OUR UNLIKELY HEROES, WADE AND BERT
By Arlene Anderson
I have tremendous respect and admiration for the God given talent, incredible hard work and dedication that it takes to be an MLB or Minor League player. At Sam Bat, we are constantly in awe of the baseball superstars we are privileged to work with. Our team of craftsmen strive to give our players simply the best product that we can. Our mission is to craft the best baseball bat available anywhere!
There are many deserving heroes in the world. Many young ball players hold professional players up to hero status… and why not? Surely the player that hits the walk-off home run in extra innings to win your home team the pennant is deserving of hero status. As the President/Owner of the best maple bat manufacturer in the world, many people ask me who my hero is. My hero is not a professional ball player. My hero is someone else.
The person to which I am referring does not possess the talents of a ballplayer. His hand eye co-ordination is less than wonderful. He is completely deaf without the aid of his cochlear implant being operational. It goes off when the battery dies or gets wet – then suddenly the world goes silent. As a result of his rare MELAS condition, at age 40 he has suffered several strokes, he needs a walker, and his eyesight has deteriorated. He requires the use of a Service Dog. Through it all, he has fought hard for his autonomy with the unfailing help of his sister.
I became aware of Wade Willson when Shelley from the Canadian Career Academy in Carleton Place asked if I could assess whether or not a person she was trying to place for a job was able to do accounting. Placing people can be difficult but placing a person not only with a hearing impairment, but also needing to have a Service Dog in the office might be next to impossible.
Wade, the person Shelley was trying to place, had toiled in courses at Algonquin College for years but experienced anxiety when it came to exams. The exams were often at night when arranging transport for him and his Service Dog Bert was difficult. Through it all, his dream was to be an accountant! Shelley and I had a semi hysterical laugh at that one! As a CPA, I do understand wanting to become an accountant, but I had never heard it described as a dream.
Thinking about Wade over the Christmas holiday, I thought that Shelley would have a very hard time getting him placed. Sam Bat is an interesting band of eclectic individuals and I thought to myself, well why don’t we give him a try on a part-time basis. The idea of a dog being in the office appealed to me and the upside would be that Wade wouldn’t hear my muttering comments under my breath as I worked. When I mentioned this to my elderly mother, she didn’t say much, but at the end of the holiday when I mentioned it again said “you know, it might be nice to have him in the office and you need the help dear”.
Shelley brought Wade in for a casual interview and I have never had anyone undersell themselves as much as he did. Asked if he could do certain things he used terms such as “possibly”, “I guess” and “I think so”. He appeared somewhat frail and he was apprehensive. He did however clearly have a quick wit and sense of humour. Shelley was valiantly trying to get him to articulate what he could do and wanted to do, but Wade was making it difficult. Wade’s dark eyes though have a penetrating gaze, and he has an engaging manner. I remember thinking that not much got by him. Getting the impression that he was doing an undersell job so that there would be no disappointment factor, I told them that I would give them a try. I could not have predicted just how much we would come to care for Wade and Bert.
There was not one morning when Wade came through the door when he did not greet the group with a smile. He has a great sense of humour. Checking out his Linkedin profile, he had the dubious title of “Unemployed at Unemployed”. Well, clearly he wanted to work. Wade worked diligently on all tasks including MLB reports. Accounting can be tedious but Wade delighted in it, all while keeping his sense of humor. When asked if he liked working at Sam Bat his dry response was a quick “well I eat better”.
To be completely honest, poodles have never been my favorite breed of dog. Bert has managed to sway me. Bert has two personalities; “on the job” and “off the job”. Nothing much escapes him either! He too has an intelligent, penetrating gaze that makes you feel as if he can tell what you are thinking. Bert systematically won over even those in the office who were not dog fans. Each morning we would hear the jingle of his tags as he bounded up to the office in front of Wade, making his rounds to each person to say hello.
After about a week on the job Wade and I were working late and he told me what had caused his hearing loss. He got me to look up MELAS Syndrome on the internet. It is an untreatable condition that affects the brain and nervous systems. Many patients suffer stroke-like episodes and loss of vision or hearing. As a result of the condition, Wade started to lose his hearing at 13 and was completely deaf by the time he was 19.
Wade worked for Sam Bat for a year and a half before he suffered a severe stroke associated with his condition. He is back on the path to recovery, but there is a long way to go. A few weeks ago he was thrilled to be able to pick up a plate of cheezies, and bring it from one table to another without a spill. We miss Wade and Bert greatly, but we have hope that he will be back in the new year to look after our MLB reports.
Wade is my hero. I have always had strong admiration for those who fight through adversity without complaint. Wade has had more than his share of adversity and has kept his sense of humor throughout. I never fail to be inspired when I think about Wade.
Our hope is that by telling the story that more employers will consider hiring persons with challenges and that by introducing the “Bert” Bat we may be able to help support Service Dogs. 20% from every Bert Bat sold will go to the Lions Club and “Dogs for the Deaf.” Each bat will also come with a free Bert Bat Tag, perfect for your bat bag or keychain.
In honour of Wade and Bert, we are proud to announce the launch of the Bert Bat!
Each Bert Bat comes with 1 free Bert Bag Tag, perfect for your bat bag or key chain.
Help Support Guide Dogs!
Arlene B Anderson