I wanted to share with everyone my thoughts on the journey that lay before us, and what brought me here. First off, let me tell everyone that I have always had a strong believe in God and that he had a plan for my life. I also want to make it known that as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a dad. Funny thing is I never imagined having a girl. I always knew I would have a son! Ok, on with my story,
Growing up, I always had a bigger than life imagination. If I was going to do something it was going to be the biggest and the best.
If you asked me what I was going to be doing when I was older, I would have said an actor, or be a famous musician. Never mind that I lacked the skills and was painfully shy, I was going to be a star! I spent my younger years dreaming of the day I could embark on my journey to stardom, while at the same time spending my summers in a summer school program with a mix of mainstream and special needs kids. All the memories of those summer days filling my mind and heart with compassion and a fondness for those that are less fortunate. But it never occurred to me to act on those feelings.
Jump to 10 years later, I was living out in LA chasing my dreams, and getting nowhere fast, I found myself in a low place and falling back on my belief in God to get me through. I was in a Christian church and praying to God to show me what it was he wanted me to do with my life if it wasn't to be a big star? Clearly that wasn't going to happen. As I prayed, I was hit with the idea of running a bible camp for kids. "Thats it!" I thought, surely it was God showing me what his plan was. As I shared my newfound path, the members of my church ensured me that God had other plans for me. Little did they know how right they were.
Shortly after that I met Jen. As we started dating, I fell away from the church, at the time thinking it was my decision to leave. In hindsight I am sure God put her in my life because she would be the mother of my child, who is the inspirations for A Place for Max.
When Max was born it changed my life. I loved being a father! There was something about this little bundle that filled my heart and gave me purpose. But I was still chancing my dreams in Hollywood. The dream had switched from being an actor to writing screen plays and other endeavors. I was doing my best to balance a job, chase my dreams, and be a father to this little guy who by one year old had been diagnosed with autism. I spent a lot of time trying to break into the entertainment business and while I had a few exciting moments where I really thought I was going to get my big break, it never happened. Believe me when I say that there were many people that loved my work and ideas, but the dream had eluded me. Looking back on it now, again I am sure that it was God that didn't allow me to go down that road because it would have taken me in a completely different direction.
Year after year I plugged away at the Hollywood dream while we raised our son. Jen was the quintessential mother of a child with autism, securing services for Max while I blindly made my way through it all. I think that is one of the biggest issues with families that have been touched my autism our other types of developmental disabilities. The mom pours her soul into taking care of the child while the father tries to figure out what his role is going to be. I can go on and on about this part but will save it for another blog.
Moving back home in 2017 came with its ups and downs. The job market and pay scale isn't what it is in California but its home. We got to work setting up the non-profit, creating our board of directors and started taking about fundraising ideas just before Covid-19 shut the country down. Jen and I looked at a few buildings, thinking maybe we could start with day services until we found the right location or land to build on. But let's be honest, if we had purchased land back then it would have sealed our fate. Again, God not opening doors isn't always a bad thing. The next few years we slipped into survival mode like everyone else, but we knew that there was still work to do and we had a dream that wasn't going to happen on its own. Then in the beginning of 2022 Jen saw an article in the local paper saying the city wanted to donate the Doer Gym to a local non-profit. I believe her words were "well, we are a nonprofit, what about us?" We spent the next 6 months going through the process to obtain the gym but at the end of the day it was going to cost us at least 80k by the end of it all and would only have a gymnasium to use. It wouldn't get us any closer to our goal of an assisted living facility. We were feeling a little discouraged when the mayor suggested we go look at the old Sunrise school in Menakaunee.
As we walked through the school for the first time, I was hit with visions of what was going to be! Please understand, when I say that I knew it was to be, I don't mean a want, or a hope, I mean a total understanding of my future and that this was where God had been leading me all these years!
That is the heart of this message, when I look back on all my years, my dreams, my life its now like watching a movie in high defanition, everything is crystal clear. This has been God's plan for me all along and I have to tell you, Nothing could be more fulfilling. To realize that you have been giving such a gift, but also a task like this is humbling to say the least.
In closing I'll just ask this, (because I didn't get rich in Hollywood!) everyone's help is needed and appreciated. Donate if you are able, but if not, please share our website and Facebook page far and wide because there is strength in numbers. God bless!