David Hirsch talks with film producer and director Scott Sowers. Scott and his wife Sharon live outside of Atlanta and are parents of a special needs daughter, Gloria. Scott produced and directed a film called Special Needs, about people with special needs and the families that care for them.
Dad To Dad 9 – A conversation with the director of the film Special Needs, Scott Sowers.
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 that’s 21stcentury dads.org.
David Hirsch: Hi, I’m David Hirsch.
This is the Special Fathers Network podcast stories of fathers helping fathers.
Tom Couch: And I’m Tom couch. David’s guest today is film producer and director Scott Sowers.
Scott Sowers: You can either get mad at God for all this stuff or you can just embrace it and realize there’s reason and just let it play out and go with it.
Tom Couch: Scott and his wife Sharon live in Atlanta, Georgia.
Scott Sowers: Hey glow w orm time to get up, rise and shine!
Tom Couch: And are parents of a special needs daughter, gloria.
Scott produced and directed a film called Special Needs. One about people with special needs and the families that care for them. Sharon performed the music.
Scott Sowers: I wanted to write a story that showed not just not really focusing on the special needs person, but focusing on the people around.
Tom Couch: Scott has also done great work with his church for the special needs community and other Georgia churches are taking notice and asking for his help and guidance.
Scott Sowers: And like I always tell people, just love ’em up. Love them. And that’s how you love your child and the rest will follow.
Tom Couch: He coaches special needs kids in baseball, works with Tim T-bone. To shine and he’s a mentor, father in the Special Father’s Network.
Scott Sowers: If I can share with another father, like we’re sharing right now, and that’s, that’s, that’s what it’s all about.
Tom Couch: He’s an amazing guy and he’s David Hirsch’s guest today on the Special Father’s Network podcast.
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 Scott Sowers.
David Hirsch: We’re here today in Atlanta talking with Scott Sowers, producer of the movie Special Needs. Scott, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the special fathers network.
Scott Sowers: Yeah, my pleasure.
David Hirsch: So you and your wife Sharon, are parents of two girls. Kelly. Who’s 34 and Gloria 30 who was diagnosed with autism, mental delays and mild retardation, correct?
Scott Sowers: Yeah.
David Hirsch: So let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family, siblings, the type of neighborhood you grew up in.
Scott Sowers: Okay. I don’t think we have enough time for all of it, but I’ve got, I was born and raised, born in El Paso, Texas. I was number six of eight kids. I’ve got five sisters and two brothers.
And we lived, Oh, probably about a quarter mile from the Rio Grande river in El Paso, which was, which was awesome. Growing up as a child, we played down by the river. We used to take bets who could cross the Rio Grande and going to Mexico, and, you know, it was fantastic. But I, I, uh, I really loved, uh, El Paso.
You know, when you’re a kid, you know, they say that all your memories. Heard it was formed when you’re like between five and 10. And I can actually still remember the things that I used to do back there. And, uh, it was just, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I mean, kids today have no clue what, what growing up outside means, and running on riverbanks and then riding horses through your neighborhoods and playing hide and seek and kick the can or your. You’ve got five miles to go hide in.
David Hirsch: So it was a rural environment.
Scott Sowers: It was wonderful. And, uh. My father was a dentist and, um, he, we were the members of the country club down there and we had all the 4th of July picnics. We had the swim mates, we had all that stuff, but it was just really great growing up in El Paso.
And then, uh. Uh, my mom was, she would get sick with allergies and whatnot. She had asthma. So we, we ended up leaving El Paso and moving to San Angelo, Texas when I was probably 10 years old. Okay. And that’s where I was raised. We were very active, very active family, you know. We all played football and my sisters were cheerleaders and homecoming Queens.
I mean, I’m kind of hitting the top parts of it. Yeah, it was good. And then tragedy kind of struck when, uh, my mother passed away when I was 13, and she was 43 years old. She left behind, you know, all these kids to, uh, to my father. And, um. She was the rock. So when she passed away, he pretty much, that was about it for him.
He, he had his issues. He was a Bombardier in World War II. He was, he, uh, he had some drinking problems that. That that we wish we could have, could have gotten rid of, but the war haunted him his whole life. And so he had a, he was a tough, tough guy. And I’ll just say he was very tough to live with. And I’ll leave it at that because it affected all of us, especially after our mother passed away because she’s the one that, um.
You know when he’d get upset or he’d have problems. She was the one that would take care of him and we’d all go on about our business. But after she passed away, we kind of, the oldest would leave. Then the next oldest would leave, and then, you know, so we all kinda kind of left. I, I ended up leaving when I was a senior in high school and I went to Austin, Texas.
Finished my senior year in high school, I got my own apartment and, you know, started working. I’d been working ever since, but that was, that was, that was a quick way to grow up, but it was, I don’t know if you can imagine a kid in high school with his own apartment come and go as I pleased, you know? No, it was fine.
He was, it was different. I had a lot of support from friends and, and, uh, and family, you know, other family. But, uh. Oh yeah, it was, it was, the childhood was, was tough. It was really tough.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, sorry to hear about your mom passing away at such an early age, and obviously a big responsibility for a parent, mom or dad to be raising eight kids and, uh, you know, your dad was a dentist, so I’m sure he’s working full time and he’s just trying to connect the dots.
