Our guest on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast is Mitch Gardner of Jacksonville, FL. Mitch and his wife Ellen have four children including 14-year-old Davis who has severe Autism and is non-verbal. We’ll hear Mitch’s story including his work with the Peace of Heart Autism Community and Ellen’s work with the Tim Tebow Foundation. That’s all on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Tim Tebow Foundation; https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/
Special Nation: http://www.specialnation.org/
Peace of Heart: https://www.pohc.org/
Email Mitch at: email@example.com
Tom Couch: Special, thanks to horizon therapeutics for sponsoring today’s special father’s network, dad to dad podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about horizon therapeutics, mission at horizon therapeutics .com
Mitch Gardner: but then when he pushes through, and it’s a beautiful thing, and he’s just this in the things that he would type and, and the words in the, in the wisdom and my point is, is that his impact on me, but then his impact on so many other people that have come in contact with him through this whole journey.
And peace of heart and do special nation. There’s so many things. It’s remarkable. Um,
Tom Couch: that’s our guests this week, Mitch Gardner, Mitch, and his wife, Ellen have four children, including 14 year old Davis who has severe autism and is non. We’ll hear Mitch’s story, including his work with the peace of heart autism program, and Ellen’s work with the Tim Tebow foundation.
That’s all on this special father’s network. Dad to dad podcast say hello to David Hirsch. Hi,
David Hirsch: and thanks for listening to the dad to dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the special father’s network.
Tom Couch: 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 dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21st century dads.org. And if
David Hirsch: your dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook.
Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad
Tom Couch: to dad. And now let’s listen in on this conversation between special father Mitch Gardner and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Mitch Gardner of Jacksonville, Florida. Who’s the father of four and vice president of business development and rev med group, a company that partners with medical clinics to improve outcomes for patients and economics for the practices.
Mitch, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the special father’s
Mitch Gardner: network. Happy to be here. You and your
David Hirsch: lovely wife, Ellen had been married for 16 years. You know, the proud parents of four children, Donovan for text in seven through 13 David’s 14, who has autism and is nonverbal and Joanne 25.
Who you and Ellen fostered from her age? 15 who herself has a four year old son, Jace, sadly Joanne’s mom was a police officer who took her own life. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Mitch Gardner: Um, I grew up in Pensacola, Florida, personally. I’m an only child, my mom, more or less raised me through my early years.
And my grandparents played a significant part in raising me as well as I got a little bit older. We lived with them from time to time, but yeah, my wife. Ellen She grew up here in beach where we live now, um, way before all the lore of TPC. Um, but she, she grew up here with her three sisters, uh, her mom and dad, and there’s all still here.
Um, and that’s, that’s when I moved to Jacksonville, that’s when I met her.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So I’m sort of curious to know, what does your dad do for.
Mitch Gardner: So dad was a Jack of all trades kind of guy. I didn’t go to college. I mean, he kind of did a number of things, ended up me and he drove trucks, worked for FedEx, but could also drive a forklift.
I mean, he just kinda did all kinds of different things. My dad’s an awesome man. You know, there was a period of time there where were early years was, was not, not as involved, you know, up until about age eight, but he, he came back and, and, um, was really involved. And, uh, my dad and I are very close. In fact, we’re going to spend some time this weekend together with all the kids.
And, uh, we do that quite frankly, so
David Hirsch: well, thanks for sharing. And I think that a part of what you were referring to just for clarity is that your parents divorced when you were quite young. So I’m sort of curious now, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Mitch Gardner: I Revere my dad and love my dad because of his heart.
Uh, his character, his integrity. We are genuinely close and I’m grateful for that. Cause I do have friends that kind of grew up with my situation and they resent their father. And I am so grateful that I don’t have that feeling or that sensation in my own heart because I think it would also play itself out with.
And, um, I’ve worked very hard to ensure that that, that doesn’t
David Hirsch: happen. So, yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. And I’m wondering if there’s an important takeaway or lesson that you learned from your dad that, uh,
Mitch Gardner: sticks. Yeah. Um, and you know, one is my dad, if you, you know, if you knew him and my stepmother, who they’ve been married now for 36 years, um, when I was eight, he remarried.
