BY LAUREN HENRY
Walmart's newest truck driver was honored Thursday with a police-escorted ride around Greeneville in one of the company's 18-wheelers.
William Dixon, age 18, is just like many other boys. He loves wrestling, football games, girls -- and trucks.
Trucks, in particular, make the young man's eyes light up and a smile curl up to the corners of his gray eyes.
Late Thursday afternoon he became the newest "honorary truck driver" in an ongoing nationwide program known as Walmart Heart.
The Walmart Heart program was launched by the company 17 years ago when a young boy in Texas named Jack was required to stay awake for 24 hours for testing because of a hole in his heart.
His mother, unsure of how to keep the young four-year-old awake for that long, went to the local Walmart, which was open 24 hours a day.
The staff was soon made aware of the boy's condition and helped make the next 24 hours all about Jack and what he wanted to do ... which finished with a ride in a Walmart truck.
It was at that moment that Walmart Heart was born.
Jack survived and is 21-years-old today, despite the prediction that he would not live past age seven.
Since that time, Walmart truck drivers have volunteered their time to give young boys and girls dealing with sickness or disability a reason to smile.
"It's worth it to see the joy in these children's eyes and watch them light up," truck driver Jeff Lee said.
William Dixon was born with hydrocephalus: a condition involving build-up of fluid in the brain which can cause mental disabilities.
He lives with his grandparents, Kathy and Bryce Lamb, in the Glendale community. His parents are Jamey Dixon and Lisa Greene, both of Chuckey.
His grandmother, Kathy Lamb, said the family was told that William would never walk.
"And now he can run faster than me -- and that's OK," Lamb said.
At 5 p.m. on Thursday, a crowd gathered at the main entrance to the Greeneville Walmart to welcome Dixon into the store, where a celebration began as a complete surprise to him.
Walmart truck drivers presented Dixon with a series of gifts and truck gear.
The most poignant moment was when Dixon was presented with a Bible signed by all of the Walmart drivers present: Danny Ewell, Lee, Charles Jordan, J.B. Quarles, Bobby Horsley, and Mike Musick.
RETIREMENT AS WELL
The celebration for Dixon coincided with Kathy Lamb's retirement from Walmart after 23 years.
Both Dixon and Lamb were presented with gifts, although the day clearly belonged to William.
The gathered truck drivers dressed him in an official Walmart truck driver shirt, hat and badge, and set him behind the wheel of an 18-wheel truck -- with supervision, of course.
'HE'S TAUGHT ME A LOT'
Trucker Charles Jordan is a personal friend of William, and let the young man shift gears and hold the steering wheel during his ride around Greeneville.
He began his truck ride at the Walmart parking lot.
The 30-minute drive started on U.S. 11E toward Greeneville and circled near the downtown area before going past the Greeneville Commons and back to the Walmart parking lot.
The truck ride around the streets of Greeneville was escorted by members of the Greeneville Police Department and the Greeneville Fire Department.
During the ride, William steadied the steering wheel and assisted with switching gears.
Meanwhile, in the back of the truck, tears brimmed at the corners of Lamb's eyes as she sat next to her husband, watching their grandson have the time of his life.
"He's taught me a lot through the years," she said.
"I don't have to say a word. William can tell if there is something wrong, and even when he was little, he would come up and kiss me on the cheek and say, 'Mamaw, it will be OK '... It's just a gift he's got."
SCHOOL FRIENDS ATTEND
Dixon is in his final year at Chuckey-Doak High School and beamed when he saw friends from school present to honor his special day.
He enjoys football games, but mostly just seeing people, Bryce Lamb said. "He loves to socialize and loves that more than anything -- to just be around people."
He attends Oak Grove Freewill Baptist Church, where driver Jordan is also a member.
Pastor Billy Gragg, his wife Sandy, church secretary Lisa Shelton, and many others were present Thursday to celebrate with Dixon.
The young man's charismatic personality attracted a crowd to Walmart to honor the new "trucker."
"He's never met a stranger," his grandmother said.