I want to start by saying what a privilege it’s been embarking on my new role as General Manager, Walmart at Thrive Global, where one of our core values is joy. The work we’re doing is deeply meaningful to me, and I am so inspired by the impact the Thrive Challenge is having on Walmart associates who are changing their lives for the better — one Microstep at a time.

Whether they’re recovering from serious health conditions, rebuilding their finances, or reconnecting with loved ones, associates are finding joy on their unique Thrive Challenge journeys. And that joy is utterly infectious and profoundly moving. The stories from these individuals are nothing short of remarkable. Below are a few stories from our Thrive Challenge community that I want to share with you and celebrate.

Read on for six stories to uplift, inspire, and bring a smile to your face. 

1. Julius Warren, Deli/Rotisserie, Sam’s Club #6572; Knoxville, TN

Julius’s story is an extraordinary example of resilience and commitment. Julius struggled with opiate addiction and has now been sober for 11 years. He downloaded the Thrive app to get extra support in his career and family life. Julius has become an avid work-out enthusiast. “I go to the YMCA, which helps me start my day off the right way, and I consider my workouts to be my peaceful time.” And most significantly, he’s devoting time to his partner, Ashley, and their five-year-old son.

“The Thrive Challenge has helped me be the dad I always wanted to be. We walk around the park and go to the zoo; J.J. loves the tigers. I take him fishing to the lake in Alcoa Park, and he is always so full of joy. And that brings me joy. A few weeks ago we all went out on a boat down the Tennessee River. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I can’t ask for a better feeling than being with my family. I live for it — that’s what gets me going in the morning. My goal for the future: I want to help people who might be going through what I went through and share my story about how I overcame addiction.” 

And here’s one more delightful detail about his story: “I’m saving to buy an engagement ring for Ashley, and then I’m planning on proposing! She’s been my support system for so long and we’re so happy. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for everything in my life. Life is a blessing.”

2. Marla Blanshan, Pharmacy Technician, Supercenter #5433; Hot Springs Village, AR

I’m incredibly moved by Marla’s story. This mom of eight found herself caregiving for her disabled husband and couldn’t make ends meet. Marla had been a stay-at-home mom, but summoned the courage to go back to work, got a job at Walmart, and signed up for Thrive. She’s single-handedly rebuilding her family’s finances, as well as building her own self-confidence. 

“My husband, Robert, became disabled. We’ve raised eight children together and we have three grandkids. But we were drowning financially and almost lost our home. I got a job as a cashier at Walmart and I was terrified of going out to work. But once I started, I loved it and I got two customer service awards. Then my co-worker, Sheila, who had introduced me to the Thrive Challenge, said: “We want you in the pharmacy!” Now I’m a pharmacy technician. I can’t believe that at 51, I’m going to school and have a great career. I can’t even begin to describe what a gift the Thrive Challenge has been for me. My family is financially secure; I’ve saved our house from foreclosure. And I’ve shown Robert that together, we can overcome anything.”

3. Keisha Staples, Digital/S1 Coach, Supercenter #5823; Dallas, TX

I’m in awe of Keisha’s story and love that we’re both Texans! I had a chance to connect with her this week on Zoom. She’s been with Walmart for over 22 years and role models well-being for her team using Thrive. She credits her Thrive Challenge journey with providing invaluable support. One thing that’s made a huge difference: Keisha and Ken, her husband, are taking the Thrive Challenge together, which she says is bonding for both of them.

“We started by making time to talk to each other. We turn off the T.V. before we go to bed and listen to meditations on the Thrive app, with calming music and nature sounds. We’re doing DIY projects together. We built a deck in the backyard, which was great fun. We’re also having couples counseling; it’s been tremendous for our relationship. We’ve learned to be kind and say affectionate things to each other like, ‘I appreciate you. I love you. Thank you.’ The Challenge has helped save my marriage. It’s helped me turn my life around.”

4. Aarron Buzzard, Asset Operations Protection Coach, Supercenter #5218, St. Petersburg, FL

Another wonderfully inspiring story: Aarron knew he had to make serious changes to his lifestyle when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. “I wasn’t what I’d call an ideal dad,” Aarron told us. With the support of the Thrive Challenge, this is how he tells us he’s feeling now.

“I’ve lost 78 pounds, 43% of my excess body fat in two years, my doctor said I’m not diabetic anymore and I am not on insulin anymore. I was also in the later stages of renal failure, but that has been reversed too. I have less stress, I’m more confident, and I know now that I’ll be there for my kids to help them make good decisions in life. I have more energy and spend time with the children,” says Aarron. “I play UNO with my autistic son (he usually wins!) and we all have family game nights and movie nights. My oldest, Michael who’s 18, also works at Walmart. I hang out with my wife more, just us two, whether it’s going to the shooting range or grocery shopping. She’s my biggest supporter and I’m feeling great.”

5. Kathy Kappes, Optician, Supercenter #1547; Lafayette, IN 

Kathy is a Walmart optician who, at age 61, found out she had aggressive uterine cancer, and had tragically lost her mother to the same type of cancer. She says her Thrive Microsteps, like eating nutritious meals and playing with her grandkids, have brought joy back into her life.

“I’m so happy I can play with my grandson again. When he comes over now, he knows that ‘Mawmaw’ (his name for me) will play croquet outside with him. Oh my goodness, I can actually pick him up and give him hugs! At work, I’m listening more to my patients,” says Kathy. “One lady came in who had gone through cancer and we were able to empathize with each other and connect. I’m in remission, I’m cancer-free, and the future looks bright. Larry and I have been married for 41 years, and we’re enjoying life again. My daughter’s encouraging me to do a half marathon with her. I don’t know whether I’ll be walking or running, but I know I will do it.” 

6. Brandan Russell, Senior Meat Cutter, Supercenter #8189; Clarksburg, WV

Single dad Brandan was dealing with some serious challenges. His father’s in prison, he wanted to lose weight, and he was depressed. “I decided to do better, because I intend to be 100% there for my little girl, Amelia. She’s my driving force,” he told us.

I’m so inspired that Brandan’s Thrive Challenge journey has supported him in becoming a fulfilled and joyful parent. “Amelia’s with me for half the week and I’m so happy when I’m with her. We’ll walk to the park and go to the playground. She likes climbing on the monkey bars and getting to know the other kids.” 

Brandan lost 41 pounds. He is happier than ever in his job as a senior meat cutter, and has impressive ambitions. He’s also known to his customers for sharing his fantastic recipes. 

“At work, I’m connecting with associates and customers. I’ll ask customers how their life is going. I’m always helping them find better deals with cuts of meat and giving them cooking recommendations, like my great recipe for Korean beef barbecue. I dice up top sirloin, sauté it in a skillet with garlic and celery, and add Korean sauce. My goal: to become a store manager. I want to run the store making sure everyone is happy.”


It’s your time to Thrive! Walmart and Sam’s Club Associates have free access to Thrive. Sign up here and submit your story for a chance to win part of a $1,000,000 prize pool.

Author(s)

  • MT Grant

    General Manager, Walmart

    Thrive Global

    MT leads Thrive Global's partnership with Walmart, impacting the well-being of over 2 million associates. Previously, MT served as Thrive's VP of Customer Success, Strategic Accounts. Prior to Thrive, MT held senior roles at Gusto and Pilot. She resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband Chris and pup Bash.