Wal-Mart Heart honors Crittenden
By By Kim West
Vada Sims has seen a lot during her 17-year tenure at Wal-Mart in Russellville. But Sims said she had never seen anything similar to the party held Friday morning in honor of Albert Crittenden, who has lived at Russellville Health Care since 1988.
"He was so adorable," said Sims, a people greeter.
"I've never seen an event like this here. When I drove up, I said, 'What's going on?' I'm just so excited to see this happening."
Crittenden, 64, who is restricted to a wheelchair and was born with a severe learning disability, was driven from the nursing home to Store No. 403 in one of the company's 18-wheelers as part of the "Wal-Mart Heart" volunteer program.
Wal-Mart truck driver Alan Shiering started the program in 1997 when he helped fulfill a wish for Jack Scott, a young child who suffered from a serious heart condition and dreamed of becoming a Wal-Mart truck driver.
"Jack Scott was a four or five-year-old boy from Texas who had a whole in his heart, and through the Make-A-Wish Foundataion his wish to become a Wal-Mart truck driver came true," said Ricky Oliver, a Wal-Mart trucker and program volunteer.
"The governor at the time was George W. Bush, and he authorized an authentic (commercial driver's license) for Jack."
Ten years later, the program has grown into an official Wal-Mart philanthropy that is organized and staffed by truckers such as Oliver, Phillip Hargrove, John Avery and Ted McAllister, who visit with chronically ill children and special needs adults and recognize them as honorary truck drivers.
Russellville Police Department officers provided Crittenden, who was decked out in an official white trucker uniform shirt with matching socks and sneakers, navy blue shorts and a Wal-Mart truckers cap, with an SUV escort that led his 18-wheeler into the parking lot, along with an entourage of nurses and administrators from Russellvile Health Care and a group of Wal-Mart truckers.
"I'm his legal representative, and the nursing home staff is like his family," Russellville Health Care Administrator Brenda Hovater said.
"Albert is the only person I've ever met that doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and he is so humble. He is just a blessing from God."
The party was hosted in the store's employee break room by Store Manager Steve Brannon and Store Co-Manager Joey Bell, who presented Crittenden with a specially-made fruit basket that included a pair of red toy trucks.
After introductory remarks by Oliver and Hovater, the truckers presented Crittenden with a log book, atlas, belt-buckle pin that recognizes two years of safe driving, certificate and a badge that allows special access into Wal-Mart Distribution Centers.
The day's event was made possible after Johnna McCreary asked her father, John Avery, for a trucker cap to give to Crittenden, who has a large cap collection to go along with his cache of toy trucks. Avery mentioned the gift to his terminal manager, and she contacted the corporate office, which worked with the nursing home and the Russellville store to plan and coordinate the store visit.
McCreary, who works as a nurse at Russellville Health Care, said it took about a month from start to finish to plan the event.
"I just think it's wonderful that we have a nursing home that takes pride in its residents," McCreary said.