With bright sun and morning temperatures reaching 90 degrees, Glenn Beard should be relaxing on his day off.
Instead, the Walmart truck driver, based out of Alachua County, is at the Brooksville store, giving rides to local children as part of a Walmart Heart celebration.
On Saturday morning, two local children with special needs, Alexis Corey and Megan Michel, were honored with cake and the opportunity to ride in the cab of Walmart trucks, as well as a pink fire truck in town from Jacksonville for the occasion.
They also were outfitted with Walmart driver uniforms.
Munch Goodrich, with Walmart Heart, boosted up 3-year-old Charlie Corey on a riding lawnmower outside of the Broad Street store. Charlie’s older sister, Alexis, has suffered from seizures and spent time in a coma, according to her father, Chris Corey.
Alexis’ immediate and extended family gathered around her as she slept in her wheelchair.
Walmart employee and coordinator Rico Rivera said everyone involved in the Walmart Heart program volunteers their time — and days off — freely. The program has more than 100 drivers across the U.S. who offer children and adults with chronic diseases or special needs rides as a way to boost both their spirits and family’s morale.
Leona King, front-end zone supervisor for Walmart, said the Brooksville store gives back through events such as the Relay for Life, Lighthouse and Miracle Networks. The Heart event was the largest scale event the store has had, King said.
“It’s awesome to personally meet some of the families all this hard work goes into,” King said.
Helping out local, individual community members is a sentiment echoed by Jaime McPhilomy of Pink Heals, an Arizona-based non profit.
McPhilomy, who drove his pink truck down from Jacksonville, said the group is “about people, not causes.”
“Too much money is going out of state,” said McPhilomy, adding the group donates at the local level regardless the disease or illness of the person in need.
Right before his daughter, Megan, went for a ride in the truck, David Michel wrote a message on the side of the vehicle in permanent marker. Michel’s message was one of hundreds scribbled on to the pink pain in memory or honor of loved ones.