Boy honored with Heart party

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Truck drivers from the transportation department of the Wal-MartDistribution Center held a Wal-Mart Heart party Tuesday afternoonat the Brookhaven store to honor 9-year-old Tra Henderson.

Henderson, a wheelchair-bound boy from Brookhaven, suffers fromosteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease, agenetic defect that causes weakness in the bones and makes themprone to fracture. The rare condition has caused Henderson, the sonof Willie and Victoria Henderson, to miss out on many of thetumbling affairs of childhood.

For his struggles, Henderson was uplifted by several driversfrom the Wal-Mart transportation department through the Wal-MartHeart program, a volunteer effort started in Texas 10 years ago togive children and adults with chronic medical conditions a day ofrecognition.

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“All the drivers here serve as volunteers,” said Rickey Oliver,who leads the Heart program in Brookhaven. “They’re not paid foranything, they’re actually losing money to be here. Wal-Mart Heartis just people that really care and want to help.”

Oliver said 77 percent of all the Wal-Mart distribution centersnationwide are now involved in Wal-Mart Heart, which was adopted asan official company program one year ago.

As luck would have it, Alan Shierling, a Wal-Mart driver fromPalestine, Texas – the driver who founded the program – was on handfor Tuesday’s event. Other employees at the Brookhaven center tookover Shierling’s truck so that he could attend the latest event aspart of the program he started for a seriously ill boy named JackScott in Texas in 1998.

“Jack wanted to be a Wal-Mart truck driver,” Shierling said.”The Make-a-Wish Foundation contacted Wal-Mart, and we made Jack anhonorary truck driver. Through the years, when we have a Heartprogram, we find out what the child likes and try to set up aride.”

And so it was with Henderson. Due to his condition, however,Henderson was unable to go for a ride in a Wal-Mart truck, as itcould endanger his fragile bones. So, the Wal-Mart drivers made upfor it as best they could – with a limousine and an escort given bythe Brookhaven Police Department.

Henderson left his home in the stretch, toured the distributioncenter and then arrived at Wal-Mart for the hour-long celebrationin his honor. He was presented with a shopping cart full of gifts,most notably a flat screen, high definition television, a Wal-Martdriver’s uniform and named a driver for the day. To close theevent, national Christian recording artist Da Minista (Pastor TimMiller of McComb) performed for Henderson and presented him withone of his albums.