Leader Blues

Saturday, September 26, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot girl gets a special treat

Grace Gwin was all smiles this week when the overnight Walmart crew in Cabot gave her a battery-powered Ford Mustang. She looks toward her mother, Autumn, and overnight store supervisor Bill Rady.

From left, Grace Gwin, 4, is held by her father, Rob, beside her mother, Autumn, who is holding her sister, Emily, 2. The family lives in Cabot.

Leader staff writer

Grace Gwin of Cabot became one of the youngest truck drivers for Walmart this week at the age of 4.

Gwin was selected as an honorary big-rig driver as part of the Walmart Heart program.

The program is made up of Walmart truck drivers who participate voluntarily.

It helps to raise the spirits of children and adults who are sick, recovering from an illness or have special needs. The truck drivers bring cheer to seniors, veterans and military families who are experiencing difficulties.

Gwin was diagnosed in June 2008 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. After a year of treatment, Gwin’s illness is in remission.

A Walmart truck driver in Oklahoma heard through a conversation with a store employee that there was a child with leukemia.

The driver, who is part of the Walmart Heart program, wanted to help.

While searching for the child’s family, Mark Turvey, a Walmart market manager in Oklahoma, was contacted.

It was discovered that Turvey had a granddaughter, Grace Gwin, who had leukemia and Walmart Heart wanted to help.

Turvey made the trip to the Cabot Walmart for Gwin.

Walmart photo-lab specialist Sondra Bayles said, “I think it is an amazing thing they do just to see the sparkle in her eyes, because what she has gone through in her short life. To bring her some joy, even if for a day.”

The special day for Gwin began as a passenger in the cab of a Walmart truck. She was dressed for the occasion in a Walmart driver’s uniform shirt. With a Cabot police and fire department escort, the Walmart truck arrived to the front of the store.

Gwin was greeted with music and cheers from Walmart employees along with the Cabot High School band and cheerleaders.

Gwin entered the store with her mother, Autumn; her father, Rob and two-year-old sister, Emily.

The surprises continued for Gwin. Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams proclaimed Sept. 17 as Grace Gwin Day in the city.

Participating drivers who are in the program came from as far as Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana. Store representatives from Bentonville traveled to be a part of Gwin’s day.

Gwin was given an Honorary Driver for the Day certificate, a Walmart hat, a truck driver’s log book and a shirt with a message about checking blind spots while driving.

Only minutes into being a truck driver, Gwin was given several driving safety awards. She received a clock, a flashlight, a blanket, a wooden truck, an umbrella, a poncho and a cookie jar.

It seemed as if Christmas had arrived early for Gwin.

Members of the Walmart Heart program and store employees along with local businesses and the community helped to put Gwin’s young mind off her battle with cancer.

She was presented with a heart-shaped toy guitar, Barbie doll clothing along with clothing for herself. There was a table covered with gift bags with more toys and clothes for Gwin.

A local Cub Scout troop gave Gwin some merit badges.

The overnight store associates raised $700. They gave Gwin a battery-powered, toy Ford Mustang car and a shopping spree.

Another surprise for Gwin and her family were four tickets to see country and pop musician Taylor Swift in concert tonight at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. The tickets for the sold-out show were from Arvest Bank.

Autumn Gwin, Grace’s mother, was grateful and humbled by the generosity of the Walmart drivers and associates who made Grace’s day memorable. She said it was incredibly uplifting.

She said, “We want to personally thank the community, Walmart, the police and fire departments, the mayor, First Arkansas (Bank and Trust ) Arvest Bank, McDonalds and everyone who contributed.”