David Hirsch talks with Clayton Frech, father of Ezra Frech. Ezra was born missing his left knee and fibula and with only one finger on his left hand, but through spirit, grit and determination Ezra has gone on to do some great things and has propelled his dad to found Angel City Sports, which offers sports programming in Southern California for kids, adults and veterans with physical liabilities or impairments. It’s an amazing story and a great listen.
Tom Couch: This is the Special Fathers Network 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 connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers.
Sometimes the mentor father is just there to answer a few questions. Sometimes they become good friends. It’s a proven support system for new fathers with special needs kids. If you’re a father looking for support, or if you’re a dad who’d like to offer support, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: Hi, I’m David Hirsch. This is the Special Fathers Network Podcast, stories of fathers helping fathers.
Clayton Frech: We hear stories all the time. People coming out of the hospitals, and being told they’ll never do sports again, or they’ll never walk again or…and they’re just wrong.
Tom Couch: That’s Clayton Frech, David’s guest today. Clayton and his wife, Bahar, are parents of three kids, including twelve-year-old Ezra, a superstar motivational speaker.
Ezra: Regardless of your differences, I want you to dream big. But don’t just dream it—it make it happen!
Tom Couch: Ezra was born missing his left knee and fibula and with only one finger on his left hand. But through spirit, grit and determination, he’s gone on to do incredible things.
Reporter: I mean, this kid, it’s amazing what you have done. You’ve done so many….I mean, what are all the sports you play?
Ezra: I play basketball. We’re starting basketball season. I play soccer, soccer season is next. This is actually my football jersey that we just ended. I was the QB.
Tom Couch: Ezra’s father, Clayton Frech, and his family formed Angel City Sports, creating sports opportunities for people with physical disabilities.
Clayton Frech: Our hope is in 2029 that we’ve put Los Angeles, and sort of the greater Southern California area, on the map as the best place to live if you have a disability.
Tom Couch: And now here’s your host for the 21st Century Dads podcast, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Being a father is very important to me. Being a good father means being a successful role model for your child, helping them be happier, more fulfilled, and productive members of society. I’ve started a number of charitable organizations designed to increase the role of fathers.
One of them, the Special Fathers Network, is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. We’ve been interviewing some exceptional fathers of special needs kids, and we want to share their stories with you.
Tom Couch: So let’s get to it. Here’s David’s conversation with special father Clayton Frech.
David Hirsch: So Clayton, great to be talking with you again. Let’s talk about the special needs community, first about your own experience, from your family’s perspective, and then, if you will, professionally from the Angel City Sports perspective. So Ezra was born 12 years ago, and it was a little complicated.
Clayton Frech: Yes, it was. It was a little unexpected, and definitely a little complicated. So he was born missing his left knee and fibula. He had a little foot on the left side where the leg was curved up towards his waist, and with only one finger on his left hand. And everything else checked out fine. Just an orthopedic difference.
And we were given some really incredible advice in the hospital from an orthopedic surgeon, who just said, “Listen, he just needs a prosthetic leg. You’ll probably consider transplanting a toe to his hand, and then you’re going to be chasing him around the shopping mall and wherever else, just like any other kid.” So he just said it in a way that was really matter of fact, and it really helped us with kind of our game plan and just kind of putting it in the right frame of mind.
But we were shocked at birth, and had to go through a process of…I guess it’s mourning something that didn’t turn out to be the way you thought it was supposed to be, and just trying to understand what it meant. Luckily for us, we got a general health check that quickly confirmed everything else was okay. There was no other challenges. So we were able to kind of breathe at that point.
We got out of the hospital and really started our journey in the special needs community. We started to interview and connect with other amputees and meet with doctors. We got admitted into the Shriners system within a couple of weeks, so we already had a home for him when he needed a prosthetic leg. And just started that journey of mapping out the next steps for our son.
And when he was little, he just hit every physical milestone you can imagine. We did that toe to hand transplant surgery at two and a half years old and did a follow up surgery. So he went from one finger to two fingers. We gave him a much more functional residual limb for prosthetic fittings, which really improved his functionality.