And their relationship, their love, the R I, I dare use the word. Cute. They are as cute as they can be. I mean, they genuinely love each other so much and they have just such a, I mean, they just it’s unconditional and it’s, it’s a, it’s a precious love. I don’t know how else to say. On the flip side, my mother is just as about as amazing as I know of a woman, um, to be what she did for me and continues to do for me and my family.
I mean, she’s unbelievable, but, uh, definitely struggled on that relational side, you know, with, with choices. Right. Um, and so. What I’ve seen from my dad and learned from my dad on that front from a love and a marriage, et cetera. It’s just been, um, so to answer your question, that’s a huge one. I think the, the other aspect is on the flip side of that would be that I w like I mentioned, I alluded to earlier worked very, very hard to ensure that my kids didn’t grow up with the same environment as I did.
My parents wanted nothing but the best for me, but based on their decisions and choices, um, divorce and the ugliness that comes with that and, uh, the frustration with each other and finances and all that stuff. Um, I didn’t want my kids to endure that. Um, and I also want them to have an involved and hands-on father.
So I know my dad struggles mightily with the things that he missed out on. Not all necessarily his fault, but as a result of the decisions that were made, and I know it kills him inside and I hate that. I, it hurts me to know that he struggles with that, but those are things that I’ve learned from him, um, that not only do I not want for my own kids, but I don’t want for their kids.
And so how can I help them? Learn from me, learn from him, uh, et cetera, et cetera.
David Hirsch: So from what I remember, you went to the university of west Florida and you played baseball. And I’m wondering, where did you think your career was taking you and where has it taken you?
Mitch Gardner: I was a blinders on right out of high school. All things basically. Live eat, breathe. Uh, baseball went on to, uh, to play.
Um, it ended up going to, uh, university of Auburn in Montgomery for year and then finished up at west Florida. But all of that to say, I definitely was pursuing baseball in a way that I thought it was going to be as life would have it. There were some things that occurred. Uh, some of it was just recognition of.
You’re only so good buddy. Uh, and there’s some people that are a lot better than you. And so when I got out of, when I was done with law, um, ended up going down the sales path.
David Hirsch: I’m sort of
Mitch Gardner: curious, how did you meet Alan? I was in, I was in Jacksonville, Florida. I had coming from Orlando spending time a week for a weekend with some friends.
And so we were at the lemon bar. For a couple of beverages. And, um, I went to tab out and turned around, waiting on them to close my tab. And there was this beautiful woman standing there. Very classy dress was clearly not there for all of the festivities that were going on. And she was just so striking.
And I told myself, I had to say, I had to speak to this, this lady. And so I proceeded to go over and simply tell her. I’m not trying to hit on you. I just want to tell you, I think you’re beautiful and that’s all I got. Um, uh, not, not very eloquent at all, but thankfully as I went to walk away, her best friend, Brandy grabbed me by the arm and said, where are you from with that accident?
Um, and I said, LA, he just came out and my now wife, Ellen, uh, immediately said, uh, my dad is from California and he doesn’t sound anything like you. Uh, and then I said, no, I’m lower Alabama. And thank God they thought that was hysterical. So the rest of the night we ended up talking. Just learning about each other.
And at the end of the night, I asked her, could we hang out again? Could we go on a date? And she said, well, I have two questions for you. Tell me about your faith and who’d you vote for in the last election? I was like, oh man. And it was pretty easy in truth. I said, you know what I do? And always have loved Jesus.
And he is a center point of my life. And. Honestly, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t vote in this last election, but had I, I would have voted for Bush. And so she was good then she, I don’t even know if it was so much the responses, but the fact that I was willing to be that transparent. I know that she appreciated the faith part because that is definitely been a center point of our marriage.
Um, for sure.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you for sharing. That’s a wonderful story. And, um, I’d like to talk about special needs first on a personal level, and then perhaps beyond, and I’m curious to know before Davis has diagnosis, did you or, and have any experience with special needs? Um,
Mitch Gardner: no, neither one of us, uh, you know, we had, there was some distant maybe cousin, a distant cousin of, of Ellen’s, but outside of that, really nothing of significance to speak.
David Hirsch: Yeah, not a curiosity. How did the diagnosis come about the autism diagnosis?