Um, so yeah. You mentioned he was tough to live with or tough on you guys. How would you characterize your relationship with your dad, maybe as a young person and as you became an adult yourself, and then maybe before he passed for that matter?
Scott Sowers: Well, as I can say, he was one of 11 children and he was the youngest.
David Hirsch: Oh, wow.
Scott Sowers: And that was a coal mining family in West Virginia. And those stories are just endless. And he, his father was brutal. And back in the day, I mean, he, that’s when, when you got a beating back, then you gotta beat him back then. So he was raised that way and they were all. Basketball champ, football stars, all his brothers, uncle Dan, uncle Scott, uncle John, uncle buck, they all went in the military, uncle Tom, they were all war heroes.
You know, they all did their, their stance and fought for this country. Well, I was, he was, when he drank, he was the Mo- he was the sweetest man you’d ever meet. We used to have a morning dad and an evening dad. Okay. All right. Good morning. Dad was up at four o’clock and wake us up, take us fishing, come home, cook the fish for breakfast, wake everybody else up.
Those were the days that were beautiful. Those mornings, those parts of the day, he’d go to work and work all day and he was a. In San Angelo. I called him the poor man’s dentist because he, you could come into him and get a tooth pulled, a root canal filling, and if you didn’t have the money, you know, he’d just put it on an index card.
Some people bring him some fish or some venison or whatever, and he would take it and a Rite of passage for some of us. Was to work in his office when we were 14 or whatever, but before, as growing up, we were, I was scared of him because when he got, when he drank and he didn’t drink that much, that’s why I think he had some problems from, you know, they didn’t treat vets like they do now. They just the war is over go home.
David Hirsch: There wasn’t PTSD or traumatic brain injuries or anything like that.
Scott Sowers: You know, and he had all that and then sound, but he drank a little bit and then it, you know, every day he came home and he’d had that look. And it was, you did not want to be there. And so he was colorful in his language.
But, uh, when he was younger, when my older siblings, he, he was, he was pretty tough on him. He was pretty violent and it messed us up. I mean, it was horrible that it took a long time. You know, we referred to ourselves as the walking wounded, you know, because we just, we all had our issues. Um, I was fortunate enough.
To be number six. And when I, I told you about my, um, going to college, I went to university of Texas at Austin and I had, I was in Austin in high school and I could have gone the full gamut. I had a trust fund from my mother’s family. I could have gone to school. I just didn’t do it. I went one year and at UT and.
I just, the class, I just didn’t, it wasn’t for me. I went back to San Angelo and I tried going to college there and I had a professor, I took a drama class cause my mom and I used to love to watch movies. She instilled that in me, watching movies, writing stories, acting, all that sort of stuff. And I just, uh.
Decided, you know, to take a drama class in college and the professor one day said, don’t think you can go to New York or LA and become a movie star. It’s just not going to happen. So of course, within two weeks I’m packing up an old rambler and I’m gone to California cause I didn’t want to go to New York and became a, went out there. And then. Trump wanted to be a movie star and do the whole gamut and it was fun. It was going to town. And then my father got very ill and he was diabetic. He lost his foot. And so my oldest brother and I, he followed me out to California. We went back to San Angelo and pretty much packed him up, brought him out to California, had him at the VA hospital there trying to get him straightened out, and then one day he was living with me.
And apartment. And one day he had a credit card. Did he manage to keep on him and left a note and said, love. You see, you flew back to West Virginia. And there he, uh, he was going to kill himself. So he jumped off the bridge into a river that was two feet deep with very muddy. So my uncle Tom found it out, you know, it was there and took him in. So he ended up in the hospital up there, and we, he went from hospital to hospital to hospital. Each. Each of us took care of him for a while and ended up in Texas, uh, and lost his other leg.
He was 83 years old. We thought he was gonna pass away. And so we all got together, all eight of us, and he didn’t pass away. So we all went home. Finally, six months later, he, he did the comment and we all met and, and, uh, we had a funeral for him and buried him in San Angelo next to my mother.
David Hirsch: Wow.
Scott Sowers: So it was a very, it
David Hirsch: sounds like a tragic end to his life.
Scott Sowers: It’s a story I’ve been working on it.
David Hirsch: That’s wild.
Scott Sowers: So, well, that’s a, that’s a lot of stuff to throw down. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. Um, uh, it sounds like, uh. You had to grow up pretty fast once your mom passed away and it was a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde type of experience. That’s what I heard you say.
What the good dad in the morning and now anybody’s guests in the afternoon or evening type of experience. You made reference to his dad being a coal miner and your dad being one of 11. Um, where are you. Were you in contact with your mom’s dad or your other grandpa?
Scott Sowers: Her grandfather was a judge. He was an attorney and a judge in El Paso, Texas.
And a real quick story about him is in college he had two friends and when they graduated from college. My grandfather wanted to be a lawyer. Sam wanted to be, uh, an accountant and Conrad wanted to be a, he had a crazy idea that what’s a new invention? The automobile people are gonna want to travel. So guys, you got to come with me to California.
We can, we can make a fortune. Well, they didn’t do it, but Sam young worked in a bank and got him a loan for a couple thousand dollars. He went to California. And came back years later and built the El Paso national bank building. And Sam young became the president of that and he made my, my grandfather was his personal attorney and his name was Conrad Hilton.
David Hirsch: Oh my gosh.
