Ellen Told A Teacher To Swipe Left On Her New iPads – And Delivered An Even Bigger Surprise

Presenter Ellen DeGeneres doesn’t just have celebrities on her show. Often she brings out people who have in some way improved their communities: teachers, leaders, first responders and so on. DeGeneres, whose motto is “Be kind to one another,” surprises these people with amazing gifts that they can use at work. One person she invited on her show was a young health care professional doing an important job in difficult circumstances.

Ellen DeGeneres is certainly determined to prove that kindness can change the world. Indeed, she outlined her philosophy at the People’s Choice Awards in 2016, after receiving the Choice Humanitarian accolade. “I started out as a comedian and I wanted to make people laugh,” she explained. “I wanted to make people happy and feel good.”

“It is strange to get an award for being nice and generous and kind which is what we’re all supposed to do with one another,” she told the room. “That’s the point of being a human.” Then she joked about being called “the Mother Theresa of talk shows,” before getting on to the more serious stuff.

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“I read an amazing quote recently: ‘What if there was no such thing as love, just proof of love?’ I don’t know if it was from the Bible or Instagram but it was very powerful to me,” DeGeneres went on. “I want everyone to know we all really, really love one another and we need to get back to that. We need more of that right now in the world. That is what most of us feel.”

DeGeneres has certainly tried to live up to that quote. She’s a major philanthropist and has given away millions to good causes. At the People’s Choice Awards, a list of her major achievements was announced. She had given $10 million to Hurricane Katrina survivors and over $12 million to breast cancer charities. And that was just for starters.

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The Awards also mentioned that DeGeneres had given away $35 million to people in need who appeared on her show. Long-time viewers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show will remember those generous gifts and the heartwarming stories attached to them. Indeed, the host has helped improve the lives of many deserving people.

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One such person appeared on DeGeneres’s show in 2016. From Georgia’s Lowndes County, Ashlyn Thomas DeLoach is an occupational therapist. She even has a master’s degree in that subject, in fact. And she used her knowledge to work in the state’s Brantley County School District.

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DeLoach went to Lowndes High School, graduating in 2010. She went to the Valdosta State University and then Florida State University as an undergraduate after that. From there, she graduated from Augusta’s Medical College of Georgia. Her work as an occupational therapist was important, but the invite to The Ellen DeGeneres Show came as a surprise.

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DeLoach’s mother, Tammy Thomas, spoke to The Valdosta Daily Times before her daughter’s episode aired. “We are really excited for her. This all happened very fast,” she said. She also explained that her daughter and son-in-law, Brett, had been asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement before going on the show, so no one knew what would happen.

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All Thomas knew was that her daughter had been invited onto the show because of the work she did in schools. What could happen in regards to that, though, she simply couldn’t say. Thomas, it seems, was as much in the dark as everybody else. “People we know were shocked when they found out she’s on the show,” the proud mom told the The Valdosta Daily Times.

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When the episode – which also happened to feature then-presidential candidate Hilary Clinton – aired, DeGeneres introduced DeLoach as someone important. “One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet people who are changing the world,” she said. “At only 24 years old, our next guest is doing just that.”

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“[DeLoach] is an occupational therapist who chose to work with special needs students in one of the most impoverished school districts in the county,” DeGeneres went on. “Her dream is to give her students the best chance for a bright future.” Then she brought out the Georgia resident and her husband.

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The couple seemed delighted to be there. “So this is a surprise to you,” the host told them. “You were backstage, you thought you were here for something else, and then ten minutes ago they said you were on the show?” “We thought we were coming to sit in the audience with everyone else!” DeLoach said.

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“You’re 24 years old and you’re doing something absolutely amazing,” the host told DeLoach. “I mean, it’s so important to hear stories like this.” Degeneres then asked the young woman what exactly her job entailed. “I’m an occupational therapist in the schools system,” she explained.

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“Basically what I do is work with different special needs kids, who vary from profound to minor disabilities,” DeLoach said. “And I just try to put a smile on their faces and teach them as much as I can.” Indeed, the presence of an occupational therapist can be a huge boon to the life of a severely disabled child.

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An occupational therapist’s job is to help their patient move as “normally” as they can. This in turn can help them live as easy a life as possible. The therapists work with the person – the child in DeLoach’s case – to find out which movements are most difficult for them and use therapies specifically designed to overcome those problems.

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Occupational therapy can help a disabled child learn how to do things most people would take for granted, like tying their shoelaces or holding a pen. Professionals who work with children will adopt a special approach to them, designing the lessons to be more like playtime than work.

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DeGeneres then asked the health care professional to tell her about the area where she worked. “Brantley County has one of the highest poverty levels in the state, as well as probably in the nation,” DeLoach said. “So many kids in Brantley qualified for free or reduced [price] lunch,” she explained, that the “whole county” was considered in need of that program.

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“There are people that pack lunches and send them home with the kids every weekend,” DeLoach went on. “During the summer there are buses that go around and make sure that these kids get fed.” Otherwise, she told the host, there was a high chance that children would end up going hungry.

