September 30, 2016

Two Disabled Utahns, Two Stories of Ability

1) Daniel Eckhardt

EckhardtShoppers at the Smith’s Food and Drug on 455 South 500 East often pick the longest checkout line rather than the shortest. The reason? Daniel Eckhardt. He’s a bagger, a hard worker, and always happy—and excited—to be at work. His smile is contagious and people go out of their way to wait in his line.

Daniel has Down syndrome, but it doesn’t define him. A graduate of Skyline High School, Daniel worked with his dad, Scott, on construction jobs. He lost his mom to cancer and has endured open heart surgeries since he was a toddler, excels at video games and has a girlfriend. He’s worked at Smith’s for four years.

He misses his mom and thinks about her, but lives in the moment and enjoys each day. Whether working, playing or hanging out with his family, Daniel makes the most of what he’s got.

Smith’s store manager Landon Judd says, “Daniel brings smiles to lots of faces because he is always smiling and having a good time.” His happiness affects the mood of other employees and creates an upbeat, friendly atmosphere.

His favorite part of his job? “I like staying busy bagging.” And he is fast. Each item is slipped into a bag as it comes down the belt and before the customer can pay, their groceries are waiting in their cart.

In a world where everyone wants to start at the top rather than work their way from the bottom, it is refreshing to talk to someone who loves what he does and always does his best.

 —Connie Lewis

2) Jeremiah Maxey

Jeremiah Maxey, performing

Jeremiah Maxey, performing

“There is always a way to get around a disability.” Guitarist Jeremiah Maxey plays most of his own material and has written—and played—alongside bands such as Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Right Hand Band, and the Telluride Meltdown. He’s also missing his right arm below the elbow and a finger on his left hand as a result of a birth defect.

Maxey was introduced to the guitar by his dad, who was always playing classics like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young. “My sister started getting lessons when she was 10. I got really jealous and wanted to learn how to play. So my dad handed me the guitar. I couldn’t play with the standard guitar tuning. One of my dad’s friends told him about open tuning, and then found an old steel lap guitar at a pawn shop.”

Maxey graduated from Central High School and grew up skiing at Deer Valley. He started playing with a church band at Stansbury Park and became obsessed with music and guitar. At age 22, he started playing solo acoustic and then soon after started playing in bands. Maxey currently works at Deer Valley doing lodging reservations and at Esprit Management at their front desk. “I operate a computer, take calls, make reservations, and check people in. I can type using my prosthetic.”

I am a one-handed guitar player and I will always be, but it’s nice to be considered a good guitar player.”

 —Rich Markosian