Meet Greg Hubert of Torrance, CA, who is an executive at Joni & Friends, the Christian Global Disability Ministry and father of three boys on the Autism spectrum.
Greg and his wife, Gina, have been married for 33 years and are the proud parents of three boys;
Zachary (29), Tyler (27) and Tate (23), who are all on the Autism spectrum.
Greg reflects on his Faith, his career in the medical device sales industry, the call to do work at Joni & Friends, and the rather unusual as well as dysfunctional relationship with his biological father.
We also learn a great deal about the history and impact that Joni & Friends has made over the past four decades across the globe and in particular with assisting churches to become more inclusive and accepting of persons with disability and the J&Fs Wheels To The World program that has provided more than 200,000 wheelchairs to those outside the U.S.
It’s a uplifting story about a father’s love for his family and how his special needs child has shaped his heart.
Joni & Friends – https://www.joniandfriends.org/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregory-hubert/
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Couch: Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring today’s Special Fathers 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.
Greg Hubert: The behaviors, when our boys couldn’t talk, they’d have meltdowns. When they knew mommy and daddy were spending time together and we were good, you saw those behaviors drastically minimized. They didn’t completely go away, but you could sense, David, when we were good with each other, the boys were good.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Greg Hubert. Greg retired from the business world to become an executive at Joni and Friends, whose mission is to enrich the spiritual and physical lives of disabled people worldwide. Greg and his wife Gina have three boys, Zach, Tyler, and Tate, who are all on the autism spectrum. We’ll hear the Hubert family story and more on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast. Say hello to 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 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 21stcenturydads.org.
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 Dad to Dad. And now let’s hear this conversation between Greg Hubert and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I am thrilled to be talking today with Greg Hubert of Torrance, California, who’s the father of three, and Senior Vice President of Field Services at Joni and Friends, a global Christian disability ministry. Greg, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Greg Hubert: My pleasure, David.
David Hirsch: You and your wife Gina have been married for 33 years, and are the proud parents of three boys, Zachary, 29, Tyler, 27, and Tate, 23, who are all on the autism spectrum. Let’s start with some background. Tell me where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Greg Hubert: Yeah. I grew up the town I live in now, Torrance, California. I have an older brother, and I have two younger identical twin sisters. I pretty much went to school all the way up in Torrance, up through high school, before I went off to college. That’s where I’m from. If you don’t know where it is, Torrance is in the Redondo Beach neck of the woods, near LAX.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well that’s good to know. From what I remember in a prior conversation, I think you mentioned that your parents were divorced when you were relatively young, which is something we have in common. I’m wondering how that transpired.
Greg Hubert: I was eight years old, and I can actually remember my parents having kind of a bumpy relationship. I do remember it happened on a Christmas Eve. Of all days, that was the day he decided to announce his departure. My mom pulled me aside and said, “Your dad is not gonna be here. He’s leaving me, and he won’t be here in the morning for Christmas day.” We had all our extended family there.
And I said, “Why is dad leaving?” And she said, “Well, why don’t you go ask him?” And so, bold little eight year old I was, I went up and asked my dad why he was leaving. And he said, “I just don’t feel like I’m in love with your mom anymore.” And that was it. And then sure enough, he was off and out of our lives, and for the most part for the rest of my life.
David Hirsch: Well, I’m sorry to hear that. It creates a vacuum or a hole. I’m just speaking from my own experience, not yours. And it affects everybody a little bit differently. But the story doesn’t end there, because what I remembered was that your dad remarried. Even though you weren’t involved a lot over the years, I’m wondering if you could share that story as well.
Greg Hubert: Sure. I had made attempts through the years growing up to reach out to my dad, and it was a very quid pro quo relationship. Like if I wrote him a letter, he wrote a letter. If I didn’t write a letter, then he would get passive aggressive and angry and wouldn’t write me back. And so I made multiple attempts over the years to get in touch with him.
He was a heavy smoker, a two-and-a-half-pack-a-day smoker, as long as I could remember. But as I got older—actually, it was back in 2013 that I just called him one day, because he only lived about an hour away from me. And my stepmother answered the phone and I said, “Hey, is my dad home?”
