Bus driver gives girl with neuromuscular disorder birthday surprise fit for princess

Anna Hopson, now 5, has been riding the school bus with driver Arletha Sherman, who gifted the young girl with a special birthday surprise. (Photo: @sunshine_and_the_shark via Instagram)

A Florida bus driver gave a pre-kindergarten student with a neuromuscular disorder a special birthday surprise fit for a princess.

Anna Hopson, now 5, has been riding the school bus with Arletha Sherman all of this school year to Sabal Palm Elementary School in Jacksonville, her mother Kathleen Hopson said. Sherman knew it was Anna's birthday on April 10, so she decorated the school bus with colorful streamers and a shiny "happy birthday" banner.

"I knew Ms. Sherman would want to do something special for Anna's birthday because she loves all the kids she drives and she always goes above and beyond to make them feel safe and happy on the bus. What she did for Anna, however, was way beyond my expectations," Kathleen said.

Anna has been riding the bus since she started preschool at 3 years old, she said. Safety was of particular concern for Kathleen, especially because Anna has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which is a progressive neuromuscular disorder that weakens Anna's nerves and causes her muscles to degenerate, her mother said.

"She has slowly lost her ability to stand and walk independently and her condition is expected to worsen. Her hand and arm strength is weakening as well," Kathleen said. "Her personality is so positive, though! She's seriously full of sunshine and she brightens the day of anyone she meets, and she's smart and funny."

Anna was also gifted a princess dress and tiara, along with cards, toys and hair clips from Sherman, Kathleen said.

"Anna felt so special! When she got on the bus she said, 'Is this all for me?'" her mother said. "She especially loved the twirling decorations hanging from the ceiling and the happy birthday banner."

Kathleen said she is thankful to Sherman for making Anna feel like a real princess.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.