Mitch Gardner: Yeah. So when we were living in, when we moved to Tallahassee, Davis was meeting all of his mouth. We were we recall. And just to be clear as a disclaimer, we are, we are not anti anything, you know, relative to vaccines and all that stuff, but we have an opinion about that.
That’s for another conversation. But what we noticed was Davis was not well for one reason or another, but at that time he went in for his vaccinations. And after that moment, within 24 hours, he was completely. No eye contact Bali. All he did and wanted to do was sit and watch little Einsteins over and over and over again.
And just his demeanor, just everything changed the verbal cues, the, the communication that was occurring and progressing completely shut down. W there was, there were no words. There were no mumblings. And so. Clearly we recognize that something was terribly wrong. So we went and saw our pediatrician at that time and Tallahassee, um, they maybe thought that it was something to do with the transition of having a new sister.
And, um, he had only, we’d only been in the Tallahassee area for a short period of time. So maybe that transition as well as a double transition. And so then the move to Pittsburgh occurred and some of those behaviors and things really. Worsened on some level. And so we brought in some folks specialists, et cetera.
Um, and after the diagnosis or after their diagnosing, um, that he was given that diagnosis of, of, uh, of autism.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, it sounds very, uh, sobering, right? To learn of the diagnosis. And while it might not be directly related to the vaccines. Um, there seems to be a question, you know, out the role the vaccines played and the diagnosis or his situation.
And I’m wondering if you could put yourself back at that point in time again, Mitch, uh, what were the concerns or fears that you and Ellen had at the time?
Mitch Gardner: I’m an optimist to a fault. I get. Often joked with, about being, uh, you know, rose colored glasses kind of guy. So there was an, there was aspect of me that was like, you know what, we’re going to get through this.
He’s going to be fine because I, in truth, I like a lot of dads, I think had visions of my son being similar to me, playing baseball and throwing with my son and I’m teaching them how to do certain things. And those were things I don’t think I, I was willing to let go of. And as a result was in denial, quite frankly.
And, and it affected Ellen and I it’d be the way that I grew up. Right. And then I shared that with you. I had this vision in my head of what normalcy and in a marriage and wife with kids was going to look like, and I didn’t want that to be broken or, or different than my, uh, My initial vision or, or, uh, or thoughts around that.
And in fairness, I think for her to Ella was just more of a realist and she’s just more pragmatic in how she looks at things. And it was like, we need to start making, taking steps today to address this. And my take was, well, he’s going to grow out of this. We’re going to get around this. He’s going to be better, you know, blah, blah, blah.
And then she was. One way or another, he still has challenges and we still need to address them. We need people who are smarter than us to come into our lives and help us understand how do we tackle this thing. So I know that’s a lot and to be honest, just to even hear myself say it out loud, it’s just crazy to know that that we were there.
And I will tell you I’d be remissed. If I didn’t say that. When I look back on those moments, David, there is no way. Um, and I’ve shared with you, our faith and just how critical that is to us. And oh, by the way, we had this beautiful little baby girl this whole time. Right. So she’s there, she’s a baby she’s beautiful.
And the cutest little thing. Um, and she’s in all of this, there’s no way that we would have kept our marriage together and certainly been whatever. Fraction of apparent that we were for these kids. It wouldn’t have happened without our fake
David Hirsch: So I’m wondering, um, if there has been a turning point, uh, something that you know has really.
Mitch Gardner: Yeah, I’ll try and summarize this as best I can. It’s been such a journey, but when Davis was eight and we had moved back to Jacksonville from DC, some folks came into our life through church. Some of the folks that we know have a daughter, uh, have children that are same situation Davis, a little bit older.
They brought some folks in the town that were. Really involved in facilitating communication through devices, getting non-verbal folks to, to communicate. And so Ellen, my wife took Davis, uh, with their daughter, the girl shells, Amy and Howard, uh, their daughter Gentry. So before I say it quick note until this point, Ella and I both more or less thought that Davis cognitively operated at about.
To three-year-old level really didn’t understand what was going on. Certainly. And so I say that because we would talk about Davis and his circumstances and his behavior right in front of him, because he couldn’t communicate with us directly. We didn’t think he knew none of it would have an impact on him.
So I say all of that because when he typed for the first time and literally said, thank you for unlocking my voice. I don’t, you know, first of all, to be honest, we thought it was a hoax. We literally thought this was some sick joke. I mean, you can just imagine this whole, your, your, your whole life with this child and everything that we saw and dealt with.
