Our SFN Mentor Father this week is Kyle Malone of Indianapolis has two children: Zion (12) and Noah (19). We’ll hear about the Malone family and how Noah has overcome his inability to see and is setting records in track at Indiana State University, participating in the Paralympics and his TEDx Talk. It’s an uplifting and inspiring story and you’ll hear it on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Contact Kyle at: K.Malone@me.com
Noah’s TEDx Talk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQRxEkxhY7w
WTHR 13 Video – https://www.wthr.com/video/news/local/the-amazing-noah-malone/531-6be42a1d-c32d-4580-a6ff-3e42900a241c
Indiana School for the Blind & Visually Impaired – https://www.in.gov/isbvi/
Lebers – https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6870/leber-hereditary-optic-neuropathy
Fishers Disability Council – https://fishers.in.us/999/March-Disability-Awareness
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 horizontherapeutics.com.
Kyle Malone: But David I’m watching these athletes. Just compete and just the most competitive way, but it really opened my eyes to the Paralympic community and that these athletes were, were no different than any other athlete that we would watch. There’s no difference.
Tom Couch: That’s our guests this week. Kyle Malone, Kyle works in the field of education and has two children, Zion 12 and Noah 19.
Who’s blind. Well hear about the Malone family, including how Noah has overcome his inability to see, and is participating in track at Indiana state university and the parallel. It’s a great story and you’ll hear it 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 day.
Tom Couch: 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.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help. We’d like to offer help. We’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad
Tom Couch: and now let’s hear this fascinating conversation between Kyle Malone and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Kyle Malone of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Who’s a father of two and a senior man. Uh, partnerships at Grantmakers for education. Kyle, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the special father’s network.
Kyle Malone: David, thank you for the invitation pleasure to be here.
David Hirsch: You and your former wife, Tasha are the proud parents of two children, daughters zion who’s 12 and Noah who’s 19 and also blind.
Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your.
Kyle Malone: Yes, well born in Chicago and at the age of three, my mother, father, and I moved to Gary Indiana where my father assumed church, the United Methodist church in Gary grew up in Gary until I came to Indianapolis for college, where I attended at that time, Indiana central university, which is now the university of Indianapolis.
Great growing up in the region and that’s home and where the heart is. So that was my beginning.
David Hirsch: Excellent. But one of the things I remember in a prior conversation as coincidentally, our moms were about the same age and they had careers like 30 plus year careers as Chicago public school teachers.
Kyle Malone: Oh my goodness.
Well, as I mentioned, living in Gary, I really developed admiration for my mother. Who drove from Gary to Chicago every day. And that was about know 40 minute drive each way. But the main thing was she would drive during the winter. And there were several years where she did not miss a day of school. So I mean, I, I really grew up admiring her, her heart work ethic.
Certainly both my mother and my father’s occupations shaped who I am to.
David Hirsch: So, uh, you mentioned your dad was a United Methodist minister and Gary, and I’m wondering, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Kyle Malone: Oh my goodness. Well, I am basically his, his twin in terms of, of disposition. They know he was somewhat laid back, you know, very people oriented, very giving.
And in terms of. You know, going to work with my mother, the equivalent with my father was after service. You know, he would stand at the back of the church and greet people coming out and I just took it upon myself to stand next to. And I would, I would read people, but I’m mainly watching him, you know, and I don’t know why I did that.
It wasn’t necessarily, while I have to, you know, protect him, but I just felt that was my place to be. And then he would maybe give me his rope to hold the rope and everything. So, um, I, it was, I was just very active, you know, in, in the things that he did. But as I think more about that, David, I would also accompany him when he would visit.
Church members. We would take individuals who did not have transportation, but they had family members who might have been hospitalized or institutionalized. And I remember going along with him on those visits. And so now with my children, I’m trying to impart the idea of going and visiting people and. I didn’t realize how important those moments were when I was growing up, I was there, but it just gives us the patients now to, to talk and listen and visit that.
That was very instrumental to me to accompany my father on those, on some of those trips.
David Hirsch: So I’m wondering if there’s a lesson or two that come to mind when you think about your day. Something that maybe you’ve tried to emulate or incorporate into your own fathering?
Kyle Malone: Oh, definitely. I, I think it’s, it’s being, so I have a plaque on my wall here that was made about him when they dedicated, uh, To him at Methodist hospital and Gary, after he passed in 2006, and we never heard him in this way, but there’s a term that they put on this pipe called gentle, giant gentle giant.