But yeah, the journey is not always so simple. There were a lot of emotional days and nights for my wife and me. I’m just trying to imagine, “What was life going to be like for this child?” My place of, I don’t know, processing I guess is the right word, was at the beach. I was a surfer from Santa Barbara. I would just paddle out and not really surf or catch any waves, but really just cry about the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to surf with my son. Or I didn’t know whether I could surf with my son.
And that was an interesting part of our journey, because it led me down the path to figure out, “Are there amputee athletes out there, and what does that world look like?” And luckily for me, I was able to connect into some organizations that were very helpful in those early days in helping us understand that anything is possible, any sports are possible. And so, yeah, that was kind of those early days.
David Hirsch: Just let me clarify. I apologize to interrupt. You got the advice before mom, baby and dad left the hospital that it was likely that he was going to have a prosthetic leg and do something like a toe to hand transplant. That was at the very beginning? That was wild.
Clayton Frech: It was like day two in the hospital or something. It was pretty incredible to have that perspective early on, and it was just the perfect guidance. I mean, it was literally just a two minute conversation in the hallway with this orthopedic surgeon. He’d been around a long time and had probably seen a lot of these kids. And almost more than his words was just the tone. Because when you talk about an individual or community like this, just sort of matter of fact, it just makes it not as big a deal.
It’s not charged with emotion or pity or sympathy or anything. He was like, “He’s going to be great, just another normal kid running around. You’re going to have to chase him. Just because he’s on a prosthetic leg? No big deal.”
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that is remarkable. And what a blessing that was, looking back on it, that somebody who had been there and done that, dozens or hundreds of times with other young people, or adults for that matter, could you share that insight with you from the very beginning so you’re not like totally jazzed up emotionally and worrywarts about what the future is going to be. The glass is going to be not even half empty. It’s going to be a quarter full. So, that’s wild.
Clayton Frech: I agree 100%
David Hirsch: What an interesting perspective to have from the very beginning. Not everybody is that fortunate, right? Everybody has a little bit different starting point.
Clayton Frech: You’re right. I mean, I’ll give you another data point. So we do adaptive and Paralympic sports programming, and I know we’ll talk about that later, but we hear stories all the time. People coming out of the hospitals and being told they’ll never do sports again, or they’ll never walk again, or all these things that they can’t do. And they’re just wrong in many cases. Just because you have a physical disability doesn’t mean you can’t do these things. It means maybe something needs to be adapted for you, but you can do just about anything. So it is very powerful advice for us.
David Hirsch: Well, I think the message that you’ve shared is that anything is possible. You just have to set your mind to it, and then try to figure out how to work backwards and say, “How do I get from where I am today? It’s not going to be overnight, but where I want to be, and let me live the fullest life I can, and not hold me back.”
So Ezra was the first, he’s 12, and then you have two more boys.
Clayton Frech: Yes, we have an eight-year-old and a five-year-old, so third grade and kindergarten.
David Hirsch: So, reflect on that, when Ezra was really young and you’re still growing your family. What was that like?
Clayton Frech: It’s interesting, because you want to do everything you can to create normalcy for a child that’s different, because so many things in their life are not the same and not normal. And we’d always felt like having siblings would be an important part of that. My wife and I from the get-go were concerned about this.
And I would say it’s still a focus. I mean, Ezra’s younger brothers are right in the mix, and Ezra gets a lot of attention from us going to the prosthetic clinics or going to sports events. We started a nonprofit in this space as well. So we’re serving the community. And so it’s a real challenge. And I don’t know that there’s an easy answer, because they will inevitably get a disproportionate share of parental energy and attention.
But the hope is over time the younger siblings understand why it’s that way. And we do our best to balance it, because I do think they’ll have a special perspective on the world as well. Growing up with Ezra and lots of others in our community that are part of our network of family and friends, they know a bunch of people in wheelchairs. They know amputees. They just don’t flinch when they see somebody in a wheelchair. So that’s kind of cool. They will definitely grow up to be more understanding and empathetic of people with differences.