And she said, “Ummm, no.” And I said, “Well, do you know when he is gonna be back?” And she said, “I’m, uhhh….” This wasn’t like her. And so I said, “Well, when he gets back in, can you have him call me.” And she’s like, “Okay,” and hung up. And then two days later I got in the mail a letter from someone, actually her daughter-in-law from her first marriage. She wrote:
Dear Greg, it is with deepest sympathy that this letter comes to you. And the sad news is that your father passed away on September 3rd, 2013. He passed away peace peacefully at home from third stage lung cancer, and his specific wishes were that he desired to have no funeral service of any kind. He wished to be cremated and his ashes interred at this particular cemetery. And he also requested that his children not be notified upon his death. And his wife asked me, as her daughter-in-law, to convey this to you, as this is obviously a very difficult time for her.
And then they actually sent me a copy of the will. And it just said, “I, Earl G. Hubert, declare that it is my wish and desire that my wife and her son have no contact with my four children, either in person, by telephone or otherwise, in the event of my sickness and hospitalization, when near death or upon death.” And he actually signed that back in 1998.
It took me back a little bit, and I cried, because I had tried hard to reach out to my dad over the years. And still to this day I don’t know, really, why he didn’t want to have anything to do with us. But my siblings didn’t quite feel this as much, as they really didn’t know him. I was the one that really tried to reach out to him.
Even though he really didn’t want to have anything to do with me, I don’t have any hatred in my heart towards him. I actually forgive him. But I didn’t really exactly have a wonderful role model of a father. I’m thankful to the Lord that he had me for the few years I can remember knowing him. I was probably right about 50 when I got that letter. So, a long time. So, very interesting.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s a very unique story. It saddens me to think about that, but what comes to mind, first, is that I think I would be in therapy just trying to reconcile all that. And another thought that comes to mind, having not been very close to my dad—I’m not proud of this—but I think we learn from role models in our lives. And one way to think about it is that we emulate those that we want to be more like, and then we try to live vicariously through those that maybe aren’t the best role models, so that we don’t make some of the same mistakes they made.
And I’m hoping maybe that’s a little bit of what your experience has been. There wasn’t a lot to hold on to, or to relate to, and instead of thinking of the glass being half empty, maybe there’s some lessons to be learned there.
And maybe that’s one of the reasons you’re as committed as a husband as you are, and as committed as a father, and that you’re the human being that you are, with the empathy and compassion you have for others, because of that experience. It doesn’t make it go away. It doesn’t lessen the pain that you might feel. But at least you can take what I think of as the energy from an experience like that and channel it into something positive.
Greg Hubert: Yeah, there’s no doubt. I mean, it’s a constant struggle even after he passed. I see certain things when people talk about the great relationships they had with their fathers. Or I watch movies that trigger things that make me cry, because I don’t know what that was like.
If this is any indicator, I dated my wife for ten years, because I thought divorce was hereditary. I was non-committal, because I thought, man, if my dad couldn’t hang in there, what makes me think I can be committed to my wife? And so many of my friends around me, their parents were getting divorced. So it clearly had an effect on how I view what it meant to be a father and a husband, because I didn’t really have an example of that.
David Hirsch: So let’s talk about school and career a little bit. My recollection is you went to Biola University, got a BA in theology and theological services, and then shortly thereafter, a Master of Divinity in theological and ministerial studies from The Master’s Seminary. I’m wondering, with your education, where did you expect to go, or how did your career start?
Greg Hubert: Well, it’s an interesting journey. When I originally was going into college, before I even went to Biola, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. But what happened to me—I actually went to the Air Force Academy. I was accepted there, and then after being there for a summer, I left the academy. It was that year when I developed atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that kept me down for close to a year. They almost wanted to diagnose me with rheumatic fever.
It was in that time being at home where I couldn’t go anywhere, that God really shaped my heart for what was to come in the future—because all I could do was stay home. I listened to Bible sermon tapes by John MacArthur, I read my Bible, and what came out of that, and because of my involvement with church, I just started caring for people.
So when I finally got healthy again, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in after junior college. I just wanted to study the Bible. So I went and studied the Bible at Biola for two years. When I got to graduation, people were like, “What are you gonna do?” I said, “Well, I think I want to be a pastor.”