Scott Sowers: course when I went to Hollywood to try and be a movie star, I thought I would connect with this man and see if he could help me out. And he wrote me a letter and said, your grandfather was my friend and personal attorney, but I really don’t know anything about the film business. My son might.
So I contacted, I got a job at the Beverly Hilton hotel down in food and beverage, and. They had the Academy award dinner there one night, and I’m feeling the carts with liquor bottles and wine bottles, and I’m writing on there with a marker on the bottles for a good screenplay call, Scott. So, Oh my gosh.
And I sent him, you know, I, nothing ever came of it, of course, but it was kind of funny.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, um, it sounds like a roller coaster, uh, uh, upbringing and, uh, I think each of our backgrounds helps shape our character and the type of people that we become. And sometimes those, uh. Challenges, you know, have more influence on us than the easy times.
That’s my weapon, but it
Scott Sowers: builds character.
David Hirsch: So, um. Let’s talk a little bit about your career. You said you went to university of Texas at Austin, and then, uh, St. Angelo, uh, you ended up moving out to California to pursue a career in,
Scott Sowers: Oh, I was going to be a big star, obviously, back in those days. Um, I loved movies and writing and stuff.
Uh, you know, used to ride my bike to the theater and watch John Wayne at the Texas theater and all those plenty stored movies and, and whatnot. I just locked it. I don’t know. My mother loved it and I think she gave me the bug, but. On the side of her family with all being lawyers. That’s what I was going to university of Texas to do, to go, cops come and try and become a lawyer.
Well, that didn’t work out, but I went out there, um, I guess it was 76 round in there. Okay. And, uh, I went out there and I started doing extra work. I tried, uh, getting an agent. It was. I waited tables, I drove a cab, I valet park, you know, every actor, everybody in California. I found out quickly is an actor.
David Hirsch: So how long were you out in LA pursuing that?
Scott Sowers: I was out there and let’s see, in 1980 I met Sharon who came out there to move away from Georgia and she came into this restaurant I was working in a. Oh country Western restaurant. Go figure. She walked in one day at lunch and I just, I knew right then I just knew it and I told her on her second date, I finally got her to go out with me.
She came in to apply for a waitress job part time cause she just wanted, and I told her, the manager, the owner, we’ll be back in a little while. I knew he wasn’t coming back, but I just hounded her quarter. I mean I had to. Mary, this one, I just did. I mean, I knew it and she said, I told her that and she said, no, you’re not.
So it took about, I don’t know, year maybe or so we got married at, at my friend Jack’s house, around his pool, um, in 1981. And she was working. She started doing the acting with me. That’s not why she went out there. She went out there to work for the Beverly Hills courier magazine, but she got started doing acting and she was doing, working on general hospital as a under five, what they call it.
She was like a waitress at one of the casinos where one of the stars owned at night, and she was having fun and she was doing well and she was so not dead gorgeous. And, uh. We both gave it a shot and then, uh, we got pregnant and she one day wasn’t feeling well and I, I was cooking when I cook, I don’t stop.
And for some reason she took a bath and she still wonder. So I, it’s like my mom touched me on the shoulder and said, take her to the hospital cause I turned off all the food, picked her up, put him a little crummy card, took her the hospital, explained, you know, she’s pregnant, but she’s not. Man, they pushed me out of the way.
He rushed her in there and she had an ectopic pregnancy. Oh my God. She was allergic to penicillin and they gave her penicillin not knowing. So she died and they brought her back, and then she came out of there looking like she’d been in a fight with Muhammad Ali, and I just lost it, and I had to call her parents.
I went in the chapel at the church. Then I had to call her parents and tell them, and that was the toughest thing, but she survived. And then we,
David Hirsch: So this was when Kelly was born?
Scott Sowers: No, this we, we lost the first time.
David Hirsch: Sorry.
Scott Sowers: Yeah. Then we’ve got, Oh, this guy comes in and tells her, you may not ever get pregnant again, and.
I’m like, she told me that and I got with the hospital people and I said, if you let anybody talk to her, cause my brother in law is an OB GYN or was called him. He said, Scott, that happens. You know, just give it a while. Try again, you’ll be fine. So we did and we got pregnant again. And then we looked around California and we went.
Okay. We don’t have enough money to live here. So let’s move to Georgia.
David Hirsch: She was from Georgia.
Scott Sowers: She’s from Atlanta. So we, and I knew I couldn’t go back to Texas cause it would have been just not with my friends. They wouldn’t have, it would have been horrible. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now, probably.
No, but we decided to come back to Georgia and her brother had a job for me in, uh, construction. So it kinda just, you know, gave the dream up a little bit. And then just kept writing scripts and kept working. As you know, I did theater here at a college. We had Kelly, which was, God, she’s just such a wonderful child.
She was so funny and just big. Kelly was big. She Aussie and she’s just a wonderful little blonde bond girl that was just full of vinegar. And, uh. So all we did and, and, and it’s just work. Sharon is working on it. I got a job with a computer, software manufacturing company, had enough their warehouse and inventory control and all that, which I still do as my day job today.
Around 88 we got pregnant again. We had Gloria and she was just about her ball. She was cute as she could be. I’ll tell you a funny story real quick about. How you get forced into your dream. Somehow. I was working for this company for 10 years, getting it built up with the software company and it got bought out by the big boys and Sharon was working at, before we had Gloria, she was working at an IT for AT&T.
