122 – SOAR Founder Stephen “Doc” Hunsley Lost His Son At Age 5 To Dravet Syndrome and Autism
Our guest this this week is Stephen “Doc” Hunsley . Doc is a father of three children, one of whom, Mark, sadly passed away at age five due to complications from Dravet Syndrome and Autism. Doc is the founder of SOAR (Special Opportunities Abilities & Relationships) Special Needs, focusing on Abilities/the positive not Disabilities/the negative. We’ll hear Doc’s life story, including his time in the Air Force, the loss of his brother at five days, the loss of his career as a pediatrician and more on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast.
For more information about SOAR Special Needs go to: https://www.soarspecialneeds.org
Email Doc directly at: email@example.com
Dad to Dad 122 – SOAR Founder Stephen “Doc” Hunsley Lost His Son At Age 5 To Dravet Syndrome and Autism
[00:00:00] Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is thrilled to be sponsored by Rubin Law. A multi-generational law firm dedicated, exclusively to serving families, raising children with special needs. It’s not one thing they do. It’s the only thing they do. To find out more, go to Rubin law.com R U B I N. law.com or call (847) 279-7999 and mentioned the Special Fathers Network for a free consultation. (847) 279-7999. Rubin Law.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: People, you know, will say, Oh, I don’t want to talk about Mark. I don’t want to bring up, you know, sadness for you. I’m like, Hey, you don’t have to remind me that Mark’s not here anymore. I wake up everyday knowing that, but it brings me joy to be able to talk about him and remember him.
He’s always going to be alive in my heart. He may not be here on earth. But he’s alive in our family.
Tom Couch: That’s David Hirsch’s guests. Stephen “Doc” Hunsley. Doc is the [00:01:00] father of three children. One of whom, Mark, sadly passed away due to complications from Dravet Syndrome and autism. Doc is the founder of Soar Special Needs, focusing on the positive, not the negative. We’ll hear doc’s life story on this Special Fathers Network, Dad To Dad podcast. Here’s our host, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad To Dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a Dad To Dad mentoring program. Fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation.
It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search [00:02:00] Dad to Dad.
Tom Couch: And now let’s listen in to this intriguing conversation between Steven “Doc” Hunsley and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Stephen “Doc” Husnley of Overland Park, Kansas, who’s the father of three, a former pediatrician and founder of Soar Special Needs a not-for-profit whose focus is on individuals’ abilities, not their disability. Doc, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Oh, thanks so much for having me. It’s my honor to be with you.
David Hirsch: You and your wife. Kay. I’ve been married for 25 years. One of the proud parents of three children, Luke 18, Sarah 10, and Mark, who was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome and autism. And who sadly passed away at age five in November of 2010. Correct. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah. So I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, mom and dad are both from Northern Iowa. Never wanted to see snow [00:03:00] again. So moved out to Phoenix and they kept that promise network pretty much didn’t ever see snow when it grew there. I’ve got two brothers. Uh, I’m the oldest, my middle brother is three years younger than me, David.
And then my youngest brother. His name is Mark, and he only lived five days. He was born prematurely and he passed away. Um, and that was the reason I made my son Mark. Um, so it’s, it’s kinda ironic, uh, that both of the marks that are very close to me and dear to being both my brother and my son one lift five days when you lift five years and they’re both in heaven.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. It’s a very sobering to hear that because if. Mark, your brother was 11 or 12 years younger. You were totally aware.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Oh, absolutely.
David Hirsch: You know, it must have been very, uh, challenging for your parents, for you, the rest of your family for that matter to come to that realization.
And if you don’t mind me asking, what was the situation that led to your brother [00:04:00] Mark’s passing?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah, so, uh, my mom ended up with a placenta previous. She started bleeding. And honestly, she almost died on the operating table. So almost lost my mom as well. Thankfully doctors were able to save her, but this was, you know, uh, back in 1979 when medical care just wasn’t.