And, and he tight, first of all, how do we know how to. I like to spell, uh, how did he know how to communicate something that wise? And, and, and it like all these things, like how did he know how to push the, but like all of those things are going through our head and then this flood of, oh my God, he’s, he’s that smart?
He’s that? What have we said? What have we done? And I mean, it just. The overflow of like grief. Like we, we like had to mourn, um, our past salving forgive ourselves of, of what, how we treated Davis and spoke to Davis. And it as beautiful as a moment. It was, it was one of the hardest, most painful moments. Um, just shredded it shredded us, both, both of us.
Um, so I, I hope that answers your question.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, thanks for sharing. You’re not the first person that I’ve heard and particularly dads in the network refer to something like facilitated communication or just providing their son or daughter with the ability to communicate and how overwhelming it is.
Right. And, you know, We ought to all assume that our children understand regardless of what their circumstances are, and then let them prove us wrong, as opposed to like what you just described, which is, you know, this overwhelming feeling of guilt or however you describe it and regret right. For not, you know, believing.
Right. And maybe it goes back to what you were talking about. Your. Right. You know, you had a little bit of a loss of faith, right. And your son, and maybe this was something that, you know, helped spur you back to the center of your faith and believing that, Hey, let’s, let’s be better. Let’s be the best parents we can be.
Let’s not make any assumptions negative or otherwise. So again, thank you for your transparency and sharing. That’s very powerful. So. Uh, not to focus on the negative, but I’m wondering what some of the bigger challenges given Conard.
Mitch Gardner: Yeah. Um, we always thought that Davis was cause he, he grown up. He’s just always been very gentle and very, um, I don’t know how else to put it obedient.
He complies and, but as he got, as he grew and he’s, he’s a big kid, I’m roughly six foot he’s like, and he’s, he walks on his toes. So. When he’s on his toes. Um, and he always is on his toes. He’s like six one or roughly, and he’s 14, he’s a big kid. And so what has occurred over the last few years is heightened aggression, really some severe behavior that, uh, as a child, as a small, uh, adolescent was more manageable, but as he’s gotten bigger, it becomes arguably dangerous.
Ellen dealt with some really questionable moments with him and became not only worried for herself, but we have young boys. Um, and at that time they were really young, but, but during those periods, he just was just very unstable. So. So all of that’s occurring and it’s like, and then he went into this really dark place.
When we moved to this house where he wouldn’t come out of the room, he would go to school. Um, but he was pulling the hair out of his, his right ear out of his head. And, um, and he would eat it and he was just doing a lot of things and he was just, it was so dark, such a dark time in addition to the aggression.
And so we didn’t know what we were going to. Uh, longer, a bigger story around some, some folks that were involved with a special nation that my wife, uh, helped to create with this, uh, special needs community through our church. Um, certainly meeting people and recognizing there’s a need for community, but also they had a vision and a goal to open a group home, but opened up many group homes and do it in a way where perceived competence was there.
Maybe an opportunity to communicate, et cetera, et cetera. Fast forward. It happens. God would have it. Um, peace of heart was created. Um, initially it was going to be a girls’ group home. I chair the board for the organization. Um, all of that was just, that was all sidebar stuff. And we had talked about, man, it’d be great.
If one day we could have a boys home that would replicate, you know, or it’d be a duplication of peace of heart, but for the boys, well, as you know, favor would have it. Um, we got a phone call from Amy. And she said, we got an approval. Um, and we decided that we want to make this because of the way the house is built and structured.
There are two sides. We want to make it multi-gender. And we’d like to ask you and give you first right. Of refusal for Davis. And we were like, back to the whole, never thought we’d be here, even considering a group home for our signs. Certainly not at the age of 13. At that time. So here comes another flood of, oh my gosh, what are we doing?
Are we good parents? So all those emotions and all those things. And so we, we decided to at least consider a few weeks of him being there and just seeing how he handles it. And he ended up typing, which was kind of. The fate of that decision, basically in summary, he said, I am now receiving freedom. I get to grow up.
Now I get to go kind of spread my wings if you will, is what he communicated to us. So. One of the hardest things we’ve ever done. I mean, we still talk about how Davis has an ear and that’s had an impact on my kids, on my daughter. My daughter’s still struggles with why her brother’s not here. They were like basically twins.