David Hirsch: I think that’s a good insight, and I think almost to a family that I’ve gotten to know, the siblings cannot walk away from that experience without being impacted. And I’m hoping in a positive way, which is to say that they’re are a little bit more empathetic. They’re a little bit more understanding and don’t take things for granted. Like everybody has the same thing. Everybody’s equal.
Clayton Frech: We spend a lot of time with Ezra, making sure he understands his role in the family unit and keeping the brothers feeling loved and appreciated by him. Obviously my wife and I do that as well. But on the same token, we give each of the brothers that same coaching, just to make sure that they understand how important they are to the family unit.
So maybe it’s not just about the coaching of Ezra. It’s really the coaching of all three of them, and helping them understand their role. My eight year old is involved with Angel City Sports. He’s a really smart business mind, marketing guy. He has a fish consulting business.
David Hirsch: You say fish consulting, like aquariums? Is that what you mean?
Clayton Frech: Yeah, he helps people set up fish tanks, pick the right tank and the fish, and get it all going. Then he’ll come and do monthly inspections and trainings with you. And so he’s really very smart. So he’s part of our youth council with Ezra, so we do have a vehicle for kids to connect into what we do. And the five-year-old—he is still five. But he loves sports, and he’s sort of the joy of the party. And so we’ll find a role for him as he gets older too.
But I think the key for us maybe is sort of understanding your position on the team, and that we are a team, or we’re really trying to kind of move as one and support each other in whatever is going on. And so we all watch the five-year-old’s basketball games and the eight-year-old’s performances at school. We try to do everything together.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So you mentioned Shriners, that you were introduced to the Shriners hospital really early on, and that became part of the solution set as well. Not everybody’s familiar with Shriners. It’s not in every community across America. So spend a minute or two sort of enlightening me about what that experience was about and what type of resource that might be to others.
Clayton Frech: Yeah. So there is a network of Shriners hospitals around the country. It’s sort of a fraternity organization that has created this amazing network of hospitals that historically provided free healthcare to kids, I think 18 and under. I think they started taking insurance after the financial crisis in 2008, but I think they still provide free care if you need it and you don’t have insurance, or whatever your situation is. And so they really take care of some of the most challenging cases.
In our situation, they have a children’s prosthetic clinic in Los Angeles, and they fly kids in from all over the world to get prosthetic care at Shriners. But they do burns. They do other orthopedic stuff. They do a whole host of things. Again, this advice came from that doctor while we were in the hospital. “Just go to Shriners, get your prosthetics. Then you’ll meet a bunch of families. You’ll see that there’s other people out there dealing with this, and you’ll start to build your community. You’re going to be fine.”
David Hirsch: That’s like that doctor was prophetic.
Clayton Frech: I know. I should probably circle back and make sure he understands how right he was and how clear his guidance was, and that it worked. I mean, we’ve seen him since, but not for a few years. So that would be fun to close that loop with him. But yeah, pretty awesome, right?
David Hirsch: So the third thing that he mentioned was you’re going to meet other families that have children with all different types of situations. And was that true as well? Did you meet other families? Did that somehow put things in perspective for you?
Clayton Frech: It did. We just started connecting to young adults and teenagers that were amputees to understand how they were feeling about themselves and their journey and any advice they had for us. And then kind of how I got myself out of my funk, where I was sort of crying out in the water, was by connecting to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which gives grants to individuals with physical disabilities to get into sports.
And I met a surfer from Brazil named the Pirate, or Pirata, who built himself a wooden leg when he lost his leg. And literally that was his nickname. We spent the whole weekend with this guy. And Pirata basically lifted me out of my funk and helped me realize that anything was possible for my child, because Ezra and Pirata’s amputations are almost exactly the same, left side above knee.