And so that led to seminary at The Master’s Seminary here in Sun Valley, and I started going down that career path. I became a pastor right out of seminary at a church in Long Beach as a single adults’ pastor. And I did that for four years.
It was during that time we had our first two children and we started to kind of sense some things looking different with our firstborn. And it was in that time where I started to have this unsettledness, like I wasn’t supposed to be in vocational ministry. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
But I needed to make money. So what I did was I went to a recruiter and said, “I just want to make enough money to cover both of our incomes.” My wife was working, I was working. I just wanted to make $45,000 a year. After ten rejections pursuing entry level sales jobs, I finally got one. I sold dictation equipment for a company called Lanier. I became very successful, cold calling and learning the basic black-belt skills of sales.
Which then led me into what I did for most of my career. The last 27 years in medical device sales is what God led me into. So it’s a real interesting path, David, that I started going into vocational ministry. Most guys start in a career and then go into the ministry when God calls them into it. I kind of was pulled out of it, which was confusing. But that’s kind of how my career was headed before I came to Joni and Friends.
David Hirsch: It is interesting how your career has these bookends, if I can put it that way, with 27 or so years in the corporate world in the middle. You know, everybody’s on a different path, right, and what works for your family might not work for somebody else. But I appreciate you sharing this story. We’ll talk about Joni and Friends in a few minutes. But I was curious to know, how did you and Gina meet?
Greg Hubert: Well, we first met at church. She’s a year older than me. We knew each other in junior high and went to church camps. And sure enough, I went out with her and got to know her and really know what she was like. And from there we kind started going steady. I was a sophomore and she was a junior in high school. We dated all through high school, college, seminary, and we got married the same month I graduated from seminary, in June of 1998. So we’ve been married 33 years this June.
David Hirsch: Wow. That’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing. High school sweethearts, if you will. Well, let’s switch gears and talk about special needs, first on a personal basis, and then beyond. At what age was Zachary diagnosed, and what was the diagnosis?
Greg Hubert: Well, it was autism spectrum disorder. With all three of the boys, we got the official diagnosis when they were three years old. But Gina could sense from watching and observing him that something was wrong, because he had language, developing probably until about 18 months, and then it just diminished. He seemed to be developing typically like all the other children around him, and then it would just go away.
So we knew something was not right. We’d go to the doctor, and the doctor would say, “Oh, he is just slow. Boys are slower at developing than girls.” But that’s how we kind of knew something was up before we got the official diagnosis.
David Hirsch: Okay. So once you had the diagnosis—I guess Tyler was already born, because they’re just a couple years apart—I’m wondering, what was your first reaction to learning about the autism spectrum disorder?
Greg Hubert: Well, I was working in Hawaii. We just had Zachary and Tyler. Zachary was probably about two and a half, and Tyler was six months. When we were out there, we started to take him to a pediatric neurologist at one of the hospitals. Gina was going back and forth and doing all these tests, while I was working.
But I remember when we got his diagnosis—not the official three-year diagnosis—but I remember the doctor had a terrible bedside manner. He walked in and he basically said, “Your child’s mentally retarded.” That’s what he told us. He said, “You better just get ready. There’s not much you can do for him. Don’t know what to tell you. There are places you can have your kids go live. That might be best.” And then he just walked out.
I can remember my mom was there with us that day. We just went in the hallway and started crying. We knew something was up with him. But to get “mentally retarded” as the diagnosis was pretty heavy. So it hit us pretty hard.
The interesting part is, David, when we came back, and we were starting to process this, Gina then said, “I think I’m noticing similar developmental delays with Tyler.” And I was just like, “No, no.” I was in denial. “No, you can’t be serious.” I just wanted to go to work and not think about it.
But that’s what happened. We saw a similar pattern of developmental delays with Tyler. His language developed to a point, and then it started to diminish, and he started to isolate. We eventually moved back to California, and we took him to UCLA for his diagnosis, where he was diagnosed with autism as well.
I remember every time we would open the official letter—even though we knew they were autistic—we would just start crying. Because it was like it just sunk in. This is real, right? Two for two. Like how, how does that happen? And the doctors couldn’t give us any direction on what to do with it.
