Fellow drivers and employees honor Walmart trucker

Walmart Employee Honored
Walmart, Paragould (Source: KAIT-TV)
Walmart, Paragould (Source: KAIT-TV)

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - On Wednesday Walmart customers in Paragould were wondering what all the commotion was about.

Walmart truck drivers, employees and members of the Heart Team took time out of their day to pay tribute to former Walmart truck driver and Paragould resident Gary Lewis.

The Walmart Heart Program is a nationwide program made up of volunteer Walmart truck drivers.

Their purpose is to lift the spirits of children or adults with chronic medical conditions or special needs.

Lewis worked for Walmart for years before he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis and, ultimately, respiratory failure.

Walmart truck driver and Heart Team member Tom Merrill said Lewis meant a lot to them.

"We did this just to brighten Gary's day," Merrill said. "He's just such a great guy. He was such an asset when he was driving with us and he's the guy that lights up the room when he's walking into it."

Members of the Paragould High School band played for Lewis as two big rig trucks drove up and Lewis' grandchildren jumped out and ran to him.

With his family and friends beside him, Lewis headed into the Walmart store for a celebration.

"The Walmart Heart Team decided we would just try to lighten his day up," Merrill said. "We can't fix problems, but we can sure help you forget about them for a little while. And that's what we wanted to do."

Merrill said one of the greatest things about the Heart Program was the amount of support they always seem to receive from members in the community they go to.

"It's really amazing," Merrill said. "Wherever city we're at, they always get involved, just like the Mayor that's here. We'll have radio stations that dedicate their program to our recipient and then just people showing up to cheer them on. The high school band usually brings members out to play for them. It's a festive scene just to kind of brighten people's days."

Mayor Mike Gaskill also joined the group to read a proclamation and declare April 20 "Gary Lewis Day".

Fellow truck drivers also lined up to tell funny stories, give Lewis a hug or a gift that would mean something to them both.

They ended the party with drinks and a cake to celebrate Lewis' birthday.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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