An Honorary Driver

Christian Gills became an honorary Wal-Mart driver Saturday when these truck drivers presented him with his shirt, cap and name tag. Christian received gifts, and a shopping spree from the Union Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Heart program. He also was driven to the store in a tractor-trailer in a convoy led by Union fire and police personnel. Also pictured are Christian’s brothers Mackenzie and Houston.

A Union boy had the ride of a lifetime Saturday when he became an honorary Wal-Mart truck driver.

Christian Gills, 9, a third-grader at Central Elementary, was selected to be honored through Wal-Mart Heart, a volunteer program started by company truck drivers.

Christian, who has spina bifida, often uses a wheelchair to get around.

Spina bifida is a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube.

After Christian was picked up Saturday from outside his school, he was riding high in a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer.

“We had a great day,” said Christian’s mother Christi Gills, “he was quite surprised.”

She added that Christian was unaware of what would happen that day, but was told he was meeting some friends.

“He knew nothing about it,” she said.

But Christian knew there was something major happening when he noticed several Wal-Mart trucks escorted by Union police and Union fire trucks.

“Once he saw the police cars, fire and other trucks coming he was very excited,” said Gills.

Union Fire Protection District Assistant Chief David Biser, who is friends with Gills, helped organize the event.

The convoy escorted Christian to Wal-Mart where there was a reception for him.

Not only did Christian become an honorary Wal-Mart truck driver, but he was given a shopping spree and St. Louis Cardinals merchandise.

From the Union Wal-Mart, Christian received St. Louis Cardinals merchandise and four tickets to an upcoming game, as well as a $250 gift card for the store

Volunteers with the Wal-Mart Heart program also chipped in by providing a $250 shopping spree and replica trucks. He also was given a replica shirt, lanyard with honorary driver certificate.

Christi Gills said she had never heard of the program before this.

She added that Ken Nelson, a volunteer with Wal-Mart Heart, contacted her.

“He took it from there,” she said. “He asked about Christian and his needs.”

Nelson then went to the Union Wal-Mart store manager Beth Reed and organized an in-store party. Phil Hargrove, co-founder of Wal-Mart Heart attended the event with his wife.

“I was surprised — I didn’t know that the program existed,” said Christi Gills. “It was overwhelming. It was beyond what I had imagined it would be.”

Through the program, Wal-Mart donates the trucks, and the drivers donate their time and money.

With the funds donated by the driver, Christian purchased a fire department Lego set, a police helicopter Lego, a Wii game, movies and a Rascal Flats CD.

Also on hand during the event, was the monster truck “Big Dawg” which was parked outside Wal-Mart.

“By the time he got home, he was tired but he had so much fun,” said Christi Gills.

She added that Christian’s two brothers also had fun that day.