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McDonald’s Sponsors Resilience Training for West Virginia Teenagers

Photo by Joselyn King Wheeling Park High School Principal Meredith Dailer looks on as Army veteran Duncan Kirkwood discusses an online resilience training workshop he will conduct for West Virginia teens on May 20.

A military veteran trained to assist soldiers with coping mechanisms will share his experience with West Virginia youths courtesy of McDonald’s restaurants.

Duncan Kirkwood, a former 1st lieutenant in the Alabama National Guard, will present a free online resilience training workshop for teenagers across the state at 1:30 p.m. on May 20.

He is the author of “Rerouting: Resilience Tools and Tactics.” Local McDonald’s restaurants owned by the Stoltz family purchased 200 copies of the book, which will be distributed to WPHS students. Some copies will be kept at the school for reference by future students.

McDonald’s is the sponsor of the free workshop.

Kirkwood — whose background is in journalism and public relations — was trained to be a master resilience trainer during 40 hours of instruction over a two-week period by the military. Classes included training in overcoming thinking traps, building a spirit of gratitude, overcoming setbacks and changing how one thinks and approaches life.

There was also a focus on one should “respond” to situations rather than reacting. These are the tenants of resilience, according to Kirkwood.

He would go unit to unit to work with soldiers, and such aid was necessary, Kirkwood said. The military established the training after data showed more soldiers were dying of suicide than from combat action.

Kirkwood said over time he did see the training helping the soldiers over a long-term basis.

“I carried that with me. That was really the genesis to launch this going forward, to help people become the best version of themselves they can be.”

WPHS Principal Meredith Dailer welcomed Kirkwood to the school for a visit on Thursday, along with Ross and Bob Stoltz, owners of local McDonald’s restaurants, and Wheeling Councilman Ben Seidler.

Dailer noted that WPHS is one of only a few high schools in West Virginia that employs a full-time mental health specialist, Dr. Jill Maloney. She has worked in the school system four years ago.

“We believe this idea of resiliency and overcoming adversity is a strong piece as they move into adulthood,” Dailer said.

Bob Stoltz said his family operates 11 McDonald’s restaurants across the Ohio Valley.

“In our restaurants, we work with many young people across the area. And over the last year we have seen how much the pandemic has taken a toll on them — on their ability to face obstacles and overcome challenges with grace,” he said.

This inspired the restaurants to reach out to Kirkwood, then make his workshops free and virtual to students across the state, according to Stoltz.

The city of Wheeling was thanked for partnering with organizers for the project.

“In the world we are living in, we are fighting through a pandemic — hopefully an ‘end-emic,'” Seidler said. “We are also in the middle of a drug epidemic. These are things that knock us down in life, and resilience is so important. And it is important that we help people find success under failure.

There are 1,000 slots available for the virtual workshop, and more can be added if needed, according to Kirkwood. Pre-registration is available at www.tinyurl.com/99j9nctz.

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