SYDNEY RIVER, N.S. — A Glace Bay man born with a rare form of cerebral palsy gets a lot more out of his job than a paycheque.
Wesley O’Leary, 24, has been working at the Walmart outlet in Sydney River for the past 10 months as a cashier. During a recent shift, he helped a woman who also has a disability complete her shopping, with the event going viral on social media sites.
O’Leary helped Marcie Shwery-Stanley, from Sydney, a longtime advocate for people living with disabilities, with her shopping on Sunday, Dec. 10.
Shwery-Stanley shared the interaction on her Facebook account and now the post has about 9,000 likes, with positive comments coming from people all over the world.
O’Leary says he struggled to find a job for more than a year before he was interviewed at the Walmart location. He said all he wanted was a chance to prove himself, but it was hard to find anywhere that would give him that chance.
“I was looking and passing out resumes almost every day. I was off for a year-and-a-half and I couldn’t find work. I had bad anxiety and depression at that point and was just trying to see what I could find,” said O’Leary, who has had three major surgeries throughout his life and added that he regularly experiences pain, but has a strong mentality that keeps him going.
“My foot does get bad some days, but I get the willpower to push myself. I think I have the willpower that a lot of people don’t have.”
Shwery-Stanley said she felt compelled to share her experience with O’Leary on her Facebook page because the impact of their encounter might help others with disabilities in the workforce.
“I thought this post would reach people and the message was an important thing — that a person needs to have a first chance and an opportunity,” said Shwery-Stanley. “That’s what Walmart gave him and saw beyond his disability and saw his ability and gave him that chance.”
Karen Hawkins, the manager of the Sydney River Walmart location, said that during O’Leary’s interview, the staff was immediately impressed by his personality.
“For me, I just like to know that we don’t discriminate based on abilities. Everybody gets a fair shot. The great thing about Wesley was that he has such a great personality,” said Hawkins.
“When we interviewed him, everybody thought he was just so friendly and approachable and upbeat. That’s really what attracted us to Wesley, because of his own personality,” said Hawkins, who also mentioned that O’Leary is a dedicated employee and cares about his costumers.
A Facebook page called “Love What Matters” that has over 7,000,000 followers and shares heartwarming stories from around the world also picked up Shwery-Stanley’s post. That post has been shared more than 11,000 times.
O’Leary said he was humbled by the outpouring of support he’s received from people around the globe and added he was happy to be called a role model for other people who have disabilities and encounter problems finding employment.
“I’d love to be a role model for anybody. I might be the lowest person on the totem pole sometimes. I might be down on myself, but everybody else comes first to me. For me, it doesn’t matter what you’re going through — I’ll be there to listen.”