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DeLoach didn’t actually live in Brantley, she explained, but commuted there. “So you could have worked anywhere, you could have done anything and you chose to travel to this area to help,” Degeneres said. “[In] Brantley County, the people are amazing,” the 24-year-old explained. “I know that I could have worked anywhere, probably gotten a better salary.”

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“But these kids make it so worthwhile,” DeLoach continued. DeGeneres then asked her what the best and most challenging parts of her job were. “The best part of my job would have to be helping these kids, putting a smile on their face, knowing that I’m helping,” the therapist said. “Making a difference, that is the most amazing thing.”

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“The hardest part would have to be taking the job home with me,” DeLoach went on. “Brett and I are just so blessed to have a family to go home to, a support system, a roof over our heads, our dogs.” Degeneres then showed a picture of the couple with their dogs, which drew “awwws” from the audience.

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There was, however, another layer to DeLoach’s work. “You’re doing so much for the actual district itself, not only are you working there,” DeGeneres said. “Tell everyone what you do every year.” The 24-year-old had been going above and beyond the call of duty. “Every time I get the opportunity, I give at least ten percent of my salary back to the kids,” she said.

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The money went on things like specialist equipment and holidays for the kids. “To make them feel special is my biggest thing, because I never want them to think that they don’t have somebody who cares about them.” DeLoach said. And her husband, for his part, would make the children cookies and brownies.

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The host was clearly very impressed with DeLoach. “To know that it feels better to give and help somebody, at 24, when most people are thinking about themselves… It’s amazing that you do that,” Degeneres said to her. “And then to take ten percent of your income, which is already reduced because you choose to work at that school, is really incredible.”

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And DeLoach was planning to do even more. She wanted to get the schools the technology they were missing. “There’s just such a high need,” the therapist said. “You go into the schools and they don’t have enough computers for each of the kids, let alone like an iPad per school… They just don’t have what they need.”

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DeLoach went on, “I love working on the iPad, I bring my iPad every single day, because some of these kids need communication and speech devices.” Then Brett picked up the baton on the subject. “Some school systems have better opportunities and kids have more access to things like that.”

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Devices such as iPads can be vital tools in the education of special needs pupils. Children who have physical disabilities find tablets much easier to use than a regular computer, as they have touch screens rather than several different components attached. IPads also have features which can read out text and enlarge the screen.

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Tablet controls can also be adjusted to suit a person’s physical capabilities, another vital thing for disabled children. And then there’s the communication aspect: potentially, a tablet can help a child communicate with only the touch of a button. Apps can even be customized so a child can alert their caregiver to a need.

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Research has even been done into just how much tablet devices can help special education students. At the moment, things are looking very promising. In 2014 NPR’s Eric Westervelt explored how the use of iPads was helping special needs children participate in music lessons at a school in New York.

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“The iPad is a game-changer because it’s affordable and accessible. It really opens doors,” Leslie Schect, New York’s Director of Technology at the Department of Education, told Westervelt. “At times we don’t often know what’s really inside [special needs children] because they’re not speaking. This helps give them [a] voice.”

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Teachers also appear to agree. “We have some really, really low-functioning students who I could never really involve in the music activities,” Adam Goldberg, a music teacher interviewed by N.P.R., said. “But the iPad has pretty much taken care of that. I can’t say I have 100 percent involvement. But it’s pretty close.”

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It’s not surprising, then, that DeGeneres’s gift for DeLoach and the children was a selection of iPads. They were, in fact, presented to the therapist on the show. But there was something even more special hidden within them. “Why don’t you do me a favor, start over here and swipe that,” the host said, gesturing to the devices.

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When DeLoach swiped left on the first iPad, she was greeted with another surprise. The tablet displayed the figure of $10,000 on screen. That money, Degeneres explained to the shocked therapist, was from a company called Shutterfly. Even better, they wanted to donate the cash to the Brantley school district.

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For those that don’t know, Shutterfly is the “exclusive philanthropic partner for The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Indeed, as the company notes on its official website, “Over the past five-plus years, Shutterfly has proudly donated millions of dollars to inspiring and deserving people and organizations featured on the show.”

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There was more to come for DeLoach and her schoolchildren, though. The host then told her to keep swiping on all the iPad screens. Each of them, it transpired, displayed “$10,000” on their screens. The therapist wasn’t going away with just the iPads, but with $50,000 to help improve the school and the lives of her students as well!

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Degeneres later posted a video of the whole interview to her Twitter account. “The world needs more therapists like [DeLoach]. She deserves this and so much more,” the host wrote as the caption. Underneath, in the comments, people posted their own praise for the hard-working occupational therapists of the world.

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In fact, there were multiple positive comments. “Thank you for sharing [DeLoach’s] story and the positive impact of #occupationaltherapy on health and well-being,” one person wrote. “As a counselor who’s been serving the disability population since [age] 23, it’s great to see this O.T. recognized for her work,” wrote another.

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The money received by DeLoach will, no doubt, be put to good use. And she’s also inspired other therapists. “I hope that I can do much as her. Thank you for showing how divine it is,” wrote a Twitter user who described themselves as an “O.T. student in Brazil.” Degeneres’s philanthropy, then, has a ripple effect all over the world.

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