So at that point we decided something. We had thought we wanted a family of four. We both came from families with four kids. Now we thought, “God, what do we do now?” So we kind of took a big pause. We prayed about it for a while. Then we said—Gina’s the one, I think, who said it—“Well, okay, God. If you’re gonna give us another child with autism, we’re okay with it. We’ll go ahead and try again.” And sure enough, we tried again. She got pregnant with our third.
After that, we saw he had the same pattern of development and it went away. And then sure enough, little Tate was diagnosed with autism in a similar way. So we had the trifecta of autism in our family. All three of the boys diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
David Hirsch: Well first of all, it sounds very heavy, particularly when you learned about Zachary’s diagnosis from this doctor, like you’d referred to, with a poor bedside manner, making reference to the fact that he was mentally retarded, and then not having a lot to add and avoiding the feelings you must have had.
And then if that wasn’t challenging enough, lightning strikes twice, and then lightning strikes a third time. I’m wondering, where are each of the boys today? Because I know they’ve developed differently, even though they might have the same overall diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. So starting with Zachary.
Greg Hubert: Zachary is 29 years old. He actually graduated with very high functioning. He’s verbal. He graduated from college. He still lives at home with us and has certain social struggles. He really has some difficulties with interacting socially with other people. But you know, you can have a conversation with him, and he would seem a little quirky, but he’s a really sweet boy.
And Tyler just turned 27 last month. He’s nonverbal, and he needs 24-hour care. He lives in a group home right now. He’s lived in a group home since he was 18 years old, because he got pretty aggressive, and he used to weigh almost weighed 400 pounds.
He just couldn’t stop eating. He would eat out of the trash cans. We had to lock the refrigerator. We didn’t know what to do anymore. And getting him into his group home was wonderful, because he’s now down to like 210 pounds and healthy. He lives with three other adults with disabilities. Sweet, sweet boy.
And then Tate, our youngest lives at home with us. He’s 23. He’s non-verbal and he also needs 24-hour care. We can’t leave him alone. And he’s a type one diabetic. He developed diabetes in his late teens, which kind of threw a new curve ball at us, as a young man who can’t tell you how he’s feeling. You see it in his behaviors.
When his sugar would drop too low, he would pass out in the shower. We didn’t know what was going on. Or if it was too high, he’d be bouncing off the walls and screaming. We can’t keep a pump in him. We have to still prick his fingers multiple times a day. And that was a whole new learning curve for us as a family.
So those are our boys, but we love them. They’re sweet boys. They are challenging as all get out. But I wouldn’t have any other boys. They’re just wonderful.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing that. I’m wondering if there were any other individuals who have played an instrumental role in your life, perhaps other parents with children that were older than yours who helped you to see the path.
Greg Hubert: Las Vegas was one of the cities we lived in, and we moved there when I got my first big medical device job. There was a cardiac surgeon there whom I worked with. They had a daughter named Catherine who was probably 15 years older than the boys. They were a really devout Catholic family, and we got to know them as friends.
I had all these worries about the future, about what’s going to happen to the boys. I’m a control guy, right? I’m a sales guy by nature, so I want to handle the deal and close the deal.
And he was so gracious. He just said, “You know what? All I can tell you is that you shouldn’t worry about the future for your children. You don’t know what they’re going to be like in 10 years, in 15 years. So there’s no reason to really go there. You’re not justified in that anxiety and stress. He said, “God will let you know what you need to do at the right time. He’ll make that evident to you, what you need to do.”
He didn’t get specific, but that stuck with me, because he was someone who was down the road on the path of disabilities, and he just reassured me that it was gonna be okay. And that’s really stuck with Gina and me as we started to go down the years with our boys. It was really wise counsel to us.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. I think it’s important to identify others that have been there and done that, and provide you with some guidance. And sometimes they show up and sometimes they’re not there. It’s not like you can find them, but it’s almost circumstantial.
And I’m wondering what type of impact the boy’s situation has had on your marriage, or your extended family for that matter.
Greg Hubert: I’ll start with the extended family. What’s really interesting, David, is we didn’t realize the impact our boys were having on their cousins. So my brother has four daughters. They live in North Carolina.
