome.”
More Heroes Among Us:
Know a hero? Send suggestions to email@example.com. For more inspiring stories, read the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine