Our guest this week is Nelson Rascon of Tacoma, WA who is the father of three, a realtor and co-founder of Dads Move – Strengthening The Roles Of Dads In Raising Their Kids With Special Needs.
Nelson and his wife, JoRay, have been married for 9 years and between them are the proud parents of three children; Samantha (30) who has cognitive delays, Eric (26) who has Autism, severe Epilepsy and who is bi-polar, and Kaleb (26) who has Asperger’s and was more recently diagnosed as bi-polar too.
Nelson reflects on his parents divorce, growing up without his dad, moving with his mom and siblings from California to Alaska, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, where at his age 13, his mom took her own life.
He also reflects on becoming a single father, remarrying and helping raise his step children as well as the back story on co-founding Dads Move, a non profit organization, whose mission is: to strengthen the father’s role in raising children with behavioral health needs through education, peer support and advocacy.
We’ll hear all the above and more on this episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Email – email@example.com
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/nelson-rascon-794b7916/
Dads Move – https://www.dadsmove.org
Tom Couch: Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the 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.
Nelson Rascon: I think the biggest advice I can give is never, never give up. And don’t let disappointment or failure stop you. I think that’s my biggest advice is just not giving up.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Nelson Rascon, a realtor and co-founder of Dads MOVE, strengthening the roles of dads in raising their kids with special needs. Nelson’s lived quite a life and he’s got quite a story to tell. And we’ll hear it on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. Say hello now to our host, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad Podcast, fathers mentoring fathers of children with special needs, presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program 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.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to Facebook.com, groups, and search “dad to dad.”
Tom Couch: And now let’s hear this intriguing conversation between Nelson Rascon and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I am thrilled to be talking today with Nelson Rascon of Tacoma, Washington, the father of three, a licensed realtor, and co-founder and executive director of Dads MOVE, a not-for-profit, father-driven peer support organization based in Washington State. Nelson, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview with the Special Fathers Network.
Nelson Rascon: Thank you for having me.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, JoRay, have been married for nine years and between you are proud parents of three children: Samantha 30, who has cognitive delays, Eric 26, who has autism, severe epilepsy, and who is bipolar, and Caleb 26, who has Asperger’s and was recently diagnosed as bipolar as well.
Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Nelson Rascon: So I am a native to Los Angeles where I was born and lived until I was seven. When I was seven, my mother abruptly decided that she wanted to leave California and had sold our house and most of our possessions, and we packed up our little ’79 Dodge Colt and drove all the way from Los Angeles to Anchorage, Alaska.
David Hirsch: Could you have driven any farther away from California, Southern California, than Anchorage, or is that about as far as you can get? [laughing]
Nelson Rascon: Not while staying in the United States!
David Hirsch: Okay. That sounds like quite a journey! But sorry for interrupting. Go ahead.
Nelson Rascon: No, that’s fine. But yeah, it was quite the journey. I honestly believe to this day, she was simply trying to get away and it was the farthest away she could get in the United States. And when we got to Anchorage, it was 1981 and Alaska was booming from people moving up there for the oil pipeline. So as a result, housing was scarce, in Anchorage particularly. And we ended up staying in a motel for three and a half, almost four months, until we finally found an apartment.
David Hirsch: Wow.
Nelson Rascon: And needless to say, the adventure continued after that. It was about two and a half years after we got to Alaska that my mother was diagnosed with full-blown kidney disease and at that point she was told she could no longer work. She went on full Social Security disability and it made things really rough. We didn’t have very much money. We bounced from apartment to apartment, I think because she got evicted for not paying. And this lasted until I was 13, which was the last place we lived in up there. And when I was 13, she had basically got tired of dealing with her health issues and took her own life.
It was at that point that I went and lived with my sister who had just gotten married to her now ex-husband who was in the Air Force. And I went and lived with them, oh gosh, it was probably only about six months, and he got transferred to Boise, Idaho. And so we moved. Thus began another adventure. We had to drive all the way back down to LA to go take care of some business, Air Force related, and then drove all the way up to Boise.
When we got to Boise, it was a very rough time for us. We were still reeling from the loss of our mother. Family-wise, we did not do well in Boise. We were only there 10 months. We were very impoverished, very miserable. We did not like living there, and as a result, my then brother-in-law got out of the Air Force so we could move.
Once he got out of the Air Force, because of some friends that my sister had from high school that lived in the Seattle, Washington area, that’s where we decided to call home. And we moved to Washington just prior to the start of my junior year of high school.
David Hirsch: That sounds like a very chaotic childhood and upbringing during your formative years. So you were in high school in the Seattle area for just a year or so from what I remember.
Nelson Rascon: Two years. I did my junior and senior year of high school. At this point, I was already living on my own, because it was probably within about five months of us moving to Washington, relations with my sister and I just continued to get worse and I made the decision to go emancipate myself and went and got my own apartment.
David Hirsch: Wow. How did you support yourself? You were only 14, 15 years old.
Nelson Rascon: So I already had a part-time job at Wendy’s at the time. And in addition to this, I think this still exists to this day, if you’re under 18 and you have a parent who passes away, you are entitled to the Social Security they would’ve gotten when they retired. My sister was already receiving this on my behalf. When I went and emancipated myself, I immediately went down to Social Security and had it reverted to me, so I was getting about $400 a month. I was able to have an apartment and pay the insurance on my car.
David Hirsch: Wow. Lots of responsibility at a super young age. And I guess you just did what you had to do.
Nelson Rascon: Pretty much, that was it. I did what I had to do. I look back and still am amazed that I got through it, and actually managed to graduate high school on time.
David Hirsch: Yeah. We’re gonna talk about education in a moment, but one of the questions that begs to be asked is, where is your dad during all this?
Nelson Rascon: So that was an interesting journey and I don’t know the whole story and probably never will. I’ve heard stories of abuse between my mother and father. I’ve heard stories that she was freaked out about his culture and religion. And the stories I’m told is that’s what played into my mother literally running from Los Angeles all the way up to California.
As a result between the fact that after we left California, I barely heard from him and the negative stories I heard from my mother and my sister, I was scared to go live with him. So that’s when I made the decision to go stay with my sister. Whether that was all true or not, I think that’s questionable at this point from what I know as an adult. I do talk with him now. My father is 84 and towards the end of his life at this point, but that’s why I did not go and stay with him. He was still in Los Angeles and he still lives in the Los Angeles area.
David Hirsch: Okay. Thanks for sharing. Out of curiosity, what did he do for a living?
Nelson Rascon: He was a transit driver.
David Hirsch: And did you mention that your dad was from Cuba and your mom was from Germany?
Nelson Rascon: That is correct.
David Hirsch: And how in the world did they meet?
Nelson Rascon: So they both worked at the 19… Oh gosh, it was the World’s Fair in New York City and they both were temporary labor at the food court.
David Hirsch: And the rest is history?
Nelson Rascon: Yeah. My mother had just immigrated to the United States shortly before this. My father had been here since early 1960.
David Hirsch: So they were both relatively new to the United States then.
Nelson Rascon: Correct.
David Hirsch: And would it be safe to assume that your dad and whatever other family members of his came from Cuba after the, I don’t know what it’s referred to as, the flotilla of Cubans that left Cuba in 1959?
Nelson Rascon: Yes. He came here after Castro took over and he claimed political asylum based on that. My mother came here on a work visa. My mother actually was, you don’t see this very often today, she was essentially an indentured servant for a rich New York family.
David Hirsch: Wow. Okay. Thank you for sharing. So I’m thinking about your dad now, and I’m wondering how would you characterize your relationship with him?
Nelson Rascon: We have a decent relationship today. I understand it’s questionable how much I grew up knowing about him was true or not. And my mother’s no longer here. My older sister suffers from mental illness, so she has her own perspective on things. And I have just chosen that I am going to have a decent relationship for what life remains for him on this planet. I don’t see any point in hating him at this juncture.
David Hirsch: Yeah. What good is that gonna do?
Nelson Rascon: Nothing.
David Hirsch: So was there any important takeaways you learned directly or perhaps indirectly from your dad or your relationship with your dad?