Their oldest daughter started a restaurant that employs adults with disabilities. And now she’s just starting an international foundation that is designed to help train employers on how to hire adults with disabilities, and also training people with disabilities to be hired by those businesses. One of his other daughters went into special education, and a third daughter has American sign language as her occupation.
Gina’s sister is a teacher in special education. One of her two children is now in para educating in the public schools. We just went to one of my college roommate’s oldest daughter’s wedding on Saturday. And I didn’t know, but when we hugged them at the wedding, she said, “Yeah, I work with special needs children.”
And so we’ve started seeing the influence of our kids on the careers and occupations of all these friends and family around us, which they just did by getting to know our voice, and that’s pretty powerful.
Secondly, we went to a church here in Torrance when the boys were little kids. When we moved back here years later, we were walking our son around a high school track, and one of the kids on the track goes, “Hey, is that Tyler Hubert?” And Gina said, “Yeah.” He said, “I used to watch him. I was one of his shadows in Sunday school. And because of him, I came to know Jesus, and now I’m in special education.”
I can’t tell you how many stories I run into of people meeting our kids, and because of them, they’ve been drawn to love kids with disabilities. And not only that, but they see Jesus. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like people have developed these soft hearts to know more about Jesus because of our kids.
David Hirsch: Yeah, that is very powerful. Thank you for sharing. It’s very moving. Did you want to make a comment about the impact that it’s had on your marriage?
Greg Hubert: Yes. Thank you. I got so into that one. I can say that if I had to say in one statement, the three most profound teachers of God’s love to us are our three boys. They’ve been the ones who have taught us. We’ve had the greatest joys, the highest highs, the deepest pain, just by being around them and caring for them.
Until our second boy, Tyler, left the house and we had him go into a group home at 18, there wasn’t one night that he slept through the night. Gina and I, one of us would always be up in the middle of the night. We tag teamed.
But I can tell you, as the boys were growing up, there was a discipline we had in our marriage. From the earliest age—and this goes back to our church and the examples of the couples we knew in church—we were committed to having a date night every other week. And we would get someone to watch our boys so we could go out and just be with one another.
Before FaceTime and all the technology, we had another principle. When I would be on a business trip, every night before the boys went to bed, Gina would put a picture of me on the couch, put the boys around, and she’d talk to me on the phone. She would say, “This is mommy and daddy time we’re spending. We love each other, and we want you guys to know that.”
Because our boys couldn’t talk, they’d have meltdowns. When they knew mommy and daddy were spending time together, and that we were good, you saw those behaviors drastically minimized. They didn’t completely go away, but you could sense, David, when we were good with each other, the boys were good. Like they, they felt a security because mom and dad were spending time together.
So I think early on in our marriage, we made this commitment that we were not going to let disability destroy our marriage. And we were committed to spending time with each other, getting away for getaways once a quarter for a weekend. And I could tell you, there are times that were rough in our marriage. But the one thing we were committed to was staying together and working through it.
And like I said, our boys ended up being the examples and the greatest teachers I think God could have ever given us about unconditional love and grace, and understanding somebody when they’re unlovely, and receiving and welcoming them with love. Our boys have strengthened our marriage. She’s my best friend, and I couldn’t ever imagine journeying in this life without her. She’s just wonderful.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing a very powerful testimony to making sure that your commitment to your spouse is the number one thing, and that everything else sort of ripples away from that.
So I’d like to switch gears and talk about special needs more from an occupational perspective, now that you’re with Joni and Friends. I’m sort of curious to know, how did you go from the corporate world to getting this position you have at Joni and Friends?
Greg Hubert: So I was first involved with Joni and Friends just from a donor perspective. Back when the kids got diagnosed with autism, we looked into Joni and Friends, but they weren’t doing a lot with autism all those many years ago. So we kind of went off on our own. We actually started our own camp with our church to help other families with disabilities.
And I can remember it was in March of 2019. I was sitting at a disabilities conference at our church. And John Nugent, who is now the president of Joni and Friends, texted me and said, “Hey Greg, would you like to come out and have lunch with me? What are you doing?”