What it is today, he was 28 weeks gestation today that would not have been a problem. He probably would have lived, but back then they didn’t have the medicine to help his lungs. His lungs just mature enough. Um, immediately needed to go on the NICU, go on respirator and just. Could not survive. He fought like a trooper, but lasted five days and you’re right.
I absolutely knew what was going on. I knew at that time I wanted to be a physician. So I knew since I was a first grader, I want to be a pediatrician. So I was so ecstatic when my mom and dad told me we were going to have a [00:05:00] baby. And so I. I followed my mom’s pregnancy. I knew exactly what was going on every step of the way.
And then when I got the call and found out my mom was in the hospital, I was devastated because I knew, you know, that that was going to be a big challenge, but it, it definitely affected everybody. It was a hard, hard time for all of us to go through.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. I appreciate your transparency.
So I’m sort of curious to know a little bit about your dad. Um, what did he do for a living.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Uh, my dad was a customer service manager for bank of America. Uh, and then Dillard’s as well did that for many, many years and, uh, retired six, eight years ago, somewhere in there now, but, uh, worked with customer service for many, many years.
David Hirsch: Okay. And how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: We had an extremely tight, very close relationship with my dad. In fact, uh, it was maybe now 10 years ago or so 10, 15 years ago. I even wrote an [00:06:00] article, a letter to my dad in which, you know, I would call him mr. Hero, because I looked up to him.
He was always there for me, you know, growing up, you know, money was tight in our family, both my mom and dad would work. Two jobs so that we could do things, but they would always make sure that we could do whatever we wanted. You know, it was always able to play baseball and go do whatever we wanted to do.
Um, but my dad would always sacrifice himself to be able to meet the needs of us, extremely loving dad every single day, uh, would make sure he would. Give us a hug, give us a kiss and let us know. He loved us. They would never let a day go by that. That didn’t happen.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. Uh, you’re one of the lucky ones, not everybody has a close relationship with your dad.
Um, is there any important takeaway. A lesson you learned or something you always think about when you think about your dad?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah. So w with my dad, I think one of the lessons I’ve [00:07:00] learned is working hard, you know, strong work ethic. I watched my dad, you know, work, like I said, at a couple jobs at a time and, and not complaining about it and just, you know, always having a smile and, and that’s what.
I’ve been able to take away and learn from that and be able to move forward. So I think my strong work ethic is truly from my dad and it’s something I’m very thankful that my dad’s been able to give.
David Hirsch: Yeah, that’s something you can’t really talk about that. Just something that’s learned behavior by watching somebody else, anybody else serve as a father figure when you were growing up.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: One person who really spoke a lot into my life was one of the pastors at my church. Uh, his name was bill Eubanks. He was actually the, the college pastor at our church and he kind of took me under his wing. Some discipled me, my freshmen, sophomore years of college, and also really helped me. See the man I’m supposed to be and, and challenged me would hold my feet to the fire and [00:08:00] hold me accountable and just extremely thankful for him and everything that he did for me.
David Hirsch: Is bill Eubanks still alive?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: He is, he’s now lives in grand Prairie, Texas, and, and a senior pastor of a church.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, what, thanks for giving a pastor bill or pastor Eubanks, depending on how well, you know, I’m a shout out. So from what I remember from a schooling standpoint, you went to grand Canyon university. You were a bio and chem, undergrad, and then you went to Columbia university medical school.
And did you also do a stint in the air force?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: I did. So after graduating from medical school, when I was at university of Missouri Columbia for medical school, I did a year of training for pediatrics. And then they pulled me out of the training. And then I served three years in the air force as a flight surgeon where I got to be the physician for the pilots.
But then [00:09:00] part of that was, I then would also get to fly in the airplane. So that was a lot of fun. I got to be trained. On F sixteens and learn how to operate the, the weapons in the F 16 and a bunch of other things. So it was a lot of fun and truly something I I’m honored and grateful and proud to be a veteran to have served her country.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. So I’m sort of curious, no, once your military service was over, uh, where was it that your career took you?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: So I was stationed at Maxwell air force base in Montgomery, Alabama. I met my wife Kay. In medical school and her hometown is Kansas city, Missouri. I had to go back and do training all over again and restart.