Nelson Rascon: Yes. I wanted to be different. That was probably the biggest one. When I had kids, there were two things. One, I wanted to be there. Number two, I wanted to give them a stable place to grow up in. I imagine if I really stopped and analyzed it between that and my bouncing around when I was younger are a lot of the reasons why I have been in this house I’m sitting in for 22 years.
David Hirsch: Yeah. It sounds like the pendulum swung one way really far, and now it swung back the other way.
Nelson Rascon: Yeah. Yeah.
David Hirsch: And being present and having a stable home situation were the two important values that you took away.
Nelson Rascon: Absolutely. A hundred percent.
David Hirsch: My recollection was that you went to Evergreen State University and you have a bachelor’s in public policy analysis and a Master’s in public administration. And were they back to back or was there a gap between those two?
Nelson Rascon: A short gap, about a year and a half.
David Hirsch: And what was it that you anticipated doing from a career standpoint or did from a career standpoint?
Nelson Rascon: Boy, it has ebbed and flowed over the years. When I got outta high school, I had no clue what I wanted to do. And because of an elective class I took in high school, I went to college and got an associate’s degree in offset printing, running commercial printing presses. And by the time I was 19, I actually was working at a large printing company, printing Microsoft manuals, making decent money.
However, health struck. As it turned out, I became highly allergic to the chemicals and I had to quit the printing field. And after that I went and became a transit driver. I drove for Metro in the Seattle area, and I did that for, gosh, eight years. It was at that job when I got divorced and got custody of my son and when he started showing signs of his disorders. And as a result of having to leave work to go deal with meltdowns at school, I got fired. I did some soul searching for probably about three weeks and ended up deciding to go get a real estate license. It was something that had always intrigued me and I figured I needed something flexible to deal with his needs.
And it was during that time period that I got to what led me to Dads MOVE. I started working for non-profits in my area, working with families that had kids like mine in a peer role, which is what led me to be at the event where I met the other gentleman I started this organization with. So everything came full circle and that’s where I’m at today. I still practice real estate and I run Dads MOVE.
David Hirsch: Yeah. I’m sure as you were finishing your degrees, this would probably be as far afield as you could imagine, right? You could not have imagined.
Nelson Rascon: I will say I did decide to go back to school when I started this group. That is what prompted me to go back to school and also it was a goal I set for myself.
David Hirsch: We’re gonna circle back to Dads MOVE in a moment, but I’m curious to know how did you and JoRay meet?
Nelson Rascon: We actually met in high school. We actually dated her first year of high school and we met at a concert at the now long gone Kingdom. We dated most of her senior year of high school, broke up, and probably about eight years later, I ran into her again on a Labor Day at another mutual friend’s barbecue. So we started talking and as it turns out, she had just moved back here from living in Wisconsin for four years. And I was almost done with my divorce.
David Hirsch: I do not remember that story. Thank you for sharing. And I’m just a numbers nerd, but you reconnected 21 years ago and you’ve been married for nine years, so you certainly didn’t rush into anything.
Nelson Rascon: No, that was the interesting part with the fact that both of us had special needs children. I’m not sure about out there, but here in Washington, if you have a child that has therapy needs, medication needs and all of that, you are actually better off being on the public medical. So to qualify for it, we couldn’t combine our incomes. So we got married one month after the last one turned 18.
David Hirsch: Thank you for your transparency and authenticity. It’s a very interesting story. So let’s talk about special needs first on a personal level. And just to do a quick fly by, Samantha and Eric are JoRay’s children. I know they’re both of your children, but from her prior marriage. And Caleb is from your marriage, your first marriage. So just focusing on Samantha for a moment, what is her diagnosis and how has that impacted her path through education or beyond now?
Nelson Rascon: So the only diagnosis she ever got was that she’s developmentally delayed. They don’t know anything else other than that. It’s been rough. She basically functions at a 12, 13 year old level and it’s caused her to make some bad decisions along the way.
She spent a total of three years homeless. She finally got her first job just three years ago. So supporting herself has been very difficult. We’ve tried helping her, but often she would refuse the help. And unfortunately we have a system where you can’t really force it.
