MIDWEST CITY — D.J. Dunn gave a sideways hug to Hannah Reynolds as they sat in the library of Monroney Junior High School for an interview. The two seventh-graders formed a bond last year, but with new schedules, they don't see each other as often.
They caught up on the usual middle school affairs — teachers, classes, sports. But D.J. was anxious. It was lunch hour and he was hungry. When the interview was over he quickly spun around and raced down the hall in his green wheelchair.
There's a lot to keep track of in the sixth grade, but the friendship between D.J. and Hannah stood out to one teacher. Hannah helped D.J. when he needed it, and with a summer between then and now, their friendship is receiving special recognition.
“I've given her a hug I don't know how many times,” D.J. said.
“I think it was every day,” Hannah responded.
D.J. has arthrogryposis, a disorder that results from a lack of muscle tissue around multiple joints. It can limit a person's strength, requiring a wheelchair or braces to move around.
He said he can walk with assistance, but spends most of his time in a chair. That's been his experience as far back as he can remember.
“I wasn't in a wheelchair until I was about 11 months old,” he said.
D.J. and Hannah met in Cindy Mikeman's geography class early in their sixth-grade school year. They developed a daily routine that started when he wanted to sit at a desk.
“D.J. would roll into the classroom, and he would transfer into a desk,” Mikeman said. “She would move his wheelchair to the other side of his desk.”
If he needed a book from his backpack, she would get it for him. They did classroom activities together, and if he got stuck on a problem, she would talk him through it, asking him questions to guide him to an answer.
“D.J. normally does his own work, but if he gets confused and doesn't get it, I can help him out,” Hannah said.
Their friendship grew outside Mikeman's classroom, too. At lunch, Hannah invited D.J. to eat with her and her friends. He made them laugh during every meal.
“He pretty much has been adopted into my friends group,” she said. “He has a bunch of best friends now.”
Making people laugh might be D.J.'s favorite hobby, he said. During the interview, while Hannah was talking about the new people she's meeting in middle school, he called her attention to a corner behind her and swung his elbows in circles when she wasn't looking.