And so we looked at either going back to Phoenix or going to Kansas city and applied and things just worked out where it was Kansas city. And that’s where I ended up coming then went into. Pediatric training [00:10:00] did a pediatric chief year. Rest is history. I’ve been here now in the Kansas city, Overland park area for 22 years now.
And this is now home.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s how you got to Kansas. But, um, I know that the experience that you had, wasn’t the one that you would have anticipated or signed up for. And I’m wondering if you could, uh, share with our listeners, the backstory on that.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, like I had mentioned, I was ecstatic to be a doctor that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
And so I got to do that. I got to live out my dream and became a pediatrician, worked in a pediatric emergency room and urgent care center. And. Loved it loved every single aspect of it. But when I was 26 days into my dream job, I got sick, sick from taking care of my patients, ended up going into the hospital, spent 46 days in the intensive care unit.
Almost died. I should have died. In fact, three different times. [00:11:00] The doctors told my wife to make plans cause they didn’t think I’d make it through the night. Wow. I was so sick. They forgot to give me nutrition. I lost 75 pounds of muscle mass and had to go through nine months of rehab just to be able to walk again.
So all the diagnosis, the top four diagnosis I had on my chart with that first hospitalization, each one by itself had a 0.01 survival rate. So no doctor expected me to live and it was truly just God having his hand on me, allowing me to. Leave that hospital made it back to work after all my rehab, despite having my flu shot ended up with influenza that put me back into the hospital, almost died once again, back in the intensive care unit, it was then at that point found that I’m the only person in the world that’s known and nobody knows how or why it happened, but the main muscle allows you to breathe.
As the diaphragm goes across your rib cage. Half of minus paralyzed, it’s paralyzed on the right, which means my entire right side of the lung doesn’t [00:12:00] work. You have three loads of lung on the right two on the left. Cause the heart sits there. So in essence, I only have 40% lung function. So I’m, I’m compromised when it comes to respiratory infections and working with children.
Obviously in an emergency room, I’m around infectious disease a lot. And it was shortly after that. My son Mark was born, was out on maternity leave my first day back to work. I, they called me into a very important meeting where they proceeded to tell me, you know, dr. Huntley, we’d love, you, appreciate everything you’ve done, but you’ve become a medical legal risk for us.
And because of that, we’re afraid you’re going to get sick again. You’re going to die. We just can’t do that effective immediately, your medical curves over and you’re out on long-term disability. And like that my career ended, I couldn’t practice medicine. I couldn’t even volunteer in the hospital. Um, couldn’t do anything.
I couldn’t change specialties, nothing, all my hard work, all my training, you know, six figures worth of student [00:13:00] loans, all of that done and having to completely figure out a whole new career.
David Hirsch: How old were you at the time?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Uh, I was, let’s see, at that time I was a 35, 36 right in there.
David Hirsch: Wow. That sounds devastating.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Psychologically, maybe even financially devastating to come to that realization. That was when your second child was born too, right?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Correct. Yeah. Yeah. Shortly after that.
David Hirsch: Wow. Well thank you for sharing. Um, from a career standpoint, Where have you been or where have you gone since?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah. So since then, you know, initially I took the hardest job I ever had in my life.
And that was becoming mr. Mom, you know, I give every mother out there. Kudos. That is hard, hard work. So dads that are listening, if your wife is a stay at home, [00:14:00] mom, Give her the credit. Give her the kudos. Thank her for what she does. It is a hard, hard job. Any dad that’s out there doing it. God bless you.
It’s tough. It’s extremely hard to be a man and tell another man that you’re say at home dad, because you get snares of jeers with that. And so that was hard. A couple of years after that I had the opportunity to become the children’s pastor at church. We were attending did that for five years, grew a children’s ministry from about a hundred children to over a thousand kids.
And then, uh, after that, it was right around then when my, my son passed away and, uh, we ended up deciding it was time for us to leave that church. So, cause it got, took us to a new church and later then at that church, uh, God laid on my heart and just create things where, uh, we created, uh, of special needs of disability ministry [00:15:00] and did that now nine years ago when September and became the special needs.
