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(l-r) Dan Brown, Walmart Assistant Manager; Austin Morrison; Tim Gibson, Walmart truck driver; and Jerome Adkins, Walmart Manager.

Covington Walmart employees on Industrial Boulevard joined Walmart truck drivers from around the state in honoring Eastside tenth-grader Austin Morrison for having a “Walmart Heart” Thursday morning. The Walmart Heart program was started by Walmart truck drivers who raise money for children and adults with chronic medical conditions or special needs, and gives them a chance to be an honorary truck driver for a day.

According to Austin’s mom, LaDonna Morrison, her son is a truly a “miracle.”

“He wasn’t supposed to walk,” said Mrs. Morrison. “He has Turrets, Cerebral Palsy, has traits of Autism, and is also ADHD. He’s been in Newton County Schools since he turned three. When he started he had braces on his leg and wore a helmet on his head. But look at him now. I’m very proud. I used to sit and wonder when he was ever going to start talking and now he’s never quiet!”

Austin’s teacher, Heather Wood, said Austin is “one of my hardest working students. He does a great job in his academics. He’s a great helper and I really appreciate having him in my class.”

Alisa Echols, of Eastside High School’s Career and Technical Instruction Program, which helps students with special needs find jobs, nominated Austin for this special award.

“Ever since I’ve known Austin, he’s always asked me to help him do an online application at Walmart because he really wants to work there,” said Echols. “He’s always helping me and the other students. He’s really motivated to learn and to do everything he can do. When I heard about the Walmart Heart program he was the first person that came to mind. He just has a huge heart and helps everyone he knows—just 100% effort and very eager to please.”

“My Nana has been working for Walmart and I want to see how it is,” said Austin. When asked what type of job he’d like at Walmart, he said, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll do anything.”

After learning Austin’s story, Walmart assistant manager Dan Brown said he was a perfect example of a young man with a Walmart Heart.

“This program recognizes youth for overcoming challenges by having a great heart,” said Brown. “With all he has overcome, we feel Austin epitomizes what the program is all about and we are going to make him an honorary Walmart truck driver today.”

And that’s just what they did. In front of a large audience including Walmart associates and truck drivers, Covington police officers, Newton EMS personnel, and Covington and Newton County fire fighters, Walmart Store Ambassador and truck driver Tim Gibson presented Austin with an official Walmart truck driver’s uniform shirt, a Walmart hat and official identification, and a gift basket with several additional items, including a miniature Walmart truck. Dan Brown then presented Austin with a $100 Walmart gift card. But the fun was only just beginning.

With police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and Walmart trucks all lined up and ready to go, Austin was asked which one he wanted to ride in. Without hesitation he announced, “The Walmart truck!”

He then jumped into the passenger seat of a Walmart truck and headed off in a parade of vehicles led by Covington and Newton County public safety vehicles. After a couple of laps around the Walmart parking lot in the Walmart truck, Austin switched vehicles and proudly rode around the store again, this time in a Covington Fire Department truck.

“He was excited and a little nervous,” said LaDonna Morrison. “It was just so overwhelming. It was more than I could even imagine. Walmart did such a great job. This was right up his alley because he loves Walmart and he loves the fire department and police department. It was all of his likes and interests combined into one day!”

After coming back in for cake, the Walmart store manager reminded Austin if he decides to apply for a job to put on his application that he is an honorary Walmart truck driver.

“That made me feel so good,” said Ms. Morrison. “You worry about your kids. With him having a learning disability, I always wonder how he is going to survive without me always being there. He wants to work and do something now that he’s older and maybe this will give him an opening.”

For more information contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, Director of Public Relations for Newton County Schools, at davis-viniard.sherri@newton.k12.ga.us.

 

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