David Hirsch: Is that once somebody becomes an adult, they have to make decisions for themselves no matter how much you might wanna be involved?
Nelson Rascon: Absolutely. And it was definitely a rough go. She actually left our house at the beginning of her senior year in high school. Again, not through our choice, and we couldn’t do anything about it because she was held back. So when she was a senior, she was already a legal adult.
David Hirsch: Wow. Any other challenges that you can reflect on?
Nelson Rascon: With her specifically, I think it was just, it’s been really frustrating not being able to help or intervene in ways we would like to as parents. And we often felt our hands were just tied. So it was definitely hard watching a lot of the decision making and where it led her.
David Hirsch: Gotcha. And was her biological father involved at all?
Nelson Rascon: No.
David Hirsch: Okay.
Nelson Rascon: She never even met him.
David Hirsch: Oh my. So I’m thinking about Eric now. What is his diagnosis?
Nelson Rascon: So he actually ended up being our most severe child of the three. He is diagnosed with epilepsy, lower functioning autism, ADHD and bipolar.
David Hirsch: That sounds very complicated.
Nelson Rascon: Extremely.
David Hirsch: Was there one of those diagnoses that was the greatest challenge or how would you describe it?
Nelson Rascon: I would say it all was challenging because it all kind of meshed and created very extreme, volatile behaviors. Just to give you an idea of how volatile it would get… Oh gosh, how old was he? He was 14 and he had a complete meltdown while I was at home. His mom was not here. And he ran out back and grabbed a piece of wood that had a nail in it from remodeling and pounded me in the back of the head with it.
David Hirsch: Oh my God.
Nelson Rascon: So I’m lucky I’m here. It happened to go in my skull in basically what’s a dead space between your two halves.
David Hirsch: So I’m assuming you went to the hospital?
Nelson Rascon: Yes. That was a very trying time in our house because leading up to this, we were already calling law enforcement or crisis services on him at least five times a week.
David Hirsch: Oh my God.
Nelson Rascon: It was very volatile. And after this happened, I basically had to sit down with my wife and I had to tell her something that was very difficult. I said that we were now getting at the point where I have to look after the safety of the child in the house that was legally mine. And so I told her that we need to place him out of the home, or I have to ask you to move, which is not something I wanted to do, but at this point, my wife was very much in denial of the severity of it. She felt like she was a terrible parent. So very much her emotions were driving her actions at that point in her life. To this day I think under the circumstances that we couldn’t get any supports in the home, placing hm out of the home was the right call, as difficult as it was.
David Hirsch: That sounds like a very hard conversation to have. That was 12 years ago. That wasn’t just yesterday. And it’s gotta be a difficult decision for any parent to evaluate or come to the realization that maybe everyone would be better off if there’s a separate living arrangement than being in your own house, which a lot of people just take for granted, right? My kids are always gonna live with me until they’re ready to live independently. What’s transpired since then? Where is Eric now and how’s he doing?
Nelson Rascon: That’s the one where things have been hard over the years because of how our system is. We got through that, and actually I have to thank my mother-in-law and my wife’s aunt because they were supportive of me in having this conversation with my wife. He was placed at a facility that was only about 15 minutes from our house. It was great. The problem is he only lasted three days there. He had a huge meltdown at the house and broke five windows and grabbed some of the broken glass and stabbed two of the three workers at the shouse, one critically. He then took off and he was found by county sheriff five hours later. And he was then taken to our county’s juvenile facility where astonishingly, despite all this, they called us like normal and said we needed to come pick him up and take him home. So again, as parents, we were put in a very difficult decision in which I ended up taking over because my wife was an emotional wreck that night.
And we did what no parent should have to do. We actually refused to take him home. And they started threatening us with CPS and everything else, and I’m like look, I know CPS workers. I’ll make the call with you. Finally, after they pushed and we didn’t budge, they took him from the juvenile facility to a children’s hospital here in Tacoma to have a mental evaluation, and they again tried to get us to take him home because there was no placement for him because of his violent nature and what had happened. About five hours later there was finally one facility that agreed to take him, and it was clear on the other side of the state, seven hours from us, in Spokane.