Pastor did that for eight years. And then just this past year in December of 19 left that, and we started up source special needs as an independent nonprofit. And I’m now proud to be the founder and executive director of that. Well,
David Hirsch: thank you for that. Pretty fly by. Um, I’d like to go back if it’s okay with you doc, and talk about Mark.
So before Mark was born, did you or Kay have any real experience working with special needs?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah. Being physicians, both of us, you know, took care of a lot of kids with special needs know, I always had a heart for them and loved them. They always bring such joy, but neither one of us had anyone in our families with special needs.
And there was always a little part of me. That felt one day I would have a child with special needs. I always assumed it would be down syndrome. And it wasn’t until actually after my son’s [00:16:00] death that I found out my wife had the same inkling. She thought she at some point would have a child with special needs.
So God had always prepared both of us to be a parent. I have a child with special needs without us fully realizing that, but blessed us with Mark. He had Dravet syndrome, which is a very rare genetic seizure disorder. And then by the time he was two, we got the diagnosis of autism and he was non-verbal, uh, with that.
So, uh, we learned all the highs and lows of being a parent, and then went through the grief of losing a child with special needs. Yeah, well,
David Hirsch: it seems like a very humbling experience. I think most people would say that a parent’s worst nightmare is losing a child at whatever age, you know, you’ve always maintained such a, a positive sort of perspective on it.
And, um, I’m wondering, where does that come
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: from? It comes from my face, you know, with, with God there’s no other way. I would have been able to survive that. You know, I’ve now lost two major careers. [00:17:00] I’ve lost my son. Any one of those things is a major, major thing. But, but God, through the whole thing truly has given me a peace to be able to accept it.
And I’ve had nothing now except trial after trial, after trial for 15 years that, you know, every time I turn a corner, something else happens. I hate every single one I’ve ever had. I don’t want to relive any of them. However, I truly can be here before you today. And. Honestly say I can thank God for losing my career.
A couple of times for taking my son, my son never belonged to me. He belonged to God. He was on loan to me. I miss him like crazy, but because of my experience with Mark, because of my experience with my previous careers, I’m able to do today, what I do and I’d never would have been able to do that before.
The [00:18:00] passion that Mark gave me for families with disabilities and individuals with disabilities. I, I, would’ve never known, I could be more passionate about this than I ever was about being a doctor. And I’m so honored to do what I do. Our logo for sores green. The green in our logo is for my son. That was his favorite color.
And so. So we’re truly is Mark’s legacy living on, uh, and we’ve, as a result now have been able to share with thousands of families and individuals, uh, not just in our local area, but we’re national and even global with it. So, uh, it’s, it’s been a huge experience. I’m very thankful for that. Don’t want to relive any of it
David Hirsch: though.
Well, thanks for sharing. If I can paraphrase what you’ve said, you wouldn’t ask for it, but you wouldn’t change anything.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Exactly. Yeah,
David Hirsch: I’m sort of curious to know what, if any impact marks situation, this is [00:19:00] your son Mark situation had on his siblings, his older brother and his younger sister.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah. So I had a big effect.
My oldest son, Luke, he was about 10 years old when, when Mark passed away and really affected him. His sister, Sarah. She was 10 months old when Mark passed away and it really affected both of them. So first for Luke, we, as a family ended up going to counseling and we have a great facility here that, that did some, some grief counseling and did things for kids.
And. I w I was seeing my son just really struggled through it. And he was just really had a hard time releasing the emotion through it. And it was probably about three months after Mark’s death. That God really just gave me an aha moment. I went to Luke and I just told him, I said, [00:20:00] Hey, but it’s okay. If you feel happy that Mark’s not here anymore, being a sibling is hard.
