Wednesday 13 May 2020

McDonald's employee with Down Syndrome retires after 32 years of serving smiles

Russell O'Grady started working at McDonald's in 1986, and he went on to inspire several people all over the world.

Russell O' Grady first stepped into a McDonald's in his brand new uniform back in 1986, and back then he had no idea that he would go on to make a name for himself.  O'Grady started working at a time when people with Down syndrome were usually made to stay at home, not because they were incapable of working, but simply because their families were worried about them being targetted by bullies. However, O'Grady decided to go out there and become an inspiration for everyone. When he started working back in '86, there was hardly anyone else with disabilities working.

O'Grady, however, really wanted to change the stereotype which clouds the talents and potential of people with disabilities.  He was just 18 when he joined and it didn't take him long to get a permanent spot. He found himself working at McDonald's thanks to a work experience placement organized by Jobsupport, an Australian government initiative that helps people with intellectual disabilities find paid employment. Since then, he's done it all, from packing boxes to cleaning, serving, and even cooking. O'Grady became an institutional name in no time, with people referring to him as a local icon who is known to be cheeky at times. 
Image Source: Facebook/Houssam Motivation

Soon enough, people from all over started to visit the Northmead McDonald's outlet in Sydney, just to see O'Grady. But, in December 2018, after working at McDonald's for over three decades—32 years to be exact—he decided it was time for him to hang up his uniform and bid farewell to his fans. In a conversation with The Daily Telegraph, his brother, Lindsey, told readers how proud he is of O'Grady's achievements. "He's kind of blasé about it but loves his work very much. He's pretty cheeky sometimes. He's my big brother and he keeps me in line," Lindsey said. His father, Geoff O'Grady, added that while walking down the streets with his son, people often stopped by to greet him.

According to him, his son's career gave him a different outlook on life. "'Somebody said to him 'are you handicapped?' and his answer was 'I used to be when I went to school, but now I work at McDonald's,'" he said. He also mentioned that O'Grady is very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated "to such an extent that we just don't believe it." It's evident that his whole family is very, very proud of his hard work and achievements. O'Grady's sheer determination and hard work are what made him successful. He was not only a favorite among customers, but his managers and co-workers only had great things to say about him, as well. 

"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," said his manager, Courtney Purcell. Often referred to as the best-known person in Northmead, it is evident that his decision to leave his job was heartbreaking for many. But, sadly, due to health reasons, the now 52-year-old felt that it was best for him to retire back then. When asked about his post-retirement plans, he said that since he's got so much time on his hands, he'd spend some of it bowling, since he's a huge fan. Sounds like a really amazing retirement plan, doesn't it?

(Source: McGill Media)

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