And I showed that to my wife, Gina. I said, “Hey, what do you think this is about?” She goes, “Oh, no. No, no. Don’t go on that luncheon. I know what he is going to do. He is going to offer you a job.” I go, “Aw, no. He’s just asking me to come over and have lunch.” But sure enough, he met me for lunch, and he said, “Hey, I’ve been asked to be the president, and I wanted to see if you want to come over and run our U.S. field operations.” And it was kind of like a dream job, right?
I had thought I would retire in the corporate world at a high level of sales management. And it was one of those times where I said, “Wow, Lord.” He had blessed us financially over years of sales. We were in a position to say, “Well, we could go do it.” I could take a big pay cut, and it was something I clearly wanted to do…in retirement. But I said, “What do you think, Hon?” And she’s like, “Man, if you think the Lord’s saying go for this, let’s do it.” She’s always been supportive.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. What great intuition Gina must have. Her intuition about the purpose for that lunch coming to mind.”
Greg Hubert: She’s usually figuring things out way ahead of me, David. For sure.
David Hirsch: Yeah, I think that’s what happens. At least that’s what’s happened with me. That’s part of marrying up, right? So not all of our listeners would be familiar with Joni and Friends. I’m wondering if you could provide a brief backdrop.
Greg Hubert: Sure. Joni and Friends is an organization based in Aurora Hills, California. We are a ministry that serves people with disabilities with the hope of the gospel in Jesus Christ. And we work not only in the United States, but around the globe. We want to meet people in their area of hardship, specifically in the lane of disabilities, and give them practical care, along with the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. And just for documentation purposes, Joni is a woman—Joni Eareckson Tada. And at a very early age, I think when she was in her late teens, my recollection is that she had a diving accident and as a result became a quadriplegic. And then 40 some years ago she began what we know today as Joni and Friends, this global Christian ministry that you’ve just described.
She has been a very forceful person, not physically strong, but a force for the world of disability and the organization we’re talking about. I love the programs. We won’t have time to go into all of them, but I’m hoping we can cover at least two or three. Please share with our listening audience about the Wheels for the World program.
Greg Hubert: Sure. Our Wheels for the World Program is an international program where we give the gift of mobility. Unlike in the United States, where many of wheelchairs can be covered through insurance, in some of these countries, people are just marginalized. And due to worldviews and religious philosophies, a lot of these individuals born with disabilities are put out of the cities, basically in slums in many situations. In some situations they’re being brought to some of our wheelchair distributions in wheelbarrows or in boxes.
We actually have prisons in the United States that actually take donated wheelchairs, they refurbish them, and then they put them in shipping containers. We put 240 wheelchairs in one container and ship those to the countries. Then we send teams over to those countries, and they distribute a wheelchair with a team, with mechanics who custom fit them into the wheelchair. And I think this year we’re coming up to distribute our 200,000th wheelchair. So it’s a very special time.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. And what’s not lost on me, not only the scope or the scale of the program, because it’s been around for so many years—200,000 individuals have been positively impacted by the receipt of mobility—but there have been thousands and thousands of individuals, I don’t want this to be glossed over, the prisoners who are in these programs all around the United States who are helping refurbish these chairs. They’re learning about something that they might not otherwise learn about—helping somebody else through the repair of these wheelchairs, and also learning about the gospel themselves.
Greg Hubert: That’s right. David, one of the unique things is, wow, they’re doing this in the prisons. Why is that? What’s interesting is that for the people who work on the chairs, this has become one of the highest types of occupations within the prisons that they can aspire to, for good behavior. It’s really hard to get into that crew to actually repair those wheelchairs.
And what’s amazing is when they do it, each of these inmates has a unique way of somehow marking the wheelchair, to know which one they worked on. And when it gets distributed in another country, a lot of times a picture can be taken of the child who receives that wheelchair and is sent back to the prison.
And the prisoner who worked on it will actually see that picture of the child that got that gift of the chair. It’s a really special time for them to know that this is just not a wheelchair, but they’re actually impacting a life with that wheelchair.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well thanks for sharing. I’d like to talk about advice and I’m wondering if there are some important takeaways that you can share with another father, another family for that matter, that’s raising a child with special abilities.