She called me one more than 10 o’clock and said crying. I’m like, what’s the matter? So what? They’re shutting down this facility and I’ve lost my job. I’m being laid off and. Did in 1990 everybody was downsizing. I said, don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it. And then I got called into my office at noon by the controller and he’s, they had to lay me off for lack of work.
So I just sat there and looked out the window for a minute, and I thought, wow. I didn’t hear another word after that. Came out of his mouth, packed up. I called her and I said, Sharon, uh, I just got laid off. Well, that’s not funny here.
I said, no, you thought you were joking. Yeah.
So I’d come home and we just. Needless to say, went out and celebrated our freedom, but it was, uh, that was, that was, that was a wake up call.
David Hirsch: So we’ve got a three or four year old daughter. Right. At the time, we were both losing our jobs correct. And was probably
Scott Sowers: about seven or six. Okay. But I started a catering company. Catering Fools.
David Hirsch: And that was the name of the company.
Scott Sowers: And it was just me. And, uh, that’s about the time we started finding out Gloria was, had issues. Cause when they’re babies, you really don’t know. She looked fine, she looked, but then she set her up, she’d fall over, she wasn’t hitting her milestones. And that’s another, that’s one of my topics in a book that I’m writing is milestones.
But so we found out, we took her down and. Had all the tests that people do. And, uh, when we got the diagnosis and we, you know, it’s pretty hard to take, but Sharon, God lover went and became a, uh, a Montessori, an AMI certified Montessori school teacher. She went to school. She started a in-home Montessori school where she could have eight students.
And she did that so she could be at home with Gloria, you know? And she did that for almost 20 years. Wow. And it was a nice, she had a, she had a good thing going on at the house. I built a school for her right there in the back during the back, screened in patio into a nice school. And you saw it in the movie, right?
Right back there. The little Montessori school. And I went on ahead and went to work for. A 72 year old printing company that I thought I’d be there forever, and two years later they shut down because of desktop publishing. Wow. Yeah. And then I went to work for another printing company, and then I landed at RLR plastic company in 1997.
David Hirsch: So you’ve been there since.
Scott Sowers: They’ve been wonderful to me.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. So let’s, let’s go back to, um, when you. Realized, um, that Gloria wasn’t developing at the same rate that her peers would have been. And, um, the experience that you and Sharon had, you, you mentioned that it led Sharon into this path of creating a Montessori school and being able to be more like homeschooling because.
Gloria would have been one of the eight students.
Scott Sowers: Yeah. She kind of grew up around it, and then when she was old enough to go to public school, we’d send her to Brookwood, which was a beautiful program, and she would go to school and it was just great. They had some inclusion, but they had a, Gloria can’t reach, can’t ride.
She, she’s, she’s, she’s like that, but she’s very personable. She’s a wonderful girl. But she did that until I think you age out at 21 right. And so when she did age out, she would come home and help Sharon, we call it. She was Sharon’s parapro. Okay. So wonderful with the little kids, because Sharon was two and a half to five year olds, and Gloria would just loved them and they loved her.
It was a wonderful thing. It was really nice.
We didn’t know Sharon thought there might’ve been something happened during the birth, maybe she was choked or maybe she was dropped and you know, all these things. And I, I was just excited and I don’t recall any of that. But at any rate, she w as she got older, we went through the tests, you know, back in, what is that 80 she was born in 88 and the tests back then, you took them in.
Fragile X course. Let’s go there. Let’s, let’s do all these blood tests. Let’s do these things. They did a muscle biopsy and took some muscle out of the front of her thigh, which really makes me mad cause it’s still there. But long story short of it is. When we finally went to this doctor, he was a Dio, and I can’t think of his name right now, but he wore plaid shirts and Stripe pants.
He was, he was a character.
David Hirsch: Like Rodney Dangerfield.
Scott Sowers: He was awesome, and he just told us one day, he said, Gloria is going to be what? She’s going to be lover. Work with her, and that’s about all you can do. And she’s going to be whatever she’s going to be. And that’s the best advice we got. Because what happens with this, and this is what I’m putting in my book, is we all have milestones that we had as children.
And I called it a big switchboard, you know, crawling, walking, talking, eating, blah. There’s a millions of them, but you notice that, um, she wasn’t hitting the milestones. She wasn’t crawling. She didn’t walk until she was four, and we have to be cognizant of it still because like every three or four years, something, one of those switches would go off.
So she would never talk. And now when you’re with her, she won’t stop talking. That’s what the signs are. When you have a child like that, you’ve got to watch it because the diagnosis of mildly mentally retarded, developmentally delayed. I mean, Gloria is 30 and her hands look like she’s 14 she just real pretty little girl and a beautiful red hair.
But anyway, it took a long time to get the autism diagnosis took forever and when we started shooting the movie in 2009. One out of every 106 kids in the autism spectrum today it’s one in every 55. It’s getting crazy. The spectrum is growing and I don’t, I don’t know what it’s from you. It’s crazy.
David Hirsch: So, um, what were some of the more important decisions that you and made along the way as Gloria was growing up?
Scott Sowers: Well, for her, it was schools. Public schools. Yeah. Do you want to put in, you know, safety was number one with me and it still is today. I will not let Korea stay at home alone. I will not let her go anywhere without supervision. She has a caregiver when she goes to her day program. Um, she goes everywhere with us, you know, or she’s with her sister because you just had this little kid and you’re entrusting this person who can’t fend for themselves to go out into the world with strangers or with somebody else.