And then we got exposed to this broader community elite Paralympians, people that had competed in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. Also others that had done Iron Man triathlons. So we got exposed to this really incredible world early, because Ezra was five months old.
So I would say we were aggressively building a community from pretty early on. And Shriners definitely added to that. It’s just comforting to walk into a prosthetic shop and see a bunch of people missing limbs. That was really critical for Ezra, for his understanding and development.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well that’s amazing. I think the way I would paraphrase it that the two of you were proactive about surrounding yourself with people that had been there and done that, and gaining insights that help you make those little adjustments mentally, and hopefully sort of see the path.
Clayton Frech: I think that’s right, because I don’t think my wife and I had spent 30 seconds thinking about disability before he was born. I mean, I just was not aware. I didn’t know anything. So we were really starting from zero.
David Hirsch: So, I remember you talking previously about the fact that Bahar is a former actress, and that you used the word ‘script’ very specifically. I know that that’s something that you associate with being an actor and actress. But in your family situation, share with me what it was that you were talking about when you said script?
Clayton Frech: It wasn’t our innovation. It was from child development specialist Betsy Brown Braun, who has written some books. This was her strategy for many kids with differences. So we worked with Betsy to create this script for Ezra, just a one and a half page document that explains his situation, but uses the words that we’re going to use, and it calls out the words that we’re not going to use. It kind of warns people who are reading it, that if you deviate from the script, don’t be surprised that we’re going to call you on it.
And so we used this script from very early on, in explaining Ezra’s differences to anybody that needed to know. And what I think was very helpful for Ezra was being very proactive in sending the script around ahead of him going to a preschool or to a camp. Or when he started elementary school and kindergarten, we sent this out to teachers, administrators, coaches, fellow parents.
I mean that’s probably the most impactful thing you can do is send it to the parents. Because the kids are going to ask their parents about this kid that doesn’t have a leg or has two fingers on his hand or whatever. And the theory here was over time, we kind of stamp out some of the wrong language and things that might be mean, and create a little bit of a safer environment for him to develop and grow.
Interestingly, we didn’t really think about this as a benefit, but it absolutely happened, which is he heard the script over and over and over. Mostly my wife and I, but certainly other core family members, would be able to use the script and know the script pretty well.
And so what happened was by four years old, preschool, he’s starting to get invited to speak at schools and share his story. And as a preschooler walking into a grade school and talking to classes, or even bigger assemblies, he had his stories so well down…I mean, he doesn’t really get nervous speaking, because he’s just sharing his story, and his story is always the same. And we use the same words, and it’s like it becomes part of him. So he sort of turns into this motivational speaker.
Ezra: I play guitar and a ton of sports. Last year I set seven national records in track and field. What? Is that hard to believe because of my leg? Well, that’s because you’ve never seen me in action. I just don’t quit.
Clayton Frech: And this advocate can handle a live interview with Ellen DeGeneres.
Ellen DeGeneres: Some kids love sports, but you’re really good at all sports. So when did you realize that you were good at everything?
Ezra: I’ve always loved it since I was a baby. I’ve always been very active, having fun, playing with my friends, but when I play sports, I feel at home. I don’t feel different. I feel like I’m just one of the guys.
Ellen DeGeneres: Yeah, well, and you are, but you’re better than that. And you have a coach that gave you a really great motto. What is that motto?
Ezra: It was, “Finish well.” I was a little kindergartener playing basketball, and I missed a couple of shots, and then I missed all my shots, and I got upset and I ran away. And my PE coach, Coach Chow, was watching me, and he came up, and he said, “Hey buddy, you might have missed all your shots, but you’re going to go out there and make another shot no matter what, and you’re going to finish well. And as a little kindergartener, I didn’t know what that meant. I just was going to go home and say, “Oh, who am I going to tell this to?”
But as I got older, like doing in my race, maybe I slip and fall at the beginning, I get up and I go, “Okay, finish well, finish well.” You just drive harder and harder and harder, and then eventually you get to the finish line.