You know, they were together all the time, but then my little guys, you know, my seven year old. Always talks about his brother Davis, who he really doesn’t engage directly with, but he’s always thinking about him. Um, and he talks to his teachers about Davis and he wonders how his brother’s doing and will his brother know he loves.
He says, things like that.
David Hirsch: Well, it sounds like quite a journey and my heart reaches out to you and Ellen, uh, with the path that you’ve charted. And it sounds like David’s pulled in a good place, right? Yes. Aspect of independence. Isn’t something that all individuals with autism are aware of. And it’s obvious that he is aware of having some independence and that’s an important thing.
And you’re respecting that. Yeah. You know, it’s the solution today. It might not be the long-term solution.
Mitch Gardner: That’s
David Hirsch: right. Yes. And if it’s working, I think that this has God’s way and you know, what should change or something should evolve to be different than it is today. You know, you’ll cross that bridge when you get there.
And, uh, I think one of the most important takeaways, niches that you’re not just parents to one child, um, even though Davis has taken. Uh, more of your time and energy, just because you’re the parents too for children. Right. And you have to look to the wellbeing. Everyone in your family, you and Ellen, as well as all of your children.
So that balancing act is not a straight line. Here’s the book. This is how you do it. You know, it’s a work in progress. And I think that you guys are doing an exemplary job. So, um, one day at a time, that’s all we get anyway. And hopefully you’ll continue to make the best decisions for everybody involved.
Thank you. So, uh, there are some supporting organizations and I just want to make sure that we don’t overlook anything you made reference to special nations. And I know that Alan had something to do with the creation of that. Uh, what is it? What is it today?
Mitch Gardner: Yeah, so as I mentioned before, when we would, we would travel around and we would go to different churches and unfortunately they didn’t have the resources to support our needs and our circumstances with that.
It obviously war, it was heavy on us and Ellen. I just remember her specifically in Pittsburgh. She would always say, I just can’t believe there’s not, there’s not something out there where moms, families can engage and there’s community to, to be able to talk about what we’re going through, what we’re dealing with, and then do it in a way and in an environment.
Obviously, ideally there’s, there’s, there’s some faith components and you can get into that. But even if there’s not just a community of like-minded special needs parents, so fast forward, you know, as God would have it, but it on her heart, uh, awesome pastor at Redeemer church in Palm beach, Florida, and Sean Yoast, and John said, we’ll make it happen, but what do you need?
And so it started with two families and turned into over 50 families. Many of whom are affected by autism, but, but some who are, who are not, who are, you know, down syndrome or, or a number of other unfortunate developmental type circumstances. So, so yeah, so today it’s still going, uh, Ellen’s mother and father took over, um, supporting the organization and lead it today.
So it’s been great.
David Hirsch: So under the banner of additional supporting organizations. I remember you talking about Jill’s place when you were in McLean, Virginia. Sure. And what role, if any, of that’s played in your family?
Mitch Gardner: Yeah, I think, um, Jill’s place when we were in DC and we, we attended McLean Bible, church, uh, lawn Solomon was the head pastor and his daughter, Jill.
I forgive me, I don’t know specifically the diagnosis for her, but she was affected by autism, but she also, she was paralyzed. She always had a permit grant her, she had a smile nonstop and still does, but they built this amazing building, uh, called Jill’s place. That is at the time state-of-the-art facility with PT, OT, a gym.
And they had all of these individuals that were the best in the area and basically offer respite overnight care for children affected by whatever their condition was. So that the parents and their typical siblings could either as a, you know, married couples go out and do married couple stuff for a day or two, um, or take your typical sibling siblings and go do things that you can’t do today because of other things that go on at home with, um, your affected children.
That that was remarkable to us. Cause it was like, oh my gosh, wouldn’t it be amazing if there was that kind of an outreach everywhere. So that certainly also played into, um, the special nation component for Ellen. But I think it also opened the door to, you know, just that idea of if you’re not taking care of what’s going on at home.
If, if, if the nucleus of the family, the mother and the father. The typical children that don’t because there’s so much focus and attention unintentionally, but necessary on the child affected. There’s so much, that’s not given at times too, or not enough left in the tank to give to the other children. And I think it definitely helped us realize that we cannot forget one.
