Michael Wayne O’Neill, 20, is a graduate of Porter Ridge High School. He caught the attention of the Indian Trail Town Council earlier this year when his poem, “Autism is a Miracle,” went viral. The poem speaks the truth about autism from his perspective and how it has opened doors for him to connect with people. O’Neill read his poem in front of Town Council at the April 9 meeting. He was also interviewed by WCNC Charlotte about the poem.
O’Neill and his family moved to the area 14 years ago to become a part of the Union County Public Schools. According to his mother, Marla, O’Neill faced several struggles in elementary school and early middle school due to his autism spectrum disorder. The turning point came when the eighth-grade football coach asked him to be the water boy for the team. This gave O’Neill the opportunity to integrate into the community like he never had before. He continued working with the football team through high school, which allowed him to connect with other coaches and players throughout the county, where he received the “Mr. Union County” moniker.
“I love Indian Trail, Union County and the community of people here who love me and embrace me like one of their own,” O’Neill said. “As Grand Marshal, I look forward to meeting new people and representing the Town of Indian Trail. I credit Jesus Christ for putting me in the position to be able to do this.”
O’Neill is a full-time student at Central Piedmont Community College, where he plans to graduate with an associate degree in applied science. He then hopes to transfer to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to study journalism and communications. He currently works part time at Chick-fil-A and is an intern with The Enquirer Journal in the City of Monroe. His goal is to one day become a broadcast journalist.
In addition to being named Grand Marshal, O’Neill will be appointed Mayor for the Day and given a key to the city before the parade begins. O’Neill will kick off the parade, alongside Mayor Michael Alvarez, at 11:30 a.m. beginning at Post Office Drive. Floats will travel the one mile to Old Monroe Road, where the parade will conclude. Numerous spots will be available along the route to watch the parade. Those unable to attend will be able to watch the parade live through the Town’s Facebook page. This year’s event is sponsored by Capital CDJR of Indian Trail.
“The July 4th Parade is a great opportunity to bring the community together to celebrate,” said Hayden Kramer, Parks and Recreation manager. “Indian Trail has a proud tradition of hosting the parade, and it is something that residents look forward to annually. We are proud to host Grand Marshal O’Neill for the day and look forward to celebrating with the Town.”