‘McDonald’s is his world’
To Ken Gabour, he’s the meat person, grilling hamburgers during the lunch rush at the Blundell Centre McDonald’s. To many staff and regulars, he’s the man with the big heart.
Gabour recently celebrated his 20th year at the fast food outlet, where he’s touched many lives with his positive personality.
“I’m very very proud of him,” said sister Colleen Wright, who drives him to and from work every Monday and Wednesday.
“He’s come a long way. He works hard at what he does.”
Gabour, 40, has Down syndrome, a congenital disorder causing delays and limitations in physical and intellectual development. At work he faces challenges in communicating and concentrating, but according to his boss, he does his job as well as anyone.
Gabour grew up in Richmond, studying at Richmond Secondary and Kwantlen before entering the workforce. He’s also a Special Olympian.
At age 12 he began competing in numerous sports—from baseball and track and field to swimming and figure skating. He brought home many medals and trophies, but none bigger than a gold medal in figure skating from the Special Olympics World Games.
Gabour’s competitive days are now behind him. His new sport is weightlifting. Twice a week he’s at Watermania’s gym bench-pressing weights few could even imagine.
Athletics has long been a source of pride, as his job is today. On workdays he’s up at the crack of dawn, and by day’s end his uniform is first to be washed. He proved his commitment in an inter-restaurant coffee selling competition; Gabour cleaned out his own stash of change buying coffees.
And the cause for celebration on New Year’s Eve is not the calendar’s turn, but the mark of another year at McDonald’s.
“To Ken it’s his world. McDonald’s is his world. He’s proud of his work,” explained his sister. “He doesn’t feel he’s any different than anybody else. My mom brought him up like he was anybody else.”
Owner-operator Christine Campbell said Gabour has helped the restaurant’s many employees better understand people with disabilities.
“He’s given so much back and touched so many people in our business—young people—and changed attitudes over that time.”
Staff recently marked his 20 years with cake and gifts. In an interview at the restaurant Wednesday, Gabour described the milestone as “a long time,” adding his goal is to become a manager.
“I want to wear the shirt and tie,” he smiled.
Down syndrome has created challenges. But it’s given Gabour a chance to travel and compete as a Special Olympian and even appear in a movie. He also has a supportive family—and friends at a job he loves.
At birth, someone recommended institutional care. Another doctor disagreed, suggesting his mother Dorothy treat him as any other child.
That’s exactly what she did.