By Dan Whiting

Estimated Reading Time: 16 min.

Kendall Clay Doub — who goes by Clay — has full mutation Fragile X syndrome. He also has two jobs! (I only have one, by the way.)

Clay lives independently and has worked at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority↗ for 24 years, and at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Family YMCA↗ the last seven years.

In addition to his ability to perform his assigned duties, Clay’s unique character strengths play directly into his success as an employee. For his employers, because they’ve actively embraced inclusion of neurodiverse employees, they’ve filled a need for their business and also added tremendous value to their clients.

For example, his work at the YMCA. How often does finding the ideal employee for a set of required tasks also deliver increased engagement among the clientele?

Clay at work at the YMCAClay Doub is one of our Extraordinary Employees.

Clay started working at the YMCA in 2014. His duties are to maintain a clean facility that includes wiping down equipment, taking out the trash, washing and folding towels, etc.

While Clay cleans the facility his favorite duty is engaging with the members. He remembers all of their names and always greets them with a friendly smile. The members always ask him about sports such as, “Hey Clay, what was the score of the game last night?” Clay always replies back with the correct answer.

Clay is a very valuable employee. Without Clay, a part of our Y family would be missing. When you think of the YMCA you automatically think of Clay. If anything,

Clay is our YMCA mascot, he exudes the Y’s core values: caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.

Rose Yelito Nimmo
Health and Wellness Director & Fitness Trainer, Group Fitness Programs
Valdosta-Lowndes County Family YMCA

Another example is how inclusion improves team culture. At Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority, having Clay as part of their team makes everyone’s work more enjoyable, meaningful, and rewarding.

I have worked at the VLPRA [Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority] Senior Center for over 10 years and Clay Doub has been an essential part of our staff even beyond my time here.

Clay comes in and gets right to work. He is always willing to lend a helping hand beyond his assigned tasks. Our members at the senior center look forward to chatting with him about any and everything. He keeps all of us updated on the latest movies to see and we always have a blast each college football season to see which of our teams will come out on top.

He is a kind soul with a big heart that brings us much joy.

Temetrece Brown
Center Supervisor, Senior Center
Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority
Clay Doub standing next to a Senior Citizens Center sign outdoors

The Whole Story

When we reached out and asked families and self-advocates to share their stories of Xtraordinary employees, June Lawson introduced us to her son and his employers. But what led up to Clay holding two jobs — both of which he truly enjoys — and living on his own?

Clay lives in Valdosta, population 56,095, in southern Georgia. He was born in 1978 and raised by June, a single parent.

The First 3 Years

As Clay grew from infant to toddler, June noticed he wasn’t progressing at the same rate as his cousin, who was his same age. As you, our dear readers already guessed, Clay wasn’t doing what most babies do, he wasn’t reaching his developmental milestones↗.

Clay struggled with speech and in how he played, learned, acted, and moved — except for walking. And running. Here’s how June described his running in a Valdosta Daily Times interview↗: “He would run and run and run until he ran into a fence or a brick wall.” June didn’t yet know how this observation would play into Clay’s future.

When Clay was 2 years old, June took him to see Dr. Thomas Anderson. He was not the first doctor she’d been to, but this doctor was determined to figure out what was going on and — after much research — was able to diagnose Clay with Fragile X syndrome. (Thank goodness for people like Dr. Anderson.)

From there, Clay worked with therapists and clinicians for his speech and other delayed issues, and with special education teachers once he entered the public school system.

Growing Up

Quiet, shy, and sensitive to noise, Clay kept mostly to himself throughout his elementary school years. After school, he’d take a bus to the YMCA (yes, the same Y!) where June would pick him up on the way home from work.

In high school, Clay was still prone to shyness and nervousness so it was decided that sports might be good for him, which proved to be a turning point in his life.

The sights and sounds of being in the gym with other students had previously put Clay on edge, but when the coach of the Valdosta High School basketball team made Clay the team manager, he was soon the loudest person in the room!

Clay became the team’s number one fan, and his new role and sense of belonging launched the next chapter for Clay. Clay was and will always be a sports fan, but it was around this time that he joined the “other” side — as an athlete himself.

Also See: The National Fragile X Foundation joined forces with the new CEO Commission on Disability Employment so we can work together to eliminate barriers to employment for all individuals with a disability: Expanding Employment Opportunities

Athletic Career

Clay jumped right into his role as an athlete. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Clay’s sports résumé begins in high school, but graduation (1997) didn’t slow him down one bit. Sports, teamwork, and competition — including Special Olympics and Special Olympics Georgia — remain a core part of his life.

Clay’s sports résumé includes:

  • Special Olympics Georgia, Basketball Athlete of the Year (1995)
  • Naismith Award for Special Olympics (1995)
  • Achievement Award from the Mayor’s Council for Persons with Disabilities↗ (1998)
  • Special Olympics Georgia competitor — Aquatics, Equestrian, Floor Hockey, Basketball, Bowling, Softball, Flag Football
  • Special Olympics Georgia, Gold Medalist — Aquatics: 50 Meter Breaststroke; 4-Person Freestyle Relay (Anchor Leg)
  • World Special Olympics Games, Bronze Medalist — U.S. Floor Hockey Team (Center)
Swimming the breast stroke

In 2003, Clay served as an adult ambassador for Easter Seals, Southern Georgia. It also turns out that Easter Seals works to find apartments for people with special needs. With June’s help, Clay lives independently in one of these apartments.

As already mentioned, he began working at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority in 1997, and at the YMCA in 2014. Clay’s story is a testament that we can all build a life based on what we’re good at, what interests us, and what brings us joy.

We also hope his story inspires employers about the unique perspectives, enthusiasm, and loyalty they’ll find when hiring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The NFXF is available to anyone who wants more information about Fragile X and the Fragile X community, and can be reached at (800) 688-8765 or dan@fragilex.org.

Tell Us About An Xtraordinary Employee in Your Life

Do you know someone with Fragile X who volunteers or has a part- or full-time job? Let us know using the form below, we’d love to hear about them!

author
Author Dan Whiting

Dan Whiting
Dan is the NFXF director of community impact and has been a member of the NFXF team since 2017. He is passionate about helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live better lives. He has over 23 years of experience in public policy and communications, including 11 years as a staff member for a U.S. Senator, in the Bush Administration as Chief of Staff at an agency, and as a senior strategist for communication initiatives across the DOD. He loves spending time with his family and friends and dreams of either being an artisan woodworker or comedy writer – or both at the same time.

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