Many people just want construction projects to end. Whether the work is transportation, industrial, building or concrete, some part of the nearby community is ready to see heavy equipment pull away for the last time.
That’s not true at the Harrah’s Ak-Chin Resort and Casino Expansion near Maricopa, Arizona. Matthew Sabetta, 14, and his grandmother, Melanie Warthman, will be a little disappointed when our joint venture project with Yates Construction is complete.
Melanie, who takes care of Matthew during the week, lives 10 minutes from the resort. The two come to the site most days and have formed a bond with the on-site team. Matthew is one of the friendliest people around, waving to crew members and striking up conversations.
“Matthew has a social piece to his personality,” Melanie said. “He wants to greet everybody. From the first day we hit the job site, he was waving to people. It was the concrete guys who connected with him first.”
Matthew has a rare genetic condition called Williams Syndrome, which is characterized by medical problems including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges. These often occur in concert with striking verbal abilities and highly social personalities.
Team members treat Matthew like an honorary crew member. They gave him the gear necessary for being around the site: a hard hat, safety glasses, a vest, gloves, and a security badge. They sometimes take Matthew and Melanie inside the fence for tours and conversation about concrete work.
“It shows a whole different side of construction,” Melanie said. “It speaks volumes about the kind of employees you have.”
To show their appreciation for the crew’s welcoming attitude, Matthew and Melanie brought sandwiches and chips to the crew one day in June.
“He was so excited to meet these people who are so kind to him,” Melanie said. “He said, ‘Grandma, I need to go celebrate my friends.’ ”
In acknowledgment, the crew wanted to give Matthew a surprise. Transportation Superintendent Chris Shea’s idea was to present Matthew with something to remember the project and team. Chris and Project Superintendent Todd Gantter knew Project Controls Manager Jesse McDonald kept a few trophies – miniature concrete trucks – from the annual Associated Schools of Construction Student Competition in Nevada. Jesse told them he had one left.
Concrete Area Manager Danny Gumm enthusiastically played the role of go-between, picking up the trophy from Jesse and driving it to the Ak-Chin site. When lunch was delivered, the crew created a diversion so the mini-truck and a long-sleeved concrete team T-shirt would be a surprise.
“It was totally unexpected,” Melanie said. “When someone told him there was a concrete truck coming, he was looking out the window. They put it at his place at the table. He was thrilled and talked about it for hours. It made Matthew’s day.”
Chris said: “We had the ultimate gift to present to our project’s biggest fan. Just getting to see the smile on his face when presented with the Sundt concrete truck made this project one of the best I have been on.”