Safety was my main concern. And one day she was at some school, elementary school. It was a new school and she was up on the playground up on the thing where they slide down and all that with a teacher holding her hand. Well, uh. Some child ran up the slide backwards, you know, and they backed up like that.
Gloria fell off,
David Hirsch: Oh my gosh.
Scott Sowers: And landed and there was no fluff. It was gravel and she broke her femur.
David Hirsch: Oh my gosh.
Scott Sowers: And I got the call and they took her to the hospital. To this day, she’ll sometimes talk about that siren and the ambulance ride, but they put her in a body, cast that in both legs, up to her hips.
And that was right at the time when I was laid off. So luckily I was there to take care of her and Sharon was working and it was like, I think that right there would just, my father instincts just came out and said, never again. Is this going to happen? Never, I think for me and shared, it was her safety and then the knowledge.
I got old videos of me doing flashcards with her Apple banana, you know, and the education. You just, like I said, you had to watch for when those switches came on. Right now even she’s talking, sounding more grown up. She’s sounding closer to. A 12 year old than a six year old, and so they’re still making good progress.
30 so at this rate, she’ll be 30 when she’s a hundred I don’t know, but she’s such a happy girl, but trust me, she has her moments like they all do. She will snap and and go off on you and big time will go off on us. She doesn’t go off on people. She doesn’t know where her were. Her comfort to be able to go ballistic, comfort zone.
David Hirsch: That sounds like a. We’ve had a lot of different experiences, good and bad, you know, like any family would. Um, what, what impact has Gloria situation had on Kelly, do you think? Positive or negative? Positive.
Scott Sowers: I can tell you. I could draw it. I could pull up pictures of you with Kelly and her sister when they were little.
David Hirsch: And, uh, Kelly pulling her around in a wagon, pushing her down, a sled in the snow. And, but Kelly has never treated Gloria like she’s. Fragile, like she’s handicapped or disabled or special needs. She just, she just doesn’t give her, she’s like, Ugh, really doesn’t cut her any Slack.
Scott Sowers: She and that’s a beautiful thing.
But for Kelly, I think it w and I, and again, this book I keep referencing, I’ve got it in there that some of the finest young adults I’ve ever met. And yeah, even young kids, or especially siblings, a special needs kid, they just get it. They get it. Now, there might be one or two that have an attitude, but eventually they get it.
And I see it everywhere there. Some of them I even know they’re, they go into the field, you know, they go into special needs, education and whatnot. But Kelly, I think having Gloria in Kelly’s life. Has made Kelly a humble person and more spiritual person, a more caring person and a more independent, strong person.
Cause if anybody says anything to Gloria or anything like that about any kids, she’s on it. Now you saw the film, Kelly’s the blonde. And she’s the one with the little kids. She said, you have a problem. Do you know what that word means? And let’s hear that clip from the movie special needs. God, you’re so retarded.
You have a problem. Do you like offending people for their feelings? Because that many other words that you guys use today are extremely offensive to a lot of groups of people. And that’s her. She is that person. That’s her to a T and that’s awesome. And plus she’s also the head coach of 250 girls at her track team in high school.
So there comes in handy.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it sounds like, uh, the girls have a wonderful relationship. Sister time.
Yeah. That’s awesome. So you made reference, at least in passing to spirituality, what role has spirituality played in your life, yours in Sharon’s life, your family’s life, for that matter?
Scott Sowers: Well, let’s put it this way. Me growing up, I always believed in a God. I was forced to go to church, but my dad is like, Jeremy kid, you’re going, um. I was not Catholic my whole life. I was Presbyterian. I didn’t become a Catholic until 2000 although I did attend church with my family. Catholic family. Uh, years before that, before I took our CIA and became a Catholic, which I did,
David Hirsch: Which is something we have in common.
Scott Sowers: Did you good.
David Hirsch: I went through the RCI program back in 2010,
Scott Sowers: 2010. You’re a newbie now, relatively speaking. But what’s cool is when I, after I did it, I did it with Sharon’s mother cause she wasn’t Catholic and she was married to Thomas Kelly. Oh, I mean, he was the most, you talk about a father figure later in life.
That was my father figure and Tom Kelly passed away, but Oh, was that guy something else? He was, he was a peach. He got me in the Steven’s ministry. He got me in it. He said, you know you, you need to join the Steven’s ministry. And I said, well, I’ll think about it. He said, that’s not a question. You need to join this thing.
I mean, I, you, you heard a little about my past. I, I’ve got no, I got nothing to hide. I was. Bulletproof 10 feet tall. And although I believe in God my whole life, and my mother talked to me every day, I talked to her, you know, she’s closer to me than she ever was. I never expressed my PR, my spirituality, I never talked about it.
I never, you know, God forbid I became a Bible Thumper, like my sisters. But like again, I don’t know what it is, but when I met Sharon, that was it. She is probably the most spiritual person I know and she is as close to perfect as I can even imagine. She really is, and that’s, she’d kill me if she heard me say this, and she will one day hopefully in.
David Hirsch: Kill you right here. This here.