And there’s a lot in that term. Right. And so I, I think that I emulate that personality. Where I do not pair it with a heavy hand, nor do I have to. I feel blessed, you know, with my children. So I I’d take on the same parenting style, you know, maybe walk softly and carry a big stick. There is discipline, there is order.
Um, but there’s also, uh, kindness. There’s also a listening to. And there’s also an external part where, you know, we’re, we’re connected to a larger world where we’re connected to people outside of our immediate unit. So I think those are the things that I have take away from my own upbringing. And, uh, certainly went to, to give to my children, going back to my father.
He was African-American minister in predominantly white district in north, north, in Indiana, the Calumet district. And so there were only four African-American churches in the district and they were all in Gary. Okay. He, he later became this the first African-American district superior. For the Calumet district.
And so we, when we would travel to other churches, we were traveling to white communities. I remember as a child, you know, close family, friends, I remember their names of Pearl mints and they will come over to have dinner and, you know, we would go to their home. So I think that that’s the test, you know? In terms of cross-cultural understanding, you know, if you’re able to visit in homes of people who are from different backgrounds or if they are in your home.
I think that’s a really good signal that you’re learning and you’re exchanging.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I think, uh, a lot of the problems that we are experiencing or witnessing in our society today, Domestically and internationally have to do with the fact that people don’t interact with one another. And you know, it’s really hard to get to know somebody if you’re not spending time with them.
Uh face-to-face or one-on-one. So I love it that you were learning that from an early age and that you’re trying to do the same, you know, with your kids as well. And you know, the world will be obviously a lot better place if everybody was of similar mind. So thanks for your. From what I remember, you went to Indiana central university, which is now university of Indianapolis, and you took a policy degree and you’ve served in a lot of different positions.
You were a Dean of admissions at Earlham college and Richmond, Indiana. You were associate director of admissions at Kalamazoo college. You are a vice-president of programs with big brothers, big sisters in Indianapolis. And then, um, currently you’re the senior manager of partners. Grantmakers for education.
And you’ve been there for, uh, a handful of years. Yes. What is it that you do now? Uh, occupationally.
Kyle Malone: So I work with education foundations and these are foundations that invest in, in the all aspects of the education continuum from birth through career. Um, I work in the area of membership retention.
Membership recruitment as well as membership engagement. So that keeps us busy. We there’s no shortage of issues. No day is, is the same, but you know, it’s, it’s definitely a feeling of making a difference.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. And it just dawned on me that instead of following in your dad’s footsteps, administering it’s obvious or evident that.
Uh, found a little bit closer to falling in your mom’s footsteps with her commitment to education and your role and, um, helping educators. So that’s
Kyle Malone: fabulous. Yeah. Well, it’s very interesting. I will add David that, um, anyone who is a son or daughter of, of a minister, you’re automatically dubbed as well.
You’re going to be a minister with a, and I, I would be kidding you if I said that there wasn’t. Okay. And so as I began to work in education, particularly as I started at our alum college and I was at Kalamazoo college in my mind, I looked at that as a ministry, you know, I said, okay, this is, this is my ministry because you know what you’re doing is you you’re guiding people in this case, young people you’re, you’re, you’re listening to.
You’re helping. And so there, there is a form of ministry. And I think with all of the work that we do, that you do and, and, and our listeners, I think we can make the argument that we are doing a form of, of ministry. So hopefully I’m combining, you know, the two, but, but I’ve definitely, you know, that education has certainly been my calling youth development and as well as education philanthropy, Um, I hadn’t really thought about that.
So yeah. So I think a combination, so yeah, I love that.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So you and Tasha were married for about 14 years and divorced in 2014. And, um, you are the proud parents of these two children. And, uh, I’d like to switch gears and talk about special needs, uh, first on a personal level and then perhaps beyond.
So I’m sort of curious to know before Noah’s diagnosis, did you or Tasha have any experience with the special needs community?
Kyle Malone: No, we did not. We did not. And we did not anticipate having any connections to the special needs community.
David Hirsch: So what is Noah’s diagnosis and how did it come about, about
Kyle Malone: Noah’s diagnosis?