Mark would beat him up. He would kick him. He would be mean to him. Luke missed out on doing a lot of things. Siblings always do. You know, they might not be able to hang with their friends or go to this event or that event. So as soon as that disappeared, All of a sudden, you know, Luke could feel happy about that, but then all of a sudden you’ve got this tremendous grief and guilt that just overwhelms you because you’re like, Oh my gosh, what a horrible person I am.
I’m feeling happy that my brother is no longer alive. And I think that made a huge change when, what I was actually able to sit there and say, Hey, It’s okay. There’s part of me that I’m happy. He’s not here either, [00:21:00] because I don’t have to sit and watch his horrific seizures. We don’t have to go through, you know, some of the behaviors.
But, Oh my gosh. I feel horrible when I say that, but it’s okay. And it was after that, that, that kind of helped through that whole process for him to get the healing. He needed to be able to move on for my daughter. What was so cool? Like I said, she was 10 months old. So you think, Oh, she didn’t really know Mark.
But what I love, and even to the state, she talks about Mark all the time as she was four or five years old, when it happened, especially the first couple of years, when she was two, three, four years of age, she would constantly be talking about Mark and tell us things that. We never told her, Oh my gosh, how is this?
And she described things and would tell us, has she’s having conversations with Mark. It really was mind blowing [00:22:00] and scary and eerie all at the same time. But. You know, you hear some of these weird things that, you know, some kids can just have these weird relationships. She had that. And I believe it, I believe it was real.
She truly has this amazing relationship and, and you know, we, as a family, we love to talk about Mark. I encourage others to talk about him. People will say, Oh, I don’t want to talk about Mark. I don’t want to bring up, you know, sadness for you. I’m like. Hey, you don’t have to remind me that Mark’s not here anymore.
I wake up every day knowing that, but it brings me joy to be able to talk about him and remember him because I can remember that and talk about that. He’s always going to be alive in my heart. He may not be here on earth, but he’s alive in our family. When we go to do family pictures. We’re holding a picture of Mark because he’s still in our family.
You know, when pizza would ask me how many children I have, my answer is three. I don’t have two, I have two living, [00:23:00] but I have three children. And so I want to encourage our kids to be able to talk about him and, and know they still have a brother and they don’t just have one sibling. They have two siblings.
It’s just that one sibling is here on earth.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I love your authenticity and. The way you have framed, this is, um, at some level remarkable because it’s so different than what most people are thinking or saying. And what I really appreciate is the fact that you can talk about things very openly.
Like you were relating with Luke, you know, there are positive aspects of. Not having to deal with a child with special needs,
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: right.
David Hirsch: It’s maybe not politically correct to air those thoughts, but they’re real. And I think that by hearing you recount your conversation with Luke to hear you even say, as a dad, there are certain aspects of [00:24:00] not having Mark here and all the challenges that are presented in the anxiety, especially like you were referring to the Caesar and not having seizure control.
It’s nerve-wracking. To go through that and not to admit that or not to acknowledge it is just bottling up these emotions. Right. And it’s not going to, you know, transpire to healthy relationships or healthy outcomes. So what a great role model you have done. So thank you again for sharing.
Let’s switch gears and talk about soar. I know that you’ve already shared a little information about it, but, um, from what I remember, it stands for special opportunities, ability. It’s in relationships and it’s been around for nine years, I think starting in 2011 and did a little research [00:25:00] there. Are about 900 individuals that are served those with special needs and you have a thousand plus volunteers.
And I’m wondering what was the original vision and how has that changed over the last nine years?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah. So it’s changed a lot for me to heal. I, you know, I had. Several things. It was 10 months after Mark passed away. Six weeks after Mark passed away, my intestine exploded on me and I almost died again. I joke all the time.
I’ve had so many near death experiences. I felt like a cat and I hate cats.
David Hirsch: What number are we on?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah, I’ve lost track. I can’t even keep track. So I’m, I’m sitting there. I’m having to heal physically. I’m having to heal physically. I’m having to heal spiritually and for me to heal. The best way is to serve others and to give, not to focus on myself.