Scott Sowers: She won’t kill me. Shit. Again, spiritual. No, no. But she just built, her belief is so strong and her faith is so strong. And with Gloria, you know, she took it in stride and people would come to her and say, Oh, what’s wrong with your daughter? And she’d be, nothing’s wrong with her.
You know, she’s fine. She’s Gloria. I mean, what you know, and Oh, sorry. And again, I keep going back to what I’m writing about, the theme of my movie. We all have needs, all of us, whatever we’re drunks or drug addicts or anger or whatever it is, diabetes, sickness, we all have needs. But some are more special than others.
And that’s where Gloria has brought us to spirituality in a way. But. You know, you can either, you can either get mad at God for all this stuff, or you can just embrace it and realize there’s a reason and just let it play out and go with it. And Gloria is, I wouldn’t trade her for a million. I wouldn’t trade her for anything.
Um, what I would like her to be normal, like everyone else quote normal. Yeah. But not for me. But for her, because I’d love her to grow up and get married. She talks about it all the time. Well, you know, when I get married, I’m going to buy a big house. I said, why glory? You got a house here. But what I put for her, I’d like her to be able to do the things that, uh, you know, get married, have a family and so on and so forth.
But you know, she’s happy, but spirituality is huge right now in her life and in my life. And mine has grown two fold since I started. Taking coaching baseball and coming closer to kids and starting this, uh, the special needs ministry at st John name. And
then let’s talk about the movie. Uh, the, you wrote this script and produced this movie entitled Special Needs.
David Hirsch: Um, where did the idea come from and what was your vision?
Scott Sowers: Well, I’d been working on a script with Sharon and I’ve been tossing around, uh, I’ve written so many scripts. And it’s hard to get them done. And, uh, I got away from the, I’ve written a country strong violent country, mountain woman movie, uh, Western comedy.
Um, I wrote a thing called Fast Food. They’ve got produced in 89 here in Atlanta with. Jim Varney and all these actors. And it was kind of a schleppy thing. But I, I mean I, and then all of a sudden I’m thinking, you know, I gotta write something with meaning. And so first thing writers know is you write what you know about and, or you have to study a lot.
But anyway, I started writing this thing called Special Needs, cause I’d been working with all these kids and whatnot. And the theme of that, I just told you that we all have needs, some are more special than others. I wanted to write a story that. Showed, not just, not really focusing on the special needs person, but focusing on the people around him, the father, the sister, the teachers that you know, everybody around them that has issues like the stove, the lead actor, he was an alcoholic.
He drove with cops while he’s trying to get his life together. And Kenny, of course, is that. Kid with autism and her sister’s worried because you know, she’s going to have to take care of him one day and Kelly said she’s going to have to take care of Gloria, you know, so I’m using all my family and friends in the movie and I wanted it to come to a head where all the needs of everyone around them kind of start playing out.
There was other things I wanted, if I had a budget, there were so many other things I wanted to do. First would have been nice to get a movie star to actually be in it, but that’s okay. We got the point across for a very, very, very low budget. If you notice at the end, I had people actually come up to me afterwards and asked me did they get married?
She said, Bobby and Ella, and I said. You know, this was a movie, right?
They laughed. But you know, and I have a sequel. I’m working on a sequel, which is interesting. But anyway, so I won where I left. It was where I left the baseball team. I had a built in. Wonderful baseball team, and I wanted that scene with the, take me out to the ball game to be like the old Nikki metal days, and they’re all hitting home runs. Right. And the kids had such a good time but it was hard because 2009 we had floods. Atlanta that summer, I’d get them all out there on the field and looked up and here comes a gray wall rod, and they’d all go home and you’d flood so
David Hirsch: Well economically. That wasn’t such a great time either.
Scott Sowers: No, itwasn’t.
David Hirsch: But as a member of the economic crisis, in a way, picking even though nine.
So those were really,
Scott Sowers: Oh, it was horrible. I mean, nobody had any money. And this is what, Oh, there’s there. I’m glad you said that because my friend, Randy’s father passed away. I went back to San Angelo, Texas, where I left to go to Hollywood, right. And he worked for a rancher buddy of ours. I didn’t really know him that well, but he worked out on a ranch.
And after the funeral we were out at the ranch and here comes this strapping young reactor fellow who knew my family and were out on the front porch, Randy looking out over 4,000 mosquito, 4,000 acres of musky trees. And he said, so Scott, I understand you want to make movies. I said, yeah. He said, well, how much would that.
How much would it cost? I said, well, I can do probably a low budget for $250,000 and he’s. So I got that. I said, no kidding. He said, yeah, we’ll talk about it. As he took another drink and I thought, he’s not going to remember this tomorrow. Anyways, we talked and talked. The next day he came up and I said, well, you got my check, and he’s like, what did I tell you?
Anyway, we talked. Long story short, he was going to help us out and then the financial crisis happened and he told me, he said, I can’t go that much. I said, what can you go? So I bought the equipment, I put up to my end. He put up some money. We spent 21,000 together on equipment. Which was credit card and then the Mo for me anyway.
But at any rate, the movie ended up costing about $8,000 to do the whole thing.
David Hirsch: So the equipment costs more than them,
Scott Sowers: and I still have the equipment, but the, the and 6,000 of that was food. Over a year shooting.
David Hirsch: So really a low budget.
Scott Sowers: All the people that I talked to that worked on that film work for spec work for points I had a long cause.
