Mayor's Committee announces disabled employee honoree
By Anessa Myers
Published in News on October 17, 2008 1:46 PM
Col. Bill Thomas, right, presents Oswald Adams with the Employee of the Year Award during the Goldsboro Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities Annual Award banquet Thursday.
Oswald Adams sat at a seat in the banquet room at Lane Tree Country Club, thinking that he was there to support his fellow disabled workers in Wayne County Thursday.
When he got up to get in line for lunch, he still didn't know that he would later be recognized.
So when he heard John Chance call his name as the winner of the Employee of the Year Award in front of about 100 people attending the annual Mayor's Committee for Disabled Persons Award Banquet, he was more than a little shocked.
"It was a complete surprise to me," he said. "I was all choked up."
He said he didn't know what to say when he went up to the podium to accept the award, but said he was grateful to the people at GATEWAY.
"I'd like to thank everybody that's been a part of this, the people I work with," he said.
For Chance, the award is the most important one.
"That's what we work for," he said, adding that the committee aims to make it easier for people with disabilities to make their own living.
The committee gave out four awards total to people who have worked to overcome their disabilities as well as to people who have helped others in their attempts to do so.
K & W Cafeteria won the award for Employer of the Year, and Chance stated that the business should be recognized for having four employees with disabilities. He added that general manager Jeff Baker employed a total of 12 disabled employees between his time at the K & W Cafeterias in Wilson and in Goldsboro.
JoAnn Robinson won the Committee Member of the Year Award for being a "long-time member of the committee" and "always having a smile on her face," Chance said.
And Chance and the Wayne Opportunity Center won the Mayor's Trophy for employing 40 to 50 people with disabilities.
Mayor Al King presented the center with the award and said, "John, I want to thank you for your service, your efforts ... because you provide a tremendous service for people who need it."
But none of the awardees brought tears to those in the audience.
Those came later as guest speaker Chad Hymas spoke.
The 35-year-old quadriplegic became a person with a disability after a tractor accident eight years ago, one that broke his neck and left him paralyzed.
But ever since he was lying in the hospital, his father asked him, "What if you could do more without your arms and legs than you did with them?"
He told his father that he was crazy.
"Pride is the No. 1 enemy of a productive person," Hymas told the group. "My dad told me, 'Change a habit. Get out of your comfort zone. Change a tradition. If you have to figure out a new way to get dressed, then you have to figure out a new way to get dressed.'"
He told the audience that people like them are what he thanks God for every day, people that help people with disabilities get through the day and better themselves.
But that's not what made them cry.
It was a story that he told about what his father taught him in his teenage years and him being a father that brought the wiping of the eyes.
As a basketball player and the captain of the team, Chad said he would sit with his teammates at one certain table in the lunchroom and would often make fun of a girl in a wheelchair who sat with other special education students. She could only move the wheelchair with a toggle switch run with her chin, and she could speak only through a computer. She could eat, using her wrists since her hands were impaired, and she would wipe her chin off as quick as she could to look nice for others.
One night when his teammates were over, they mentioned the girl's name and said a few mean things about her.
His father heard, knocked on the door and told the boys that he was disappointed in all of them, especially the captain of the team.
"He had every right to take his belt off and discipline me. He had every right to take me off of the basketball team. But he didn't do either," Hymas said.
Instead, the next day during lunch, Hymas' dad came to school, went to the principal, asked the principal to go to the cafeteria and asked Hymas where the girl was.
He pleaded with his father not to embarrass him.
"He said, 'I'm not going to embarrass you. I'm simply here to teach you about time,'" Hymas said.
His father went up to the girl, told her that he had heard a lot about her and that he had to meet her.
"Dad taps her on the shoulder and said, 'My name is Kelly Hymas, and I've heard so much about you that I needed to meet you. ... Chad, come meet her.'"
Hymas' father told her that the team was going to do something different on game days -- sit with her for good luck.
And that day, he said they would do something extra special -- take her to lunch at McDonald's.
Asking her if she would go, the girl said that she couldn't go with strangers, a joke that showed her funny side -- a side that Hymas and his friends never knew about because they didn't know her, just her disability.
After her mother gave the OK, Hymas' father lifted the girl up and carried her to his car.
"He could have just said to follow him out to the car with her wheelchair, but he didn't. He picked her up and told us to get the wheelchair and meet them at the car," Hymas said.
When the group got to the restaurant, Hymas' father bought the boys each a shake with two spoons.
"He said, 'Each of you is going to give her a part of your shake,'" Hymas said. "I told him, 'Dad, she can eat by herself.' He told us that wasn't what he asked us to do. He wanted us to give her some of our time. ... And then he asked me to wipe her chin. I told him, 'Dad, she can do that by herself.' He said, 'Give her some of your time.'"
Eight days later, that girl was voted head cheerleader of the school.
TV news anchor Katie Couric came to interview her but could only ask her one question about the best thing about being the top cheerleader.
The girl replied, "Look at all of my friends."
"And then 1,800 kids went crazy," Hymas said. "Kids that didn't know her name eight days earlier."
His father taught him to help others at an early age, something he didn't appreciate until a farming accident took the feeling from his arms and legs.
But what he wanted to relay to the audience at the banquet was not to walk out of the room unchanged.
"How many of you have the same ability as my father? He could have yelled at me and took his belt off and disciplined me, but he didn't because he had a vision. He knew what he was going to do that day before he did it. ... You know what separates people? Those who simply take action of their thoughts, and those who don't," Hymas said.
His father's vision isn't lost. Hymas' 8-year-old son has it.
The boy never saw his father walk. Hymas was rushing to finish farming to see his then 1-year-old son walk, and that's when the farming accident happened.
"Ironically, the day he took his first steps, I took my last," Hymas said.
But his son had a vision, a vision of his father walking again.
After showing his son his scars from the neck surgery, the 8-year-old said, "Those don't look too bad, Daddy. You will be able to walk again just like me."
"I didn't tell him that it was impossible, that it was unrealistic, because he acted on his thoughts. He had a vision of me walking. So I told him, 'It's guaranteed that I'll walk again, maybe not tomorrow, not next week or this month or this year or this life, but the next life -- guaranteed,'" Hymas said.
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