After working at the same place for three decades, the 50-year-old Russell O’Grady, a beloved McDonald’s employee with Down’s Syndrome, has now retired.
He first came to the restaurant in 1984 on a work experience placement organized by JobSupport, which is an Australian government initiative that helps people with intellectual disabilities in their struggle to find paid employment.
Gabrielle Bartlett, who works for this organization, said that the societal change in attitude in the intervening 32 years since Mr. O’Grady first took on his trailblazing role, has been dramatic.
She said that back then, it wasn’t possible for people with a moderate intellectual disability to join the employment system, so they were pioneers in proving that people in Australia with a moderate disability can value-add to the workforce.
These people were forced to stay on the lounge at home before, but Mr. Grady had paved the way for other people with a disability to enter the workforce.
He was a hard-working employee with an impeccable work ethic, so he was given a full-time job at the restaurant in Northmead, in west Sydney. He served customers, cleaned, and packed party boxes, in addition to working shifts in the kitchen.
Jobsupport trainer Nikita Vandaru said that the work helped him a lot, since he gets a lot of social interaction and makes him feel like part of the community. He says that every second customer stops and talks to him, and he welcomes them with a huge smile on the face.
Wynn Visser, assistant manager of JobSupport, claims that his impact on people is exceptional. Everybody knows him and loves him because he always stops to shake hands and say ‘Hi’ to everyone he knows.
According to Russell’s supervisor, Courtney Purcell, people from all over were coming to the restaurant just to meet him, and they even have regular customers who come in to see Russell on Thursday and Friday, and the staff really looked after him, so he will undoubtedly be missed.
His brother, Lindsey, said that his work made him very proud, and he loves it, so it can make him pretty cheeky at times. He even kept him in line at times.
Their father, Geoff O’Grady, agreed that people loved Russell and would come up to him and shake his hand. He says that they cannot believe how very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated he is. When someone asked him if he was handicapped, his answer was that he used to be when he went to school, but now he worked at McDonald’s.
As soon as he entered the McDonald’s team, Russell showed that he appreciated the opportunity, which was rarely given to people with disabilities at that time, so he became a responsible and valuable employee.
After 32 years with McDonald’s, he decided to retire and spend most of his time at Northmead Bowling Club since he is a passionate tenpin bowler.
Down Syndrome was discovered in the late nineteenth century when it was first mentioned by John Langdon Down, an English physician who accurately published a description of a person with the syndrome.
Every year, about 6,000 babies are born with it in the United States, making it the most common chromosomal condition.
The National Down Syndrome Society explains that there is a nucleus in every body cell, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all o inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures known as chromosomes.
Typically, the nucleus of each cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent, and Down syndrome is developed when one has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.
The additional genetic material changes the course of development and leads to the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Some of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are small stature, low muscle tone, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. Yet, each person with Down syndrome is unique, and may possess only some of these characteristics or none of them.