He was placed there and the systems and the powers that be told us it would be temporary. That temporary is now entering its 11th year.
David Hirsch: Wow.
Nelson Rascon: The moral of that is we don’t regret placing him. We regret letting off the gas when we were pushing the system to get him moved back over here. I’m happy to say, it took 12 years but they are currently looking for a placement for him closer to us here in the Puget Sound. Unfortunately, due to his behaviors, it’s been very difficult finding a place that will take him.
David Hirsch: My heart reaches out to you and JoRay. Like you’d said, these are decisions that you hope that no parent has to make. It seems palpable. The very limited description that you’ve provided, which I’m sure that there’s a bigger backstory and a lot more that was transpiring if you were calling crisis services and law enforcement five times a week for whatever period of time that was, right? This was a situation that was spinning out of control and beyond what any parent could handle or take care of. And it’s just unfortunate reality. What do you do?
Nelson Rascon: What do you do? Now I will say today my wife knows she did the right thing. And she doesn’t feel that she’s a bad parent. Like I said, our only misgiving is that we let off pushing the system to get him back over here.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thank you for your transparency. Maybe a couple lessons to be learned for others that find themselves in a challenging situation like you’ve just described.
Okay. Let’s go to Caleb. What is his diagnosis and where is he?
Nelson Rascon: So he has been diagnosed with ADHD which was the first thing he got diagnosed with, oh gosh, all the way back in preschool, and Asperger’s disorder. And then more recently, not surprised in the last two years, he was diagnosed with bipolar. Which again doesn’t surprise me. He just didn’t have the diagnosis. Of our three collective he is our highest functioning.
I got custody of him when he was three years old shortly after his mom and I divorced, and that was a divorce that I initiated. Because I’m a glutton for punishment [laughing] coming from the mental health background in my family, I married someone with severe mental health, so I knew this was not healthy. This wasn’t good for my child. And the divorce lasted a year, which is something that’s always stuck with me because I think it’s an example of where there’s at least still a bias in the court system towards dad’s. Because realistically with her behavior and what had been going on, I should have gotten custody of him fairly easily. I had the stable job. I was the one staying at the apartment. She had tested positive for both cocaine and methamphetamine, but the divorce still took a year. It was probably about six months after the divorce that I actually purchased the house that I’m sitting in right now.
David Hirsch: You were a single dad for quite some time, and I’m wondering has she played any role in Caleb’s life subsequently?
Nelson Rascon: No. That’s an interesting story. So she visited briefly after the divorce and then disappeared and was completely out of his life until a year ago. I remember this day I was at my son’s apartment and he told me that his mom had reached out to him on Facebook, and they’ve talked a little bit. And he actually asked me, he goes, does this bug you?
And I just, I paused and I remember looking at him and I go, that was a long time ago. I hope your mom has gotten help for her issues and as you go forward talking to her, just be guarded, understanding what’s happened before, and if it works I think that’s a good thing, having a relationship with her.
David Hirsch: Yeah. No doubt as a result of your life’s experience, your own chaotic upbringing, this crazy situation that you’ve described from a divorce standpoint, being a single dad, and then joining with JoRay and shouldering some of the responsibility alongside her with Samantha and Eric uniquely qualifies you to be assisting other men regardless of what their circumstances are. And it’s not like we’re playing the hardship Olympics here, but I dare say that most of the challenges that dads have are relatively speaking, and I don’t mean to downplay the challenges that people have, are garden variety challenges. I have a child with fill-in-the-blank… autism, rare disease, they’re blind, they’re deaf, they have Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. Those are real life challenges, right? But in most cases, they’re a diagnosis, not this extreme situation. So it uniquely qualifies you, right, to be understanding and empathetic toward another dad’s situation.
And as they get to know you, hopefully they can put their own situation in perspective and say, hey, you seem like a normal guy. You’re level-headed. And you know what a great role model it is that you can be.
