It was pandemonium in the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada gym when about 160 kids surprised their computer lab instructor Darren Hughes with a new wheelchair.
For two years, Boys & Girls Club members collected aluminum cans to raise $1,000 for the new chair, a goal they reached last week. Hughes mounted the new blue "Patriot" chair on Friday with an easy smile and did a few spins, which were greeted by cheers from the kids.
"I love it," Hughes said. "It will take a little getting used to, like a new pair of shoes, but I feel really honored."
An employee at the club for four years, Hughes spent about seven months as a volunteer before he was hired by the organization, and for the past three has worked in the computer lab.
"He's really cool," said 15-year-old T.J. Watson, "And he sure knows a lot about computers."
The feeling appears to be mutual.
"I love working with the kids," Hughes said. "They're fun, open-minded and loving. They make me feel young."
The victim of a hiking accident at age 16, Hughes previously worked at Western Nevada Community College and Computer Base. He was selected by Gov. Kenny Guinn as State Employee of the Year in 2000 and was named Boys & Girls Club Employee of the Year last February.