First of all, us, we have to be good. You and I have to be good at. And then from there, we got to ensure that we’re not forgetting about these other beautiful children
David Hirsch: now. Well, thanks for sharing. I’ll be sure to include some information in the show notes about special nation, as well as chills place. And I’d like to talk briefly about, uh, your family’s experience beyond your personal experience and a little bit about the Tim Tebow foundation, uh, which is where Ellen works.
And I’m wondering if you could share with our listeners what the Tim Tebow foundation is. Alan’s role is there?
Mitch Gardner: Yeah. So, uh, Uh, hopefully anybody listening might know who Tim Tebow is. Uh, but he was a, a baseball, right? Yeah. Well, uh, yes, he is a big, he, he, he is a baseball player, but, um, Mo more and more and widely known for his football prowess.
If you don’t know who he is, I encourage you to go look them up. Um, so I won’t get into that, but, uh, he created this foundation. I mean, the beautiful thing about Tim as his heart, you know, his father, his parents, uh, missionaries for you growing up in the Philippines, um, for so many years and Tim being a part of that.
And just, just, not only from a faith perspective, but just a desire to impact people in a way that’s just uncommon and just to have a heart for people. And because he’s been blessed and had so much favor financially, he wanted to do more with his money, again, having an impact on, on others, um, to the best of visibility and.
You know, there’s a number of different ministries that he has. I encourage you to go check out TTF, but one of the big ones is many people know about his night to shine one night, a year, all over the world, special needs children of all facets show up red carpet treatment. And it’s, it’s kind of like a prom or, you know, just an amazing celebration of them as real human beings.
Kings and Queens, as Tim would say, it’s a dance, they get crowns or, or tiaras. And, um, they’re just celebrated for one night a year and it’s pretty special. So as a result of all of that, and I shared about special nation and Elon’s vision through all of these things with Davis, and because as much as Davis, his circumstances have been so hard for Davis in a way that we can’t, I can’t fathom what he deals with every day.
What we have always known is that Davis is impact. Like my impact on Davis as a father is fractional beyond fractional, beyond fractional of his impact on me. Like he’s taught me so much in his behavior, just things that he’s overcome and how he’s managed through all of this stuff. And he’s fought. And like when he has his moments, any, any struggles with his behavior and, and he’ll talk.
Did he, so he’s so ashamed of his, of his behavior. He, so he calls himself a monster sometimes, and he’s like, I want to get out of this autism body, like, but then when he pushes through, and it’s a beautiful thing, and he’s just this in the things that he would type and, and the words in the, in the wisdom and my point is, is that his impact on me, but then his impact on so many other people that have come in contact with him through this whole journey.
And piece of hard and two special nation. There’s so many things it’s remarkable. So all of that said, who would have known, who would have thunk that special one special nation would have been created to that as God would have it three or four months ago, Ellen, through COVID Ellen’s thinking maybe I should go back to work and wouldn’t, you know, it somewhere.
Ford’s her a job description that looks like she wrote it. And that was the first thing I said when I read it, I was like, this literally looks like your nomenclature even. Um, and it was for the 10th Teebo foundation for a ministry called shine on. Long story short, Ellen applied, obviously when they heard her story and they came to peace of heart, even then they saw the beauty that has occurred.
And as a result of special nation, there’s also been a school created and all these wonderful things. She obviously got the job and that’s what she’s doing now. She is, she is building what is going to be shine on four nights a week. Ideally launching soon after a night to shine. And then, um, yeah, we’ll see what God does for.
David Hirsch: thanks for sharing. Uh, the Tim Tebow foundation does amazing work from what I remember, there’s the night to shine and something like 720 different locations. And the fact that it is a one night, which is a really special experience for all these families. Not only are they young individuals who are being treated as the Kings and Queens, but it’s a meaningful experience for their parents and their siblings as well.
Um, it is just one day a year. And I remember when we got involved, uh, advocating for kids and dads super early on, you know, there’s this one day a year that, you know, we sorta recognized dads, you know, on father’s day, the arbitrarily, the third Sunday of every June. And I remember one of the teachers, um, because we have this monster essay writing program that more than 400,000 kids that participated in locally.
