On what she described as "a beautiful, sunny January day," first-grade teacher Donna Herzog headed out to the playground at Valle Catholic Grade School for a routine assignment — to monitor recess.
No biggie, normal stuff ... until she failed to navigate concrete steps from the school to the playground. Looking aside to chat up the students, she missed the last step, twisting her ankle and tumbling to the asphalt.
The kindergarten youngsters quickly gathered around and asked whether she was OK, but ran off to play once she answered in the affirmative.
All but one, that is. Kindergarten student Colton Joseph Lipp stayed behind, showing care and compassion that led to him being honored with a "Do the Right Thing" award recently in a ceremony at the St. Louis County Government Offices in Clayton.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and other law enforcement officials celebrated Colton and eight other St. Louis-area students recognized by Do the Right Thing of Greater St. Louis, Inc. The nonprofit organization partners with law enforcement, schools, media and businesses to recognize and promote positive social behaviors of school-aged youth.
Herzog, kindergarten teacher Amy Wood and parents Kelly and Chris Lipp also commuted 60 miles from Ste. Genevieve to Clayton for the ceremony.
After the fall, Herzog sat on the steps as the children, sans Colton, went off to play.
"This little boy just stayed there with me," she said. "He just wanted to keep talking to me. I thought it was really special. I tried to assure him that I was OK, but he just wanted the other teacher to know. He wanted me to have help."
Still, Herzog assured him that she was fine, that her situation was similar to children who need to sit for a moment after a tumble. Then, she asked his name.
"He said proudly, 'I'm Colton Joseph Lipp,'" she said. "Colton stayed with me and helped me get up."
He wasn't finished, though.
"He continued to ask if he needed to go get the other teacher," she said. "I said I was fine, so he walked off."
But he figured someone other than a 6-year-old should check her out. A few minutes later, fellow first-grade teacher Mary Joggerst materialized.
"She told me, 'Colton Joseph Lipp said you might need help,'" Herzog said. "Colton's genuine concern and compassion for my well-being was precious. He didn't mind losing a few minutes of his play time to help me."
That didn't surprise Wood.
"From day-to-day, Colton's very compassionate and caring to classmates, to adults, to anyone he sees," Wood said, adding that Colton came in from recess that day all excited about Herzog giving him a Virtue Award. Wood and Herzog later decided to nominate him for the area-wide "Do the Right Thing" award as he went above and beyond just the school award.
The next day, a doctor confirmed that Herzog's painfully swollen and red ankle was indeed sprained, so she took it easy for a few days, especially on steps.
But leave it to Colton to check in on her.
"Colton was my little guardian angel," she said.