‘Wal-Mart Heart’ program

Published 1:35 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2008

AHOSKIE – Don’t let their persona fool you…big, burly truck drivers can cry.

And they are not by themselves.

With not a dry eye in the building, the Wal-Mart Transportation group based out of the Sutherland, Va. regional warehouse paid tribute to a seven-year-old Askewville child here last week at the Ahoskie Wal-Mart store.

Alex Mizelle, the son of Lee and Angel Mizelle, took center stage on this special day. Alex suffers from Chiari Malformation (CM), a complex group of disorders characterized by herniation of the cerebellum through the large opening in the base of the skull into the spinal canal. Alex underwent surgery in late January for the disorder and, to this day, is stilled faced with follow-up doctor visits and medical tests every two weeks.

Alex also suffers from Thoracic Scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, but he is blessed to be part of a caring, God-fearing family that puts the fate of their loved one in the hands of a more powerful healer.

On Aug. 19, the weight of what seems as the entire world to this family was lifted, if only for a few, precious hours.

Through the “Wal-Mart Heart” program, young Alex was the recipient of, pardon the pun, a truckload of special gifts, including being made an honorary truck driver for Wal-Mart, complete with a uniform, cap, name badge, belt buckle and log book. He was also presented with a hand-crafted wooden Wal-Mart truck (cab and trailer), a collector’s item signifying a 5 million mile safety award earned by Wal-Mart truck drivers.

“We come here today to tell Alex how much we care for him,” said Wal-Mart trucker Andy Peede who headed-up the local salute. “Our (Sutherland, Va.) group wanted to help a child in need and we chose little Alex Mizelle.”

“It was very kind and thoughtful of them to think of Alex,” said Angel Mizelle. “They were most generous of their time and effort. We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a wonderful day for Alex and for all of us.”

Allen Boyd, a Wal-Mart trucker based out of the Mt. Crawford, Va. regional warehouse, said the Wal-Mart Heart program began in Texas with a small child born with a hole in his heart.

“He wasn’t expected to live past the age of seven,” Boyd explained, “but he’s now 17.”

Boyd said the child’s aunt would take him behind the Wal-Mart store so he could witness the trucks making their deliveries.

“He loved Wal-Mart trucks,” Boyd said. “One of our drivers noticed him there almost every day and eventually purchased a child-size driver’s shirt and took the boy and his aunt for a ride. That’s how the whole thing began.”

“We do this because we care,” Boyd continued. “We don’t do something like this often because we believe in quality instead of quantity.”

That “quality” was revealed in another special presentation as the drivers and the Ahoskie Wal-Mart employees chipped in and purchased a battery-powered John Deere “ATV” for Alex. He, along with his buddy, Alden Cottle, took the green-colored machine for a test drive right inside the Ahoskie store.

“He loves that four-wheeler,” Mrs. Mizelle said. “He loved the entire day. He didn’t say much during the ceremony, but he talked about it all the way home.”

Additionally, Alex was presented with a bright red jersey from his “Coach-Pitch” baseball team sponsored by Bill Clough Ford of Windsor. Several of his teammates and coaches were on hand to present the jersey, one bearing the names of all team members on the back.

However, Alex wasn’t the only one on the receiving end of the recognition as the truckers and store employees chipped in to present gifts to Mr. and Mrs. Mizelle as well as Alex’s two sisters, Donna (15) and Monica (11).

“They made us all feel very special, especially our two girls,” Angel Mizelle said. “Donna and Monica are both a part of Alex’s life and what he is going through. They love their little brother.”

That love was shown in a letter written by Donna, one read by Ahoskie Wal-Mart employee Lynne Conner.

“We understand that he (Alex) cannot help the way he is,” Donna Mizelle wrote. “God made him this way for a reason. We have learned to give him the love and attention he needs. No matter what the Devil tries to throw our way, we will not let it stop us from serving the Lord.”

In closing, Peede thanked those assembled for Alex’s special day, including Ahoskie Wal-Mart manager Jay Couch and his team.

As an added treat, the truckers n Peede, Boyd, Tommy Tucker, Bill Maggard, John Walters and Horst Fellhauer n took anyone, young or old, for a ride onboard a Wal-Mart big rig. They had plenty of takers, including Alex, joined by his parents, as they headed south on US 13, eventually making their way to the Mizelle’s home near Askewville.

“Alex grinned the whole time we were in the truck,” Mrs. Mizelle stated. “Andy drove us, but all those men, those truck drivers, were some of the most caring, sincere men I’ve ever met.”

So caring and so sincere that they can open up their hearts and cry.