One of the biggest questions facing parents of children with cerebral palsy is how their child will someday tackle the challenges of cerebral palsy in the workplace. While adults with cerebral palsy do indeed face unique challenges in any job, it is just as possible for those working with cerebral palsy to find a rewarding profession where they can excel and do good in the world.
A shining example of working with cerebral palsy is 40-year-old Kevin Woolley. Kevin suffers from congenital cerebral palsy, meaning that the condition began before he was born. A lack of oxygen during the birthing process caused congenital cp, damaging the part of his brain that controls fine motor skills. As a result, he walks with a severe limp and has difficulty using his hands to grasp things. He also speaks with a slur.
However, nothing about his intellect was impaired, as customers at the Home Depot in Neptune, New Jersey can attest. After 20 years with the company, he has become something of a legend in the area for his encyclopedic knowledge of the company and its products as well as for his outstanding customer service.
Customer Service with a Smile
We have all experienced the frustration of searching for a salesperson who can answer our questions. Kevin Woolley turns that notion on its head—customers choose his Home Depot location above others in the area because they appreciate being helped by him.
Not only is he efficient and informative—with sought-after opinions on everything from nail size to planer blades—but he makes every interaction better with his natural friendliness and charm. Even other sales associates seek him out for his expertise. In the words of one fellow employee, “He knows it all.”
Along with asking for Kevin by name when they visit the store, Home Depot customers greet him whenever they see him out in the community. Kevin’s father Henry Woolley says that they are routinely stopped by people he has never seen before, who want to say hello to Kevin.
Overcoming the Challenges of Working with Cerebral Palsy
There are certain challenges for Kevin that come with the job. His full-time schedule means he’s on his feet 40 hours a week—a challenge for anyone, but especially for someone who walks with difficulty. Certain tasks, like climbing ladders, are not possible for him.
But the assets he brings to the position more than make up for any limits in his ability. Kevin’s father attests that while he can’t assemble, say, a treehouse or a barbecue on his own, he can walk a person step by step through the process. At this point, he has worked in every department of the store and knows the company inside and out.
“I could work anywhere they want to put me,” Kevin says. “I know what I can and can’t do, and they know what I can and can’t do.”
“Do The Best You Can”
Kevin’s entire life has been marked by pluck and perseverance. Not only did he run track in high school, but he also served as a manager of his high school football team. He moved from New Jersey to Colorado in 1998 to live near his brother and found a job at the local Home Depot. When he returned to New Jersey, he stayed with the company. There, he immediately made a strong impression on his boss and the community.
Kevin’s boss, Phil Kramer, says that when he was first hired to be the Neptune store manager, he came to visit the location incognito, before anyone knew who he was. Kevin was the only sales associate who greeted him and asked if he needed any help.
Since then, Kramer has only become more impressed with Kevin’s work ethic, his eagerness to be of service, and the rapport he creates that keeps their customers coming back.
“This guy,” Kramer says, “lives and breathes what we’re trying to do every day.”
For his part, Kevin is characteristically humble about the value he offers his company:
“That’s just the way I am. That’s the way I was brought up. Do the best you can.”