And so once we decided found a new church and that’s where we were going to serve, I met with the children’s pastor and said, Hey, you’ve got me. I want to [00:26:00] serve. I’ll do whatever you need. Five minutes later, I got a phone call from him and the senior pastor and they said, Hey doc, you know what. We want to have a rural cost children’s ministry, but in order to do that, we need to be able to serve individuals with disabilities.
And we’ve never been able to do that because we don’t have someone who can help us with that. We know about you. We’ve kind of stocked you socially and learned about you. We believe God brought you to us to start a special needs ministry. What’d you do that? And I told them, honestly, I don’t have a clue how to do it, but I’ll try.
And that’s September of 2011, when we launched soar. And like you said, it stands for special opportunities, abilities from relationships. And we just started with what we had, and that was initially three individuals, two kids, and one adult with disabilities. And our main focus at that time. Was to be able to include them into, you know, Sunday school classes and to curriculum and give their parents the [00:27:00] opportunity to be able to attend church.
And then the next part with it was to be able to provide respite because families with disabilities so desperately need respite night, you can’t get the neighbor girl to be able to babysit for you. Frequently. Divorce rates estimate at 80 to 90% for our families. And so we started doing respite. We worked all the way up to where we would take 150 to 160 individuals with disabilities.
Every person with their own buddy we’d have a sibling program because siblings don’t have a normal life and have about 90 siblings and then would have four to 500 volunteers that would run that night. I feed everybody would just have a blast, have a full medical team and a full behavior team. And so that way we can take.
Anybody, um, all severities, all diagnoses. Currently we take birth to as our youngest and age 71 is our oldest right now. So we truly have the entire gamut. Um, and then as, as we grew, as we [00:28:00] start doing more, we would be adding on more and more things. Um, we would do a summer camp. We would, we’ve been for three years now doing the wonderfully made special needs conference.
It’s a national conference. But then God had just given me a huge vision. That one day will become a non-profit organization where we can do even more. So last year, the church came to me and said, doc, we know you’ve got this huge vision, but we’re afraid if you stay on as a volunteer, special needs pastor, because I do everything as a volunteer.
I can’t be paid being on disability. They said, we want to help you. We’ll launch you as a independent non-profit and allow you to meet your goals. So December of 2019, soar official and became an independent nonprofit organization where now we exist to empower families with disabilities, to be able to soar in their local and faith communities.
And we answered the three main questions. That every family has with [00:29:00] disabilities or the mud overwhelmed the majority first question, will my child ever be able to provide for themselves? Second question is who’s going to take care of my child once I’m gone. And then the third question is who’s going to take care of me as a parent.
You know, David, those are the three questions that kept me up at night with Mark. And it wasn’t until after Mark’s death that I learned. Those were my wife Kay’s questions. And now, as I talked to most families, those are their questions or a form of those questions. You can add it in there. Will my child have good relationships, which right.
Works right in there as well. And so now those questions have become taboo cause they’re big, hairy questions. Nobody knows the answers. And so we’re going to remove. The scariness with that, talk about them, but not just talk about them, we’re going to answer them. And we answer it with our current programming or future programming.
So that’s kind of where we come from and where we were going to.
David Hirsch: Wow. That is amazing. The journey that [00:30:00] you’ve been on the last nine years, and it’s a new journey like you were saying, being independent now, and then having to, I guess, Raise the money to do all the things that you want to do. And I know from experience, you can accomplish a lot with the help and involvement of volunteers, but at some level you can’t reach the scale that you’d like to, without having people that are dedicated on a full-time basis and being accountable, you know, it goes beyond just the energy of one person.
And you do seem like the energy, right? Of course, we call you the Energizer cat because of deer. Near death experiences, but the real hero in this story might be K.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah.
David Hirsch: She’s probably role in keeping you alive at some level, if not directly from a medical standpoint. So thank you again for sharing. I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering if there’s any important takeaways beyond what we’ve discussed that you can share with a dad that might be [00:31:00] listening data, a special needs child for that matter.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Yeah. So, you know, the, the thing I want to share with any dad listening and especially the dads of a child with special needs is you’ve got to be their advocate. You got to become the biggest cheerleader for your child, that there is you need to help out jump in. Whatever you can do, learn how you can take care of them.
