Those who know Ryan Shea say it’s in his nature to help others and work hard. The Chandler 20-year-old’s bedroom walls display awards and plaques. His Boy Scout badges and uniform are laid out in one corner, next to his Eagle Scout award. And airplane posters cover the walls.
He even wanted to fly planes and piloted a Cessna 172 from Mesa’s Falcon Field to the Chandler airport, twice. “He couldn’t reach the pedals, but his instructor helped him,” said his dad, Bill Shea.
Ryan Shea doesn’t let his disability, known as hypochondroplasia, get in his way. Hypochondroplasia is a form of short-limb dwarfism.
Besides his short stature, Shea said he has problems pronouncing some words and sometimes can’t think of the right words to express his thoughts.
At Hamilton High School, where Shea is a senior, he is involved in Chandler Gilbert Arc, a transitional program that helps special-needs students with real-world issues.
He also works a part-time job as a courtesy clerk at Bashas’ at Alma School and Queen Creek roads in Chandler.
Last week, he was named Employee of the Year by the Chandler Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities. Shea received the award March 5 at the City Council meeting, with 10 proud family members cheering him on.
Shea’s best friend, Anthony Guglielmo, also received the Student of the Year award by the committee that same night.
Shea’s uncle, Steve Shea, was one of the family members at the ceremony.
“He’s the best,” he said. “He was sent here from God to be our little angel.”
Ryan Shea has worked at Bashas’ for five years, training new clerks, retrieving carts in the parking lot and greeting customers, such as Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn.
Dunn said the Bashas’ is the closest store to his neighborhood, and he recognized Shea when he got the award.
“He’s just one of those very friendly employees that you remember,” the mayor said. “He seems to always enjoy what he’s doing.”
Shea is proud of his work ethic, and said he never stops working.
“They never have to tell me what to do,” he said. “It’s a great job.”
As a testament to his hard work, he was recently named the Courtesy Clerk of the Year for the southern division of Bashas’, which encompasses 15 to 20 stores, said his boss, David Thomas.
“He’s a wonderful worker,” said Thomas of Chandler. “A lot of times he comes to me when he sees something that needs to be done, and he asks if he can do it.”
Shea is well-liked at school and often helps out other students. In 2003, he was named the high school student of the year. At Chandler’s Willis Junior High School, he received the superintendent’s outstanding citizenship award in 2000. He earned the award for pushing a fellow student’s wheelchair from the bus to the school every morning.
When he’s not working or hanging out with his friends, Shea is helping his family. He visits his grandfather, Don Shea, every day after school to help him out since his grandmother recently died. He feeds the chickens, takes out the garbage and keeps him company.
When he graduates in May, Shea wants to train to be a cashier at Bashas’ and go to Chandler-Gilbert Community College to study computers.