Okay, you’ve taken my breath away, which I don’t have happen very often given the fact that I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people. But I’m wondering what were some of the more important decisions looking back now beyond perhaps what you’ve just described that you and JoRay have made in the circumstances?
Nelson Rascon: I think having the perseverance to stick it out. It was not easy. It was a rough go raising three high needs kids to be truthful because we, for reasons discussed earlier, we got married later. There wasn’t anything legally keeping us together. So I think that was the biggest decision. Also, I think one of the things we did that I speak a lot about this today is we did everything together. We went to all the school meetings together. We were involved in medical appointments together, counseling appointments together, and I think that was a huge decision.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. Perseverance must be your middle name actually. The point is about trying to make as many decisions as you can together. It might be easier and more efficient just to universally make a decision, but the importance of making decisions as a couple, while it might be more efficient to make a unilateral decision, but taking the time and getting some buy-in or reflecting on, you know what the best way to proceed is. Two minds are better than one mentality, I think is really crystal clear.
And there was a third thing that I think you mentioned in a prior conversation, and it had to do with selling a piece of real estate and taking the proceeds from that. And I’m wondering if you would put that up on that list of important decisions that you’ve made perhaps more recently.
Nelson Rascon: I would actually, I would say two important decisions was number one, when we bought it, because realistically we didn’t really have the money, but we took the gamble and bought this house. And that allowed us 12 years after the fact to sell it at a pretty good profit.
David Hirsch: So in the interim too, you have now the financial flexibility or autonomy to pursue what your calling is, would I view what your calling is.
Nelson Rascon: I have to credit my wife because she asked me, and I’m still a real estate agent. She asked me, how much do you think this thing’s worth right now with the soaring real estate value? I look around and I go we need to do about $30,000 to $50,000 in renovations, but if we do that, we’re probably pushing $500,000.
It was at that point my wife looked at me and she goes, sell it and go do what you want to do. I was miserable at the job I was at, and because of that I couldn’t put my focus on what I really wanted to do. And she was like, this is your ticket. Sell it. I didn’t waste any time either. It was three days after the house closed that I put in my notice.
David Hirsch: That’s a different type of hall pass than most guys would get from their wife.
Nelson Rascon: Oh, yeah. Yeah. She encouraged me to quit. That’s crazy. [laughing]
Tom Couch: We’ll be back with more of the conversation on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast in just a few moments. But first, this quick message. Please help 21st Century Dads gather research on families raising children with special needs by having them complete the Special Fathers Network Early Intervention Parents Survey. A link to the survey can be found in the show notes. As a token of our appreciation, each person, mom or dad, who completes the survey will receive a Great Dad Coin. Thank you. Now back to the conversation.
David Hirsch: Let’s use that as a way to segue into talking about Dads MOVE. My recollection was that you’ve been at this since 2011 and I’m wondering how did this start out and how has it become what it is today in the name of Dads MOVE?
Nelson Rascon: So I actually need to go back to about 2008. I went to a meeting where I met a bunch of guys and they ran this group called Washington Dads, and it was a pilot project of the then Washington State Mental Health System. And what the group did was they held two fathers retreats a year for dads to connect, and I joined it. I eventually helped the organization become a standalone 501c3. And in late 2010, it all fell apart. In-fighting, disagreements, what have you. And as a result, six of us left that organization.
And I remember getting a call from one of them and he called me and he goes, why don’t we just start a new organization? And I laughed. I’m like, going start from scratch, a brand new organization with no financial support? You’ve gotta be kidding me! So the next week, the six of us met, and yeah, we made a decision, let’s start a new group. So for probably two years, we actually competed with the group we left. And what was it? Yeah, it was about two, almost three years after we left, that organization ended up folding.
So there was just six of us that originally met at a father’s weekend that were originally involved with Washington Dads that pooled our own money together and formed this group because we still had the same vision, which is what caused us to leave the other group was we had a vision that was bigger than what that board wanted to do.
We wanted a full service family organization that had a male slant and advocated for father involvement. And at first we did like the other group, we started off with two retreats. But then we started adding trainings, and doing trainings became a hallmark of our work to this day. We’re up to almost 20 trainings that we rotate through.
