Tags: Community & Outreach
Hayden’s Way students cheer after the big surprise. (click for larger version)
Happy tears as Shannon and Tyler Heath present $10,000 to Hayden’s Way special needs school. (click for larger version)
January 02, 2013ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Shannon Heath, an Alpharetta woman and single working mom, made a $10,000 donation to her son's school after appearing on the CBS national television show "Undercover Boss."
Heath had a lot on her plate this year. In the midst of purchasing her first house, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She put her dreams of being a homeowner on hold and moved in with her mother to care for her.
The Postnet she manages is owned by her parents, and with her mother's illness it was necessary for her to work significantly more hours to cover for her parents' absence. On top of that, she is a dedicated and loving mother to Tyler, her son with special needs.
Tyler has autism and attends Hayden's Way, a private school that embraces children with special needs. He may be thriving now, but it hasn't always been that way. When Tyler made the move from public school, he was terribly shy and also very sad, misunderstood by the majority of his teachers and classmates.
"When Tyler came to us, his spirit was broken," said Hayden's Way Principal Lei Rhyne. "The last day of public school he spent curled up under his desk.
"Tyler has made so much progress in the short time he's been here; he is a dramatically different child." Tyler was also quite a catalyst for the change in fortune that would soon come when Heath was told that the Postnet she manages would be filmed for a "small business challenge," and Postnet's CEO Steve Greenbaum disguised himself as "Brad," a seemingly clueless biker who Heath had to train as a new employee.
Tyler's charm rubbed off on the "undercover boss," and as "Brad" got to know Heath and Tyler throughout the show, he became more and more touched by their story. He was particularly struck by Heath's dedication to her son.
"I'm humbled beyond words by her commitment to her son. I don't think it's been easy for her," said Greenbaum. "How do you nurture and give that special child everything that he needs, and at the same time try to earn a living, try to purchase a home or have a home? It's got to be much more challenging than anything I've ever faced."
At the end of the show, Greenbaum turned his compassion into action. When his identity was revealed, he informed Heath that he would cover Tyler's tuition for Hayden's Way, and also help her with the down payment on her house. Finally, he presented her with a $10,000 donation to the autism charity organization of her choice.
On Dec. 7, the night the episode of "Undercover Boss" aired, Rhyne organized a viewing party at her house in support of them. Throughout the show, students cheered at every glimpse of Tyler's face on the big screen and he quickly hushed them, exasperated that they might miss a line.
When it was over, parents congratulated Heath with joyful tears, but she told them not to go anywhere. She then brought out a refrigerator-sized piece of cardboard covered in a blanket, which she unveiled as a giant check for $10,000 paid to the order of Hayden's Way. The students wasted no time in suggesting how to put the money to good use – field trips, the school's burgeoning theater program "Sensory Sensitive Kids," and a crowd favorite – building a water park.
For more on Hayden's Way, visit them online at www.haydensway.com.