Clayton Frech: He’s been featured on Huffington post, CBS sports. He just doesn’t stress in these moments, because it’s just him. And he’s been telling his story for his whole life, and he’s heard it literally since he was five, six months old, or whenever we got the first script done.
So I advise parents, I don’t care how old your kid is, if you don’t have a script, go write one tonight. If there’s something obvious about your child that’s different, and they’re going to get asked about it, and they’re going to get called out, or they’re going to get bullied or harassed, you’ve got to help give them the words to share their story. And I mean, it’s had a transformational effect on this child.
David Hirsch: So let’s keep it very simple. There are some words that you were deliberately using over and over and over. So that’s all I heard. And there was words you were looking to stamp out. So just for my own Neanderthal brain, give me some examples of both.
Clayton Frech: So we would say he was born “different.” We would say he was born with a different leg and a different hand. And it depends on the age exactly how you say this, but you would remind children that they actually are all different. They have different hair, or they have different eyes or different genders. This is just one more difference. Just kind of just say it in a matter of fact way.
The main things we sort of wanted to stamp out were pity, feeling sorry for Ezra, or anybody saying that he wasn’t able to do things. We would really caution people against saying they felt sorry for him, or “what a shame,” or “what a pity,” or those kinds of words. This is not something you need to feel sorry about. You don’t need to feel pity. It’s really no big deal. It’s just no big deal.
David Hirsch: So a burning question in my mind, because you’d mentioned that surfing was a really big part of your life and early on in the grieving process, you’d go out on your surfboard. You wouldn’t actually surf, but you’d just cry, right? The only place where you can sort of let your guard down. Has Ezra gotten on a surf board yet?
Clayton Frech: He has. He’s actually surfed with an amputee friend of ours up in Santa Barbara, a Brazilian guy who lost his leg snowboarding. And then he’s surfed a few times with the Challenged Athletes Foundation in a kind of a clinic environment. I have not taken him on my own. But he’s probably getting ready for that moment.
David Hirsch: Well, that would be a pretty cool milestone for the two of you to be able to go out and surf together.
Clayton Frech: It would. It really would.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. So let’s switch over to what it is that you were thinking about three or four years ago, when Ezra was eight or nine. You’ve got eight or nine years’ worth of personal experience with helping raise this young superstar—what I think of as a young superstar—and you got a different vision, right?
I mean, you actually punched out of the corporate world, like some of us think about doing, but are so fearful of doing. And you had this vision for Angel City Sports. So tell me, where did that come from? How did you put it in place?
Clayton Frech: Sure. Ezra has been tracking towards the NBA, playing college basketball, most of his life. And about five years ago, I took him to his first Paralympic competition as an eight-year-old. I was far away from us—it was in Oklahoma—an amazing, life changing event.
And we realized during this meet…so he did sitting volleyball, table tennis, a bunch of track and field events, and he set some records in the track and field events. And he literally learned the day before, or in some cases he learned while he was competing how to do these events. We just had a great time. And on the final day of that meet, I asked the question, “Why do I have to come so far to run, jump and throw things and to do these sports?”
And it started us on a journey to sort of fill in some of the gaps in adaptive and Paralympic sports programming in Southern California and to create opportunities for those that didn’t have the time or the means to fly over the country, to give their children or whoever, or their parents, siblings, opportunities.
And so we came back to Southern Cal and started to get to know the industry better. We were pretty involved before, so I knew a lot of the players, but I sort of dug in to figure out, how do we do this? And two years later, in 2015, we launched the first Angel City Games. We had a nice turnout, did wheelchair basketball and a track and field competition, and we have just been growing since then.
So we have identified three programmatic areas that we can attack that are kind of interrelated. We do training and development through probably over two dozen clinics this year in different sports. We are also doing what we can to solve the issue of access to equipment. So we’re building an inventory of racing chairs, throwing chairs, basketball chairs, tennis chairs that can be loaned to athletes for other programs and used in our programming.
