Russell O’ Grady is a man with Down Syndrome who defied all odds and was employed for 32 years before retiring from the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant he’s worked at since. According to statistics, 1 in every 700 babies are born with Down Syndrome and while those babies can receive medical aid throughout their life, there is no cure.
As a result, Russell, and many other children with the genetic disorder, are subject to a shorter life expectancy and slowed intellectual development. Many parents of children with Down Syndrome, or any other special disorder, tend to keep them close to home, not allowing them to go to school or work. But not Russell!
Russell had first begun working at Northmead McDonald’s in Sydney in 1986. What makes his story so incredible is that at the time, people with disabilities were very rarely employed. Russell, however, wished to change the stereotype that those with special needs did not have the talent to excel in the workplace. He surely proved everyone wrong!
Russell is now 50 years old and has retired from his lifelong job. He is remembered in his workplace for all of the pleasant smiles and happiness he spread to everyone he came in contact with.
Hired by the Northmead McDonald’s at just 18 years old, he had absolutely no work experience under his belt. Despite this, he was hired by McDonald’s and began his career with them. According to sources, the staff was extremely impressed with Russell and his dedication towards his work.
Russell apparently started out packing party boxes but eventually upgraded to other tasks. He also made such a huge impact on the atmosphere of the restaurant that people would come in just to say hi to Russell and talk with him.
According to sources, Russell is the ‘best-known person in Northmead’ and is essentially a local celebrity due to his constant smiling face and friendly nature. People just loved Russell and they loved going to that McDonald’s in particular because of Russell.
McDonald’s supervisor Courtney Purcell, spoke about Russell, his work ethic, and how much they will miss him. “We’ve got regular customers who come in to see Russell on Thursday and Friday, and the staff look after him, so we’re going to miss him.”
Russell allegedly acquired his job at McDonald’s through JobSupport, which is a career platform that provides training and employment for those with intellectual disorders.
“Jobsupport works with each employer and the person with an intellectual disability to customize a job that meets a genuine need for the employer and the person with an intellectual disability,” their website mission states. JobSupport certainly made a match with Russell!
Russell’s father thanks McDonald’s and JobSupport for providing his son with the opportunity to give back to society despite the stereotype centered around those with Down Syndrome.
“Without that initiative, lots of people like Russell wouldn’t have the jobs they do today and they wouldn’t have the reward that gives them, which is pride, a boost of their self-esteem, and feeling important and belonging in society.”
Be sure to SHARE this article if you loved this beautiful story.
JJ Hill says
It is an intellectual disability, not intellectual disorder.
Pat H says
I like to call it OTHER ABILITIES rather than a DISABILITY.
Christine Contaxis says
Russell a truly amazing & aspiring person you are! Someone more people should emulate & aspire to be!!
What is behind curtain Number One in a retirement package for him?
Health Care! Pension! Unused vacation pay? Some kind of employee package after 32 years of dedicated service. All the French Fries he can eat until his heart clogs up?
Dan and Lauren Law says
Not sure WHAT IN THE WORLD would make you report that most parents of children with Down syndrome keep them near to home and don’t let them go to school or work!!! What century are you living in??? That may have been the attitude when HE was born…but children with Down syndrome now grow into semi-independent adults…living in assisted-living group homes…working steadily and regularly…enjoying married life…starring on television…opening restaurants and their own businesses…living LONG (life expectancy is now in the 60’s), productive, happy lives. I know because my grandson who is 11 is in school every day…was just listed on the high honor roll in 5th grade…loved by so many of his classmates and the schools teachers and administrators. It’s stories like this that make people think having a child with Down syndrome means they should abort their children…92% of women who learn their child has DS will abort them before they are born!!! That’s an incredibly sad and disgusting number. We NEED these children if for no other reason than to make us more compassionate humans (something we’re losing every day)…to slow us down in a world that does everything with microwave speed. We need their laughter…their hugs…the incredibly chance to celebrate their victories!!! I still cannot believe what I just read. You may have done a great disservice to children and adults who should be highly respected, accepted and applauded for breaking molds like those expressed in this article.
I think they were referring to how peopke with Downs were treated back in 1986. One just didnt see them working in grocery stores, fast food chains, or pretty basically anywhere. You’re right that doesn’t happen now but back then the majority of parents, or really society, were just realizing the people with Downs could work in jobs such as these. Luckiky for us and them, society woke up to the diservice we had towards people with Downs and other handicaps.
Craig Collins says
When so many say they can’t there are those like this hero that could say I can’t but choose to find a way to make it happen.