Greg Hubert: Yeah, the big thing that I think really helped me was staying connected with other male friends that were supportive outside. I think what helped me is to be surrounded by other like-minded men who cared and loved on me. And they didn’t even necessarily have kids with disabilities, but they knew me and understood my family, so I stayed connected with other men that sharpened me in my faith.
And I would watch the boys so Gina could do the same thing with other women. So we maintained our same-sex friendships, which we still do to this day. Some of these people we’ve known over 30 years. Every Friday when I’m in town, I go see these two guys, and they’ve known me forever, and they ask the hard questions, and when I’m struggling I can share with them.
So I think what helps keep my marriage strong and what keeps my love for my kids fresh is I continue to maintain those friendships. The other thing I’d probably say is there are gonna be times with our kids when you’re gonna feel like, I don’t know if I can get through this. I don’t know how I can do this another week, another day.
Number one, I found that being honest with my wife, brutally honest about how I was feeling and the struggles I was going through, really helped. The interesting thing, David, is I never saw a time when we were both down on the same day. When I was really struggling, she was the encourager. When she was down, I had enough gas in the tank to encourage her. Somehow God gave one of us the ability to lift the other one up, or to say, “Get out of here. You need to clear your head. Go here for the night. Go to Arizona overnight with your friend.
And she knew how to communicate with me. So we did things to kind of keep our marriage fresh and on track. Our marriage just got stronger over the years because of the boys we had. And we were committed to never say the D word, divorce. We just said we’re gonna work this out, because God promises that he works all things together for good, and everything he’s given us is good.
So just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not good. Usually I find everything in my life that’s worth putting any effort into is pretty hard. So why should our my marriage be any different? Why should being a father be any different? Those things can be really hard, but they have some of the greatest sweet joy that comes about because of those commitments.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. I remember one of the dads recently saying that part of their family mission statement is, “We do hard things.” So I think you were channeling that thought. 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?
Greg Hubert: The reason I think it’s important is because to mentor other fathers is because I’ve just seen a lot of guys throwing in the towel too early in the game. I didn’t have a lot of examples of other fathers that were feeling like, “This is a gift. These children are a gift. My family’s a joy.” I saw mostly people that were giving up.
Had I had a network of guys that could tell me what it was like getting through it on the other end, at least until the kids were adults, that would have given me hope in those hard times to keep hanging in there. Or someone I could call, or say, “What did you do in this situation? And even if you don’t know the exact answer, at least you can give them some guidance to say, “You’re okay. You’re gonna make it. you’re gonna make it.” I never had a dad that could tell me that.
I think the hard thing too is I think about how the Hubert name could end with my family, you know what I mean? Because there’s a chance none of my boys will marry. Maybe my oldest—God can do anything. But I didn’t have a dad to teach me how to be a dad, and I may never be a grandfather.
And this is one of those times of life where I’m seeing all my friends’ kids getting married and starting to have grandkids, and there’s a little lamenting going on. Not in a bad way, just that it’s a new phase of life where I’m trying to adjust. I want to give hope to younger fathers that, yeah, there are going to be hard times, but it’s a great life. I want to be able to encourage other men in that journey, in the race of life, to be hopeful and to live with joy in their walks with the Lord.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. Thank you for being a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network. We’re thrilled to have you. Let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend Steve Bundy, who’s the Senior Vice President of the Christian Institute on Disabilities at Joni and Friends, and Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast dad number 34, for helping connect us.
Greg Hubert: Yeah, he’s an amazing guy.
David Hirsch: So if somebody wants to learn more about Joni and Friends or contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Greg Hubert: You go right to our website, joniandfriends.org. And you can contact me through that or any of our departments based on the needs that you have, and someone can get back to you. In fact, we have a response department as well. If any of the dads are hurting and they’re struggling, they can call our response line. They can either email or text them as well. There’s contact information on the website, and one of our counselors can get back to them and route them to a local church or support service that can help them with the needs that they have locally.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. We’ll be sure to include that information in the show notes that’ll make it as easy as possible for people to follow up. Greg, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Greg is just one of the dads who’s part of the Special Fathers 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 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 Century Dads Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, which means 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.
Greg, thanks again,
Greg Hubert: Thanks David. It’s my pleasure to be with you.
Tom Couch: And 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.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would 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 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 Therapeutics at horizontherapeutics.com.