‘Great little boy’ to get big truck parade, party thanks to Walmart Heart

If bravery is the ability to face dangerous situations with courage, few kids are as brave as Caleb Schrelick.

In honor of Caleb, a local child who has faced and survived incredible struggles every day since birth, the city of Columbus and Caleb’s father’s employer, Walmart, are throwing a parade in the boy’s honor.

Those involved, including Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop, are asking that people out and about on Saturday morning take just a few moments to waive to Caleb as he’s driven along the parade route.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Columbus East High School, the parade route will wind along North Marr Road, 17th Street, National Road, 25th Street, Central Avenue, Third Street, Jonathan Moore Pike and Carr Hill Road until it ends at about 10:30 a.m. at the Walmart Supercenter at 2025 Merchant Mile.

The child’s special day has been organized by Walmart Heart, a group of Walmart drivers and associates dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities. Their goal is to make the child feel special and to provide them a break from their normal daily routines, Walmart spokeswoman Tammy Wyrick said.

Although the store hosts the “Shop With A Cop” event every December and provides substantial donations to hundreds of children in both Brown and Bartholomew counties, this event will give the store employees an opportunity to care for the son of one of their own. Caleb’s father, Justin Schrelick, is a 10-year employee of the superstore, holding the title of assistant manager. His mother, Sarah Schrelick, is a former longtime Walmart employee.

No parent would want their child to endure what Caleb has gone through. He was born a micro-preemie, considered the most premature babies of all. Born on or before 26 weeks after conception and weighing less than 2 pounds, micro-preemies appear to have thin skin that appears sticky or gelatinous with visible veins.

Caleb arrived in this world weighing just 1.2 pounds at birth, but has managed to grow into a preschooler. Sadly, his twin brother, Matthew, did not survive.

While Caleb will turn 5 in late November, he still faces serious medical issues such as hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain, enlarging the head and sometimes causing brain damage. He also suffers from cerebral palsy, which affects a person’s ability to move, as well as maintain balance and posture.

Other possible long-term effects that might develop include chronic lung disease, cognitive problems, trouble with food digestion and hearing loss.

But despite all the struggles and challenges he has already faced, Wyrick says Caleb “is a great little boy with a big smile and a great attitude.”

Before the parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Caleb will be made an honorary Walmart truck driver and provided with his own uniform shirt.

The preschooler will ride in a semi-truck parade and positioned so he can see well-wishers along the parade route smile and wave at him as his truck goes by.

After the parade ends at the west side Walmart off Merchant Mile, a celebration will be held that will feature balloons, cake, gift cards and perhaps a few surprises from friends and family.

While the Walmart Heart charity operates across the United States, few people know it has its origin in neighboring Jackson County.

In 2006, four Walmart truck drivers came together at Walmart’s Distribution Center in Seymour to brainstorm ways they could make a positive impact on the communities they serve.

While they were talking, the truckers heard the story of a sick boy named Jack Scott. The child’s mother had called her local Walmart with a dilemma: Her son needed to stay up all night for a surgery.

In response, the store manager agreed to keep the store open all night, and a Walmart trucker who made a delivery to the store that night stayed with the boy and kept him company.

That story gave truckers Rickey Oliver, Phillip Hargrove, Danny Ewell and Greg Carter all the incentive they needed to start helping sick and special needs children. The program they founded — the Walmart Heart Program — now reportedly has thousands of truck drivers involved.

The program has even gone on to inspire other charitable acts that include a spin-off program called “Feed Them for Freedom”, an annual cookout for veterans and military personnel. The group has also hosted teddy bear giveaways and helped with Christmas charity events.

Parade route

A semi parade beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday in honor of Caleb Schrelick, a 4-year-old with serious health issues since birth, will begin at Columbus East High School and follow this route:

  • Leave Columbus East High School proceeding north on North Marr Road to 17th Street.
  • Right on 17th Street, continuing east to U.S. 31 (National Road).
  • Left on National Road, continuing to 25th Street.
  • Left on 25th Street until the parade route reaches Central Avenue.
  • Left on Central Avenue and follow Third Street through the downtown area to Jonathan Moore Pike (State Road 46) and continuing to Carr Hill Road.
  • Turn left on Carr Hill, concluding outside Walmart on Merchant Mile.