That means helping out your, your spouse, you know, helping out your wife, your girlfriend, be there for them and learn what therapies are needed. What feeds are needed. Do the diaper changes, do all that. Go on the doctor’s appointments, go to the therapy sessions, learn how to do all that, but be there.
Second big thing. Don’t ever let a day go by that. You tell your child, you love them and you you’re there for them. Even when bad things happen, you still love them. That’s not going to change anything, but they need to hear [00:32:00] that from you. They need to know that, or even a Pat on the back or a touch on the shoulder can be a way to show that, Hey, I love you.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well thank you for sharing. And um, I just like to paraphrase. It has to be. Being fully present as what I heard you say. And then, um, having that willingness to express your love in whatever way, as many ways as you can. And that’s a little bit of a challenge for most guys, I’ll speak for myself to express your emotions, um, because we’re supposed to be the ones that are in charge and, you know, it’s tough and resilient.
And I think that there’s places for that, but, uh, I love your passion. Thank you for sharing. So I’m sort of curious to know why is it that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: I think it’s vital to be able to give back, to be able to help dads walk a journey that I’ve already been through.
I consider myself a giver and anytime I can improve somebody, especially [00:33:00] when it’s another dad and dad’s have a very special place in my heart because we need more dads to step up. We need more dads too. Be at the table and to do things for, for their kids. And so if there’s anything I can ever do to, to help a dad to be able to move through that process, I’m completely on board with it.
And so it’s a no brainer for me. Um, I want to be there to help any dad possibly.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, we’re thrilled to have you. Thank you for being on the team. Let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, John Felageller and Special Fathers Network. Dad To Dad podcast Dad number 65 for helping connect us.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Absolutely. Yeah, John’s a dear friend and he’s been speaking at our wonderfully made conference since the beginning and, and, uh, yeah, very thankful for him hooking us up.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: I guess just partying. I I’d say be the best that you can be. Don’t be afraid [00:34:00] to show your emotions, let those out, but important part with that.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help source special needs. We’re here to help you. We’re also creating a parenting support groups, you know, they’re virtual, so you can be anywhere in the country and be a part of it. So, you know, reach out to us. We want to help you. Uh, we want to bless you and, and see how we can help you out.
But don’t sit on the sideline thinking, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do it. Ask for help. And there are so many people that want to help, and we’re just one of many organizations, um, that want to come and alongside you and help. And especially, you know, David has is just amazing. It’s one of the things I’ve loved getting to know, David here, you.
You’ve got an amazing heart and your organization is just fantastic. I love the whole purpose of this organization and the outreach to men and, and to the fathers. And we need to [00:35:00] strengthen fathers and, and help them take the position that they need to in the family.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you for saying that. Um, if somebody wants to learn more about Soar, volunteer, support the organization, or just to contact you, what’s the best way to do that.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: So you can go to our website, it’s soarspecialneeds.org. Or you can email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Hirsch: We’ll be sure to enclose those in the show notes. So it would be easy for people to follow up. Doc, thank you for taking the time in many insights. As a reminder, Doc is just one of the dads who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network, Dad To Dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know. The 21st [00:36:00] Century Dads Foundation is a 501 c3, not for profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free, all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support.
Would you please share the podcast and post a review on iTunes to help us build our audience. Also remember to subscribe. So you’ll get a reminder when each new episode is produced. Doc, thanks again.
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley: Thank you so much for having me.
Tom Couch: Thank you for listening to the Dad To Dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network.
The Special Fathers Network is a Dad To Dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation.
It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help [00:37:00] or we’d like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search Dad To Dad. Also, please be sure to register for the Special Fathers Network, biweekly zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month.
Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David@21stcenturydads.org.
Tom Couch: The Dad To Dad podcast was produced by Couch Audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks again to Rubin Law for supporting the Dad To Dad podcast.
Call Rubin Law at (847) 279-7999 and mentioned the Special Fathers Network for a free consultation.