It’s a vision impairment call labors and laborers is L E B E R S. Labors hereditary optic neuropathy. It is a condition where. The nerves that are connected to the eyeballs are not firing. And so this condition came about quite suddenly. I would say over a matter of days, there was no warning. In fact, when we would take him for eye tests and vision tests, it was 2020.
So there was absolutely no hint that, that this would happen, but sort of the evolution of it came, we were in Jacksonville, Florida at a track meet. We were in the stands and he had trouble seeing the displays and some of the score scoreboards down on the field. But I tell you, David, it was so hot in Jackson.
That you could attribute anything that you were feeling to the heat. So there was, there was no red flag. Okay. Like, oh yeah. You know, sitting up stands that we’re just sweat. We come back. No, it begins school days later, first day of school. And he comes home and says, I have trouble seeing the board today.
Okay. You know, again, not a red flag. It’s like, well, let’s, let’s. Let’s go to target and, and get tested and see if we can get some glasses. And so when we arrived at park at about 6:00 PM that day, the doctor was conducting, you know, standard routine tests. He immediately noticed that something was wrong and the way she described it to.
You could tell it was heightened. Her concern was heightened. In fact, she said, if it wasn’t so late in the day, uh, she would’ve sent us to, uh, an optic neurologist that day Tasha’s brother also has a vision impaired. And at that time, we, we didn’t know the technical names. We didn’t know all of the details, but Tasha sort of connected dots that evening to say, oh, I wonder if this is what my, my brother’s condition is.
And she made a call to get more information that evening and. That that next day, when we went to the, uh, Glick ice center in, in, um, downtown Indianapolis, that, that diagnosis was confirmed, that it was labors. And so you can imagine we were all just blown away for different reasons. Obviously Noah’s blown away because this is affecting him.
David Hirsch: And he’s only 13 years old, right. He’s only 13 starting eighth grade, right?
Kyle Malone: Yeah. Right, right. So you can imagine the adjustment that we made, there was an academic adjustment. There’s a social adjustment. And then when you look at extracurricular, right, there’s an extracurricular adjustment and there’s no time to prepare.
It’s not like school starting in two months. So we didn’t have the luxury of time. What we realize is that we had to kick into gear really, really quickly, meaning let’s meet with the teachers because this was new for everybody. Right. And, um, shit. The knowledge and information that we have with his teachers as to, you know, trying to put ourselves in his shoes, the best we could, we were able them to give assignments onto his iPad.
And fortunately, the real blessing here is that our school district here in fishers, Indiana has. Um, office for blind and low vision students. And that year the office was located in his junior high school. I kid you not. And, and the, the individuals, Angela and Bev, we couldn’t have done it without them.
They were right there. And just served as an incredible support. And then just to show how incredible this journey has been the next year, the office moved from the junior high school to the high school that NOAA’s I kid you not
David Hirsch: it’s divine Providence.
Kyle Malone: Yes, yes, yes. So it was a blessing that this level of support.
Was was, was right there.
And then there was the adjustment with, with track, of course, because he had been running since fifth grade formally, and it was something he was still committed to doing. During that eighth grade year, there were definitely some bumps along the way. Right? Cause there was an adjustment with the loss of sight and there were a couple of cage occasions where he, uh, stepped on blocks, starting blocks that were left on the track.
So if you’re running a 400. They leave the, the blocks at the end of the track. And so I think this race was either a 200 or 100, but I could see the blood. I knew the blocks were there and I’m like, and I could see Noah heading straight to them. I’m like, oh Lord, I hope Noah doesn’t step on those blocks.
And he did and twisted his ankle. And so there were a few situations like that. And. What happened there, uh, to be candid, it, it created a mental block for Noah because he’s like, okay, most of my vision has gone. I can’t see what’s on the track. How, how will I know, how will I be guaranteed that this track is clear?
Right. We worked with the USA track and field association because, you know, for some of the. Qualifying meets or some of the championship meets only the athletes can be on the track. No coaches, no parents. So we were able to meet with them to say, look, we have a special situation. Here can a coach and parent beyond the track.
So they allow that. So we said, Noah, we’ll be, we’ll be your eyes. We’ll make sure the track is clear. That’s our job. Your job is to run like heck right. And we had a. And so, you know, one of us as parents, we would be at the far end of the track, here’s the finish line. And so we would be well behind the finish line.