I thought this movie is going to make a fortune and everybody and make a little bit of money cause you Google special needs right now you get 160 million hits and they all know somebody that knows somebody. I thought this is this, this has got to have a marketing. It’s got to do something. Well. No, uh, we got it done and I’d been talking to Sony and I sent them the script and everything.
They’d loved it. They said, get us the screener when you’re done. So two years of labor of love. We finally got through post, got the script written, the movie done. I send it to him. The guy called and we talked for about an hour, and he’s saying, you know, if you had just got one B actor in it. Well, I said what?
I said, you could have told me before, but no, but if I, you know, you see these movies where there’s no stars, and then there’s one guy, Ben Marine or somebody shows up. They didn’t pick it up. So, and then all of a sudden, guess what happens? Oh, technology raises its ugly head. I thought we’d get into blockbuster and all that.
Well, no Blockbuster anymore.
There’s no money there. There, there, there isn’t the big boys, but for independent films, the best you can hope for is to get it on a, on, on a live stream video on demand. So I’ve been pushing this movie for the last nine years. Every opportunity I have, I have it up in stores. I took it around, I sent it to screening, and I finally, it took me two years to finally get pure Flix to pick it up, and now it’s streaming lone video or the on demand with pure Flix and pure Flix is, this is their division of video on demand.
David Hirsch: Could you reshoot the movie with? You know,
Scott Sowers: absolutely. Yeah. If somebody came along and said, we’re going to put a 10 million bucks into this and we’re going to use, Oh, I don’t know, some actor, like, I dunno Joel Mantegna or somebody like that. Fundamentally, I think if the story’s there and the sequel and, um, I’m hoping something like that would happen. Because I really have a good sequel I’m working on.
David Hirsch: So, um. You’re, you’re also involved in the community, uh, and the special needs community, uh, through the church, through the arts diocese as well.
Scott Sowers: Yeah. I, I got involved here at church. We had a disability ministry that wasn’t really going anywhere and it was there, but it wasn’t, didn’t have a committee.
We put a committee together. And then I decided they wanted the chairman and I said, I’ll do it. And as
David Hirsch: long as parents of special needs kids now coming together to form this
Scott Sowers: No, no, this is the church. The church itself had disabilities and there were a few special needs parents there, but not everybody.
But when I took it over, I thought, and I had a girl, I said, another mother of a special needs child. I said, you helped me and I’ll do this. She said, I’ll do it. So we started, so first thing I did is I changed it from disability ministry to a special needs ministry. Okay. And then I decided, I started thinking, what are we going to do?
Because to me, like again, I keep going back to this special needs should include. People with physical disabilities, people, you know, all different types of disabilities, the special needs. So anyway, what are we going to do? So I went to, I used to take Gloria to this respite on one night, and they’d had the guys there and they put movies on and give them a sandwich and parents could drop him off.
So I thought, you know, we’re going to do that here. And the Knights of Columbus have been fantastic. They have breakfast is every once in a while. I’m sure you’re familiar with that. Okay. And they dedicate one of them to the special needs. They do it to the different ministries, and they raised enough money at that breakfast and we broke the record two years running for people showing up, and that money gets us through a whole year.
And then, so that’s awesome. First out, plus I go out and I hit up people I know, and we have fundraisers, we have a donation box at the door, and we, you know, we do whatever we can to keep this
David Hirsch: going.
Through St. John Newman church.
And you also mentioned that you were involved with something with the archdiocese.
Scott Sowers: The archdiocese called me. Maggie called me up. She’s the head of the committee up there. She asked me if I wanted to get involved and I said, sure. So. I went up there and got involved in that because she saw what I was doing here and she wanted to integrate that into other churches. And that kind of snowballed out and in our deanery, it’s starting to happen and they’re having their special needs ministries and carrying on and so forth.
And the arch auxiliary Bishop here, Bishop tally, he loves special needs. He would have a faith and sharing mass every year. Actually, I think he had two, one of the fall, one of the spring. And it’s just all special needs kids on doing everything. And it’s the most beautiful thing you ever saw in your life.
And the last one he did was up in a church in North Georgia where it was Hispanic communities. And I tell you what, it brought tears to your eyes. They had kids up there, hundreds of people there, they had, and these people are very proud in there. They don’t, they don’t show themselves, but they came out in droves cause Archbishop was there and it was, that was his last one before he went.
And he’s down in new Orleans now or somewhere in Louisiana. But he’s, he was, and he really was an awesome guy.
David Hirsch: Sounds like he had a good influence. Um, does that tie into the Night To Shine? Um, or is that something
Scott Sowers: that Night To Shine came about a few years ago when Tim Tebow saw church do one, and then the first year he did 40 churches in, he called it the Night To Shine for prom.
And then the second year, I think he had 120. And this is fourth year and this year he did over 500 churches in 26 countries, same night. And they all come out and they, they do, we, this is our fourth year, I think third or fourth year, they get the girls all get free prom dresses. The boys get tuxedos. Uh, it’s all depends on where you are.
He did one in Haiti that would have just brought tears to your eyes. These, it was a red carpet into this. It’s like a war torn building and you know, carried the kids in, there might have been 60 kids there and they had big security around the whole thing. Then he gets on a plane, he flies. He keeps making his way home during the day and time zones, making different appearances, and he ends up in somewhere on the East coast, either in Florida.
