Chicago, IL (September 25, 2015) – The full story of the man pictured in a photo that went “viral” this week is even more touching than you might imagine. The snapshot posted to Facebook by a customer showed McDonald’s employee Kenny helping Dan Garringer cut and eat his food. Many news outlets reported that Dan ordered his food then requested some help from Kenny, who promptly closed his till at the busy Union Station restaurant and helped Dan eat his meal. More than 1 million people have liked and shared the photo on social media, with many commenting about Kenny’s compassion and kindness. Kenny was given special recognition by the owner/operator of his McDonald’s franchise.
What many of those commenters don’t realize is that this photo speaks volumes to those who know the story of Dan’s life. Dan has cerebral palsy and has strived his entire life to live as independently as possible as a participating and valued member of his community.
“People with disabilities are just like everyone else. We love life and being part of our community. We go to restaurants, stores, the movies and coffee shops and take Metra and public transportation to be able to experience life as everyone else does,” Dan said. “I know that Kenny is getting all of the credit, but, in my mind, he is representing all of the employees at the Union Station McDonald’s. They are wonderful, caring people who make me feel that I am just like everyone else, and they do not treat me like I am a person with a disability…they treat me like I am just Dan, someone that loves McDonald’s fries.”
In 1993, Dan and his wife Clarina – who passed away last year – moved in a group home where UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago can provide the support and services he needs. UCP Seguin is an affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy, a nonprofit organization for people with disabilities.
Dan spent his childhood with his family but moved into a nursing home as an adult, where he met and married his wife. For years he was told he was “too handicapped” to work. But after he connected with UCP Seguin, he worked with a case worker to pursue a writing career. For more than a decade, he wrote a column for his local newspaper Suburban Life called “The View from Here.” Using just a thumb and forefinger on one hand, Dan wrote about human potential and advocated for people with disabilities to be fully included in life – concepts neatly captured in this one image.
“Dan often wrote about experiences very much like this…and many times the opposite of this, as he was faced with discrimination, insults, and worse,” said Jim Haptonstahl, Executive Vice President of UCP Seguin “He has been overwhelmed by the reaction to this story. But he’s good with it, if it promotes greater acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities in society.”
United Cerebral Palsy and its affiliates such as UCP Seguin advocate for that greater acceptance and inclusion, providing the services needed to ensure that people like Dan have the care, education, employment, housing and other opportunities they need.
“Every one of us has certain challenges,” said Jim. “Dan’s challenges mean he sometimes needs a little help from his fellow community members. Kenny gets that. And, that’s cool.”
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About UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago
Seguin of Greater Chicago is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit human services agency dedicated to enriching the lives of people with disabilities. Providing programs and services from birth to old age, UCP Seguin helps children and adults with disabilities achieve their potential, advance their independence and act as full members of the community. Its programs include innovative training and education, family support, employment and life-skills training, residential services, and foster care. For more information, visit www.ucpseguin.org.