There would be a coach standing on, on the, uh, on the infield. And no, you just run. We’ll make sure there are no blocks on, on that track. And so that was, that was a, I would say a mental block that he overcame. And then the second, uh, level of support that I want to talk about. Is from the coaches because Noah ran on the four by one relay team and he was the anchor.
So he didn’t have to worry about handing a petard to anyone. Right. All he had to do was put his hand back and receive it. The plan was for a coach to provide audible instruction. Whether it was standing right there on the end field, or there were times when, like in the, in the state championship meets, they would have to be behind a fence.
So there were these audibles, but you know, one of the things that I just want to point out is just, again, the incredible support that we received from just so many places, so many pieces. That it was, this is so big. You know, when, when this happened, happens to you as a parent, you just, your mind can’t think of the magnitude and all of the strategies and all of the resources.
We had people coming to us, describing those resources, sharing those resources, pointing us in the right direction. So we’re indebted to our extended family, our extended community coaches, teachers who guided us to the Paralympics. We really didn’t know much about the Paralympics, but no, his journey after eighth grade took him to.
Two high schools. He was dual enrolled at the Indiana school for the blind, which again, we were blessed to be 20, 25 minutes away from that incredible institution and an that incredible resource, but he wanted to continue to track. He was, he was totally committed to running track at Hamilton Southeastern high school.
And we met with. The athletic director there, the athletic director, advocated for Noah to the Indiana high school state association, commissioner, Mr. Bobby Cox, and created a plan where Noah could go to any school for the blind, middle of the day lunch, take a bus over to HSC.
That was his freshman year, sophomore year and junior. And then his senior year, he went full time to Hamilton Southeastern high school. I will note, and as, as a dad, I will brag that when he arrived at Hamilton Southeastern in his ninth grade year, he broke three records. We had no idea what high school track would be.
Like. We knew it would be a step up. From junior high, we felt like, okay, you’re, you’re getting to the major leagues now. Okay. We did not expect, you know, for him to have that kind of success as his freshman year. And then sophomore year, he broke his own records in the hundred and the 200, and then he asked the indoor 60 meter record, and then they had success as a relay team with no.
So I, I I’ll pause there, but I just want to kind of share the journey from eighth grade, you know, when, when everything hits suddenly to sort of that transition then to high-school. And how that began.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. Um, it sounds like it was quite a chaotic year, right? Learning about the diagnosis.
Yes, sir. Um, trying to keep some semblance of order on NOAA’s behalf, educationally, like you said, socially, and then with his extracurriculars, with his running. And, uh, I did see. A video of that anchor leg, where he started out, like in fourth, out of the eight runners, you know, as far as getting the Baton to do the anchor leg.
And he just like, motored ahead, I’m like, oh my God, this is amazing. It’s like everybody else was slowing down or something. And here he is powering across the finish line. It was really inspirational. So thanks for sharing.
Video: I’m alone. I’m 16 years old and
I’ve been running track since the fourth grade. So about six years, my TRS will be at ten six. Uh, 21.4 king Jr. And their door wall
Kyle Malone: at the beginning of each year, whatever classes no would take at the high school, we would do a walking tour, but it was Noah and his sister Zion. Uh, who would. Walk the halls and find the classrooms and go up the stairs. And then after two or three times, he would be like, okay, I’m going to do this by myself.
Now let me do it by myself. And once he did that, once he had it, that was it. So, you know, being very intentional in terms of let’s take a couple of days, walk through, and then, then your first day of. Right. So, uh, just allowing that time being patient to let him walk as much as he needs to walk until he’s feeling comfortable.
And so I would say that was probably one of the biggest challenges, you know, just keeping them on track, but pushing them out a little bit without pushing too hard or putting them in a situation where he wasn’t going to be.
David Hirsch: You mentioned, uh, his sister Zion, and there’s a seven year difference in age.
And I’m wondering what impact Noah’s situations had on his younger sister, Zion, your marriage, or the rest of your family for that matter?
Kyle Malone: You know what, I, I, I would start off by saying that we, we rallied, we all rallied the immediate family, as well as our extended family. And, you know, we had one goal in mind and that was to, you know, identify resources and provide the support, you know, that would keep him on track.
I would say Zion in particular, you know, she she’s, you know, totally awesome and extremely mature for being 12. And I think part of her maturity is, is the time that she has spent with Noah and they are extremely close. The extremely close and she plays an important role. I’m going to say is equal as his parents, but probably in some ways, even more important than the parents.