David Hirsch: Is that 20 per year?
Nelson Rascon: Yeah, so we usually do two trainings a month. We still do the parent weekends, but we have since added a family weekend and we converted one of the original dad’s weekends into a parent weekend, so both moms and dads can go. And then on top of that, we are… I just actually had a meeting today. We are working with two university professors to put half of our trainings on a portal on our website where people can do part or all of a training, self-paced online. We are also in the process of building a father-focused peer mentoring program that’s geared towards teaching other fathers with lived experience, raising children like ours to work in the system as peer advocates.
David Hirsch: And my recollection was you’ve received a rather large sum of grants that’ll allow you to dramatically expand the work that you’re doing.
Nelson Rascon: Yes. Now we still have a couple of those grants that we’re waiting on, but all told, we’re waiting on about $2 million worth, and we’ve received about $2 million. What we’re eventually hoping on doing is our assistant director is donating his 40 acres of land in eastern Washington to the group. We’re currently trying to get funding to build an equestrian center and eventually a full scale training center where we can hold our retreats, rent to other groups and hold events at.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s very exciting. We’re gonna have to circle back a year or so down the road to see where all that transpires. I’m thinking about advice now and I’m wondering if there’s any advice, not specific, but general advice that you can offer a dad who might be listening to this conversation.
Nelson Rascon: I think the biggest advice I can give is never, never give up. And don’t let disappointment or failure stop you. There was numerous times in my journey where I could have just thrown up my hands, such as…, I don’t think I mentioned it earlier in the conversation. Four years before I bought this house I’m in, I had spent a year homeless, sleeping in a car. I could have given up at that point. I could have given up with the hardship of having not one but three high needs kids. I think that’s my biggest advice is just not giving up. Non-profits fall apart all the time. My story with that is not unusual, unfortunately. And I could have just given up and said, I tried, I did work, but I actually, again, being the glutton for punishment I am, went and started from scratch a brand new organization and started the fight over again.
David Hirsch: And you’ve had an overnight success 12 years later.
Nelson Rascon: Yeah, I think it was worth it. And the thing is, we are now getting people contacting us from across the country, and I am convinced right now our program by next year is gonna be beyond Washington.
David Hirsch: That’s very exciting. So I’m curious to know why is it you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Nelson Rascon: At this point, I am 48 years old. Been married almost 10 years, been together over 20. I don’t have kids at home. My life is relatively stable and secure at this point. I’d like to help others reach that, to know when they are going through that rough period that it’s just like an ocean. You’ve gotta get through that rough sea. That’s what motivates me.
David Hirsch: Yeah. We’re thrilled to have you. Thank you for being involved. I’m wondering if there’s anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up.
Nelson Rascon: Only I just, at this point I wanna pass on what I’ve learned, lessons in raising the kids, how to navigate the system, how to advocate. And the hope is that in that process that other families’ road is less bumpy than ours was.
David Hirsch: Yeah, no doubt you’ll be doing a lot of that in the name of Dads MOVE, perhaps a little bit in the name of the Special Fathers Network, and perhaps beyond. Things that you can’t even anticipate today.
Nelson Rascon: That’s, yeah, I guess that’s my calling at this point.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend Louis Mendoza of the Washington State Fathers Network and organization supporting Special Dads International for helping connect us.
Nelson Rascon: Yes, absolutely. He is an awesome connector and partner in this work.
David Hirsch: Couldn’t say anything less. I agree entirely. If somebody wants to learn more about Dads MOVE or contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Nelson Rascon: So they can shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 1-800-736-0979, or go to our website, dadsmove.org.
David Hirsch: Excellent. I’ll be sure to include all that information in the show notes so it’ll make it as easy as possible for somebody to contact you.
Nelson Rascon: Awesome.
David Hirsch: Nelson, thank you for your time and many insights. As a reminder, Nelson is just one of the dads who is part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501c3 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. Nelson, thanks again.
Nelson Rascon: Thank you very much for having me.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. 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 match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other dads. To find out more, go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to Facebook.com, groups, and search “dad to dad”. 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 Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch.
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.