For 16 years, Ricky Spaulding has mopped, swept and tended to the halls of Anderson County High School in Central Kentucky, but this week, the students decided to give back to him. 

Thinking he was being summoned for duty, the 51-year-old janitor headed to the gymnasium on Wednesday to clean up a spill, only to find the entire student body and staff waiting to surprise him with almost $2,000. It was a gift that would allow him to visit his son, a Navy man stationed in Italy, and meet his baby granddaughter for the first time. 

“I went with my mop and bucket and wet floor sign, and lo and behold, they presented me with a trashcan fully of money, $1,900 in cash,” Spaulding tells Ellen’s Good News. “I was doing my job, just going to take care of the spill, completely oblivious to what was going on. The outpouring that the students and staff showed me was overwhelming.”


Spaulding and his wife have three sons, the eldest of which, Jacob, joined the Navy a year ago, and was deployed to the US naval base near Sicily. The janitor says he hasn’t seen Jacob since he left the country, and is anxious to see his new granddaughter, who will be two months old on Sunday.

Though the students and staff at Spaulding's school have been planning the surprise for a couple weeks, and his wife was also in cahoots, Spaulding says he didn’t see it coming.

“It’s just been a whirlwind,” he remarks. “My wife and our secretary had been phoning back and forth and emailing and I had no clue… and it’s hard to keep a secret from me!” 

Now with the opportunity at hand, Spaulding plans to save up a little more money for a few months and head overseas in the winter when airfares drop and temperatures cool. It will be his first time in Europe, his first visit with the new addition to the family, and a gift he can hardly believe is real.

“My duties throughout the day are to do whatever I’m called to do whether it’s a spill in the classroom or an overflowing toilet,” Spaulding recognizes. “It’s a fantastic thing, the outpouring that they’ve shown. Words can’t express how [it feels] when they turn it back on you. I just come in to do my job and it means a lot.”