And then the third pillar of our programming is competition. And we really believe that part of being an athlete is having access to competitions and being able to line up against your competitors, and have the gun go off, and it’s your time to shine. Some would say we kind of went at it a little bit backwards, because we started with the competition two years ago, and then we worked into the clinics.
But we’re really excited. I mean, there’s a lot of opportunity to grow these sports—and, lucky timing, Los Angeles won the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic games. So what that means is in ten years, we’ve got to figure out how to fill the Colosseum, and we are in an incredible position to help lead that from the community standpoint, building the awareness, finding the athletes, training volunteers. Because I don’t care if you’re an experienced elite athlete or not, I don’t have qualifying standards. Our events are for everybody.
I think we can really make an impact on this community. Our hope is in 2029, when the games are gone, we’ve put Los Angeles and sort of the greater Southern California area on the map as the best place to live if you have a disability. For us, it’s not really about the elite athletes. It’s about making sure everyone in our community knows that they can live a healthy, active life, and that sports can be a part of that.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s interesting you should mention that. I was talking to a woman recently in London. My daughter Emily and I are going to run the London Landmarks half marathon at the end of March. And she has a not-for-profit she started 21 years ago, which is Get Kids Going, and it’s kids with physical disabilities, like we’re talking about, not intellectual disabilities.
And in 2012, they had the Olympics and the Paralympics. And the way she tells the story is that the Olympics were the warmup games for the Paralympics. So from her lips to God’s ears, that will be your situation. The Olympics will be the warmup games in 2028 for the Paralympics and everything else that you guys are doing in LA.
Clayton Frech: We think we should be the biggest event in the country. And I think that Los Angeles has the most interesting reasons to draw people here, between celebrities and just the kind of tourist stuff that everybody loves to do here. Between Venice Beach and Santa Monica and Hollywood and Universal Studios and Disneyland and all that stuff. It was always our vision to be a destination event, where people could plan year after year. They get to come to Southern Cal, and they get to do sports, and be treated like a celebrity themselves, and happen upon some celebrities at the games as well.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. So if somebody wants to get involved, either as an athlete or a volunteer or a sponsor, whether it’s cash or in kind, where would they go?
Clayton Frech: The easiest place is to go to angelcitysports.org, our website. We’re also on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, but on the website there’s places to sign up for emil information. There’s places to select what your interest area is. And people could certainly email me directly, which is just email@example.com, and I can connect them to the right team member.
And as you said, we’re always looking for volunteers to help us with our various committees, to help run the games, to help run our programming. We’re going to have to bring in corporate sponsors that don’t have an obvious connection to the disability world.
So I got a million to a million and a half people with physical disabilities in LA County. These are staggering numbers, and they all have cell phones, and banks, and they buy clothes, and they eat food, and they do all the things that everybody else does. So why not make sure your company is positioned appropriately with this community for just purely economic reasons? If you have products that are accessible to this community, or services, I think we’re a place where you could kind of highlight that and show that you’re a company that actually cares about all human beings and that treats all of its customers or potential customers with the same enthusiasm.
David Hirsch: Interesting that you should mention that, that it’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s good for business. There’s a direct benefit from an economic perspective. One of the fellow Special Fathers Network mentor fathers, like yourself was a fellow by the name of Randy Lewis. Randy’s a retired senior exec with Walgreens, and it was his vision literally a decade ago to build a distribution center in Anderson, South Carolina, where they would hire a third of the employees—which is to say, 200 of the 600 employees in the distribution center—who would be people with different types of disabilities. And they would be paid the same wages, be measured on the same metrics.
And the story is an amazing one. It turns out that distribution center, out of all 20 distribution centers, is the most efficient and most profitable and has the highest level of comradery. So it’s directed Walgreens, as they built new distribution centers, to ratchet that up from 33% to 50%. And now there is a corporate mandate across the board to hire people with disabilities.
And if Walgreens is not involved, let’s make sure that we connect those dots, because they’re probably one of the most progressive companies in America, perhaps around the world, who are focused on helping or assisting people with disability. It’s not like a handout, like a bagger job at the local food store, but real jobs, with real economic benefits.