And so she’s like his advisor and he, he relies on her. And so they have a special relationship, but it’s a relationship built on.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. It sounds like she’s very mature for a 12 year old. That’s
Kyle Malone: right.
And I have to save from a personal perspective. My life was really impacted at the first Paralympic track meet. I had. In Phoenix, Arizona, the desert challenge. And we had to go there, um, for Noah to qualify, to be on the team. You know, we went out there. Good news is that he did achieve at the time and, and qualified for the Paralympic team at that meet.
But David I’m watching these athletes. Just compete and just the most competitive way, but it really opened my eyes to the Paralympic community and that these athletes were no different than any other athlete that we would watch compete. There was no. And so now I’m happy to say that he just completed his first semester of college at Indiana state university.
And so I was a nervous wreck. The first three weeks, I was a nervous wreck. I’m like Lord scene. And I think I had a breakthrough three weeks into the semester when he called me and he said, Hey, um, I wouldn’t got a haircut today. I found a barber. And I walked, I walked by myself and so that was, that was a breakthrough.
I was like, wow. Okay. I couldn’t believe it. You know, I mean, I was in my mind, I was saying, whoa, but you might say, oh wow, that’s really, that’s really great. And then just recently in December, maybe Thanksgiving, I picked him up and we’re driving through town. He said, can we go get some Chinese food? I know this great restaurant.
And so we’re driving through town and he says, oh, you know, There’s a donut shop over here, you know, and he’s pointing all these things out and I’m like, how do you know these places, you know, in Terre Haute, Indiana. And so that, let me know he had been getting out. I asked him, well, who do you go with? How do you get there?
So to see him adapt not only to Harlem, academically, but then to adapt to that surrounding community has been really pivotal. Yeah. I think he’s like, I’m gonna figure this out on my own. Right. And that’s just who he is. I mean, that’s who he is, who he has been like, like you were saying earlier, Mike, no, I don’t need a cane.
Right. You know, uh, I’ll do this on my own and he’s determined in that way. And so you just let him, you let him go. And I think that’s the lesson for young people. At some point there’s only so much coddling we can do. We’re the nervous ones as parents, right? We’re, we’re messed up, but they’re like, let, let me try it.
Let me do it. I think I got this dad he’s competing now in track. He doing well there and then hopefully fingers crossed. We can travel to the Paralympic games and Tokyo. But that’s a
David Hirsch: goal. Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. That’s fabulous. Um, and I’m thinking way beyond, because no is so young that it’s not inconceivable that what is that?
7, 8, 9 years down the road that he might still be competing providing that, Hey, like you said, he can stay injury-free and that that’s something that might be of important to them. That’s a long time.
Kyle Malone: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I, I know it’s in his line of sight, so I, we, we got some things to look forward to.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing. Let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, Jim McKell, who is the CEO and president of the Woodward Hines education foundation for helping connect us. I
Kyle Malone: love that. Yes. Thank you, Jeff.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before
Kyle Malone: we wrap up? I would just like to say, thank you.
It’s certainly a pleasure being connected to you just in the short time we’ve known each other. I have, I have grown and look forward to our friendship continuing and growing as well. So this has been, uh, an awesome experience and it’s just the beginning.
David Hirsch: If somebody wants to learn more about Lieber’s, uh, the Indiana school for the blind, uh, Paralympics or to contact you.
How would they do that? You
Kyle Malone: know, let me give my email if that’s okay. Anyone can contact me at K dot Malone, M a L O N email@example.com.
David Hirsch: We’ll be sure to include that in the show notes, so we’ll make it as easy as possible. Great,
Kyle Malone: great.
David Hirsch: Thanks. Kyle, thank you for the time. And many insights as reminder. Kyle’s just one of the dads.
Who’s part of the special father’s network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father. Are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation, your own, please go to 21st century ads.org. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the special father’s network, dad to dad podcast.
I hope you enjoyed listening to the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know, the 21st century dads foundation is a 5 0 1 C3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all kids. Would you please consider making a tax deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support.
Kyle Malone: Thank you, David.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the special fathers network. The special father’s 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. Go to 21st century dads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help 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 father’s 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. No, have a compelling story. Please send an email to David@twentyfirstcenturydads.org.
Tom Couch: But dad to dad podcast was produced by couch audio for the special father’s network. 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. For people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about horizon therapeutics at horizontherapeutics.com.