After losing their first child to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), Tim and Dea Christian were excited to be expecting another baby. Kyle was welcomed into the world with extra love and caution after the experience they had encountered with their firstborn.
After three months, their worst fears came true, and Kyle started to have complications. His brain had multiple blood clots that ended up causing permanent damage resulting in intellectual disabilities.
At the time, Dea recalls going through a long period of “self-pity.” She struggled with many questions and depression over her second son’s challenges and the thought of her family’s future. One day, she had the realization that she was lucky to have her family and needed to have a more positive outlook on life.
“I finally snapped out of it and realized that Kyle was growing and progressing and that he could live a full life,” Dea said. She decided that she and her husband would be the foundation for Kyle’s success. She needed to stop feeling sorry for her situation and start advocating for Kyle; that is exactly what she did.
Dea looped in with the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD) and Marca’s early childhood programs.
“Epworth had an inclusive preschool program at the time, and we sent Kyle to that. I was amazed at how well he did and how much he learned. It was about this time that I realized Kyle could do anything,” Dea reflected.
Dea admits that the school-age years were rough, and she quit her job to become Kyle’s full-time advocate. As a result, not only did Kyle get through school, but he was the first student with a developmental disability to complete a work program while in high school.
“I like to work. Completing a job and doing it well makes me feel good,” Kyle said of those early days of his first taste of employment.
Kyle is thirty-three years old now and has been successfully employed since that first job in high school.
“He had a lot of help along the way. Wes Pinney and Sabrina Adkins from the County Board of DD deserve much credit for helping Kyle, along with Trisha Basil, his job coach, for several years. His Grandparents, George and Eileen Christian, have been instrumental. And, of course, his father, Tim, has always shown him a good work ethic and how to be a great employee,” Dea said.
Kyle has had a few different employers through the years, but he feels he has found his home at the McDonald’s on State Route 95 in Marion. Kyle has been there for over a year now and has a fantastic support system in his work family.
“Angie is awesome,” Kyle exclaimed when asked about his work friends. “She is just a really good person to work for.”
Angie Drake, Store Manager, has been with McDonald’s for thirty-one years and believes anyone can be a great employee if you find their strengths and encourage them to do their best.
“My perspective? Kyle is amazing. Employers need to employ those with developmental disabilities. They are often more loyal, hard-working, and most importantly super capable,” Drake explains her decision to hire Kyle.
She said Kyle has been great in so many ways. “He’s not afraid to learn something new. If he sees something that needs doing, he does it and takes the initiative to learn. Who could ask for more than that from an employee,” she adds.
Kyle is very proud that he has earned several “Bravo Bucks.” Bravo Bucks are cash rewards that McDonald’s employees can receive when their name is mentioned by co-workers or restaurant patrons.
“He’s earned over a hundred dollars in Bravo Bucks, and that is because he is always kind and helpful. People notice that” Drake said.
Kyle’s work ethic has recently been recognized by the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities through his own billboard on Main Street.
When the Christians were asked to reflect on the span of Kyle’s life so far, Dea got emotional.
“He has worked so hard for every success he has had. To see him be recognized is so rewarding for him and us,” Dea said. “We are not going to be around forever. His success and independence have been a huge focus of our lives as parents. Both have come to fruition, and we couldn’t be prouder.”
Christian ends her reflection with pride and says, “He is making a difference in our community. What parent would not be proud of that?”
Kyle Christian is just one of many people in Marion County with developmental disabilities who are successfully employed. Help the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities celebrate them all by visiting their Facebook page and learning about those who are served.