Well, let’s focus on what’s going on with the Angel City Games. When are the 2018 games, and where are they going to be?
Clayton Frech: Sure. So it’s June 21st to the 24th at UCLA iconic sports institution. Last year we had 800 volunteer shifts. So we’d just have this sort of massive infrastructure of volunteers to help run the games during that four day weekend. So it’s an incredible place to volunteer.
There will be five sports: track and field, swimming, and archery as individual sports, and then a doubles wheelchair tennis tournament, and then three on three wheelchair basketball. And we’ll have evening functions that will parallel the sport. So we’re going to do an awards gala Thursday night, and a fundraiser, a barbecue, open and free to the community, athletes and families and volunteers on Friday.
Then Saturday night is our celebrity wheelchair basketball game, which was just sort of my idea back a few years ago. That is, it used to be just sort of entertainment for our athletes. And it’s kind of growing into a more of a place where we can draw in new celebrity supporters and people who are just interested in hearing, you know, “What Adam’s Sandler is doing at this event?”
Adam Sandler: Angel City. Great time. Hoops. My team dominated, I hate to say, and it was not because of me. Love you guys. Angel City, a 10, a great time, a good thing. Peace out.
Clayton Frech: It’s a fantastic evening, and really just fun and entertaining to see. But Sandler’s played, and we have former NFL guys, Olympians, Paralympians, other Hollywood celebs. It’s a lot of fun.
David Hirsch: Sounds like it. I hope I can get out to LA this summer and partake.
Clayton Frech: Are you going to bike?
David Hirsch: Well, I biked once, and that’s probably the only time I’ll ever do it, from Santa Monica to Chicago. I think I’ll fly. Thank you very much for mentioning that. But I’m totally thrilled to have you as one of the mentor fathers as part of the Special Fathers Network. And I’m wondering, before we close, if there’s anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up.
Clayton Frech: I mean, I do think, as a father of a kid with different needs, it’s not easy, right?
It’s emotionally exhausting. It’s physically challenging. Your time commitment is different. And so just kind of hearing about your other mentors and about this network that you’re creating gives me more motivation to continue to do what we do. And certainly I’m honored to be a part of the network, to share anything that I have of value with anybody that might be interested.
But I think for the broader community, if you can come to something like Angel City, or some event where you can connect with people with differences, it’ll change your life. It will change how you look at the world. You’ll start noticing people with disabilities, and you’ll start to get more comfortable connecting with them and realize that it’s just no big deal.
And realize you might see a few things that you have different than them, but basically everything else is the same. And I get to say this, because I didn’t know any of this, and I didn’t have that perspective, and I’ve had to learn it over the years. And I learn it every day, just being inspired by my athletes and the people in our community. It’s really a remarkable community. It’s really incredible.
So to anybody that’s out there that just doesn’t know this community, jump in, because it’ll change you. And if we can get kids especially to understand this community and connect and learn, we can eradicate bullying, we can eradicate a lot of things by educating kids that it’s okay to be different.
One of Ezra’s taglines from when he was just a little guy, when he was like four years old—he said that in one of his speeches to a classroom, “It is okay to be different. The differences are the one thing that we have in common. Let’s move on.”
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Well, I want to thank you, Clayton, for sharing your time and many insights. As a reminder, Clayton is just one of the dads who has agreed to be a mentor father as 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.
Thanks again, Clayton.
Clayton Frech: You got it. Thank you, David.
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 fathers to support fathers.
Sometimes the mentor father is just there to answer a few questions. Sometimes they become good friends. It’s a proven support system for new fathers with special needs kids. If you’re a father looking for support, or if you’re a dad who’d like to offer support, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And thank you for listening to this Special Fathers Network Podcast, stories of fathers helping fathers.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network podcast was produced for 21st Century Fads by Couch Audio. Again, to find out more about the Special Fathers Network, go to 21stcenturydads.org.