You know, we need to move fatherhood from a one day experience to a year round experience. I heard you saying, which is, we’d like to move the experience from night to shine from a one day experience to a year-round experience. I think that’s what a shine on is all about. So we’ll have to do a follow-up interview a year, a couple of years down the road and see where shine on is taking everything.
So. Let’s give a special shout out to your wife, Ellen, and our friends at the Tim Tebow foundation for connecting us. Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Mitch Gardner: No, but I think, um, I’d be remissed if I didn’t also just mentioned, you know, we, we, you mentioned Joanne in the beginning just as introductions and she’s been a wonderful part of our family.
In fact, the way that we met her was that she was, she babysat our kids. Um, the reason we wanted to bring her back, uh, you know, as a babysitter is because she, she actually connected with Davis and Davis, um, responded well to her. She actually worked with special needs kids in that area in DC for a period of time, even at the young age of 15.
So. Something terrible tragic happened with her mother and that was her parent, um, figure. And, um, we, when she passed and, you know, Joanne was left, um, to determine, but be determined for her where she would go. But it was, it was like, not even a question. It was like, yes, we want you in our life. Will you have us?
She lived with us until roughly 18 years old. And then it was up to her what she wanted to do. And that’s when we actually moved back to Jacksonville. And at the time she didn’t come with us. Um, but she ended up, she is here now. She’s been here now for a number of years and actually works at the, at the group home, uh, that Davis lives at, uh, which is a beautiful thing.
I don’t, none of that’s accidental. So she still is big sister to Davis. She, she gets the love on him every day and that gives us. Beyond, you know, our understanding. So I just thought I’d share that because that’s been a beautiful part of everything and her little man, her little guy, Jace who’s ironically four days older than my youngest son Donovan, which is a whole nother, funny story.
Because one day they may be somewhere who knows in a bar telling somebody a joke that this is my nephew. Who’s 14. Uh, younger than me. Um, so do the math on that, but, um, anyway, uh, pretty, pretty cool. Pretty cool. She’s a special lady.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I thought you were going to say that, uh, he would be referred to as the uncle, um, because, uh, you know, if I’m looking at a family tree sort of, um, Her son chase would be your grandson potentially.
Mitch Gardner: Correct? That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. But he’s older. It’s just so weird. It’s funny. I love telling the story because people get a kick out of it. And, um, I also have friends that love calling me a grandfather, um, at 44, which you know, it can happen. It can happen.
David Hirsch: Thanks for sharing. I think it is an important facet of your family and your experience for that matter.
So if somebody wants to learn more about the Tim Tebow foundation or. To get information on special nation, um, or to contact you, what’s the best way to do that.
Mitch Gardner: Um, we’ll certainly get, feel free to contact me. We, we do have special nation.org, but there’s also peace of heart. Uh, P O H C a.org. I would encourage people to go check out that group home, um, and just all the beautiful things that they’re doing.
TTF um, the tempo foundation that really, really simple to find them, to see the ministries that not only that they have, but the organizations that they support, that’s where the spider web thing starts to happen. And you start to see all of the organizations that are out there that are doing amazing work.
Um, not only in the special needs community, but in the human trafficking community and in the, there’s just so many different things that, that. Just, I mean, and they are, they are tireless workers, um, for the, for the betterment of humanity. It’s a beautiful thing. Hope that helps. And, and for me, uh, listen, I’m more than happy and very responsive to anyone that, that, that sees this, that might have questions or, or, um, whatever don’t hesitate to reach out.
Yeah. I’d be happy to. Mitch.
David Hirsch: Thank you for taking the time. In many insights as reminder, Mitch is just one of the dads. Who’s part of the special father’s network, a mentoring program for fathers raising children 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 21st century dads dot.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the special father’s network podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know, the 21st century dads foundation as a 5 0 1 C3, not for profit organization, which. We need your help to keep our content free, to all concerned.
Would you please consider making a tax deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support,
Mitch Gardner: Mitch. Thanks again you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the special father’s network. The special father’s network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special.
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 21st century dads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help, or we’d like to offer. 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 father’s network biweekly zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays event. 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.
At 21st century dads.org.
Tom Couch: The dad podcast was produced by couch. Audio for the special father’s name. Thanks again to horizon therapeutics who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases.
Discover more about horizon firstname.lastname@example.org.