We were hoping, everybody keeps hoping he comes to there, but at the end of the night, they dropped the balloons. We had 1700 kids there. We have over 500 special needs kids here at not here at the big church in Gwynedd. We’re not church. It’s a huge mega church. That’s where the people happy feet to put that on with Tim Tebow.
So anyway, I, that is, they did 500 kids. They all had one or two escorts and food. And I. And then of course, the screen up there, and Tim Tebow comes on and gives a special message to everybody and tells them how wonderful they are. And they’re all King of Queens of the prom. And you know, it’s just, you can’t, I feel sorry for people that don’t get it, but, you know, and I asked myself in again, this book I’m working on it, had I not had Gloria.
Or if we had not had warrior, would we have the same friends and be doing the same things we’re doing now? And to be honest with you, I have to say probably not. And that’s not sad, but that’s just the way it is, I think. And for people to come from outside our realm. And volunteer and hell to do these kinds of things.
They’re heroes. I mean, that’s awesome because you don’t have to do that.
David Hirsch: But what I love about it is that there’s a sense of building community. Um, we’re bringing people together who wouldn’t otherwise come together. Young people and old people, men and women, people in the special needs community and outside the special needs community.
And, uh, the more we can do that, you know, or getting closer to the. Being part of the solution.
Scott Sowers: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, uh, it’s great. I mean, everybody that, it’s like one of my baseball team, I have buddy helpers, they come out and they, they, they come out and they’re scared to death. You know, they’ve never done it before.
They see these kids in wheelchairs, they see kids in wheelchairs, they see kids grabbing their arm and stuff, and they’re like, and we talked to them before the game and I’m like, guys, love it. They just want to play baseball. And I see it in their eyes, you know, in wheelchairs and yelling, and I don’t give any Slack.
I yell, I’m just like a coach. I give them a hard time, but I’m telling you 10 minutes into it, they’re loving it. And the coaches come to us and say, thank you for doing this. They come back and they say, you wouldn’t believe what. How my kids reacted to that. It changed their lives and I said, well, come on back. We can use you.
David Hirsch: Oh yeah. Well, it’s, uh, it’s not, you think originally when you’re volunteering that it’s, I’m helping somebody, right? I’m doing something good for somebody else. But you realize at some point, maybe right away, maybe not so quickly that you’re the one that’s growing. You’re the one that’s benefiting.
Scott Sowers: You’re the one I also think thereby the grace of God. And that’s where Sharon always steps in and say,t here’s nothing wrong with these kids. Nothing’s wrong with these kids. They are. They are. They’re perfectly just have to accept that and it’s getting better. It’s still a lot of cruel people out there that don’t understand, but, uh, not like it used to be.
I’m not like when I was a kid, I used to make fun of kids like that and sometimes often wondered if that’s why I had Gloria. I used to have that. God’s punishing me because I made fun of kids and then that went away because that’s not what I’ve got.
David Hirsch: So we, we’ve talked about the baseball, I think you mentioned previously too about special Olympics.
What role has any,
Scott Sowers: well, Gloria has always done special Olympics as a kid. She did the track and field. She does the basketball. We just finished up her special Olympics basketball skills. Beautiful facility out in North Georgia, uh, 12 basketball courts. I mean, there’s guys, they’re there. If they’re special needs, I’m Hercules.
These guys were nailing three pointers. Well, Gloria is more of a bounce dribble shoot thing. They got the silver, you know, missed it by that much, but it’s a wonderful thing. And you wouldn’t believe all the people that are there and all the coaches and. From volunteers and it’s just, it’s, it’s just to be around that is really phenomenal.
We have a real fantastic, we have a fantastic special Olympics program in Jordan. They really go all out. I mean, they do.
David Hirsch: We have a good one in Illinois as well. In fact, the 50 or. A anniversary celebration is taking place this July in Chicago. It’s a three or four day event and it’s going to be at soldier field.
And people from all over the country and outside the US are coming to Chicago to celebrate. So, um, I’m thinking about advice. Is there advice, uh, that you would share for those raising a child with differences or for dads who are raising a child with a physical or intellectual disability?
Scott Sowers: Don’t be afraid of anything.
And like, I always tell people just love ’em up. Love them. And that’s how you, you know, love your child and the rest of the fall, you know, don’t be afraid of anything and don’t let anybody, don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something. I mean, just, just do love them. That’s how that EV, if you love them, the rest will come.
David Hirsch: That’s great advice. So, uh, why did you become a mentor father, as part of the Special Father’s Network?
Scott Sowers: Well, it was, when I heard about it, I, it was, Tom mentioned it to me. I said, I’m on it, and I went in and signed up. That’s, there’s no, there’s no thinking about that. If you’re a father of a special needs child, whether you’re 20, 40 I’m 61 I mean, if I can share with another father, like we’re sharing right now, that’s, that’s, that’s what it’s all about. I mean, if I can help one person get through one moment of, of sadness or anger or anger or anything, you know, anything that’s troubling somebody that that’s, that’s, that’s a good thing.
You know? And if they and, and I know it’s reciprocal, I know that they’re going to tell me something that I’m going to, that I’m going to need. So that never hurts to talk. There’s not enough talking today in the world. There’s too much technical thumb emailing and texting and all. There’s not enough talking.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I’m really appreciative that you’re taking the time. Um, and he didn’t have to think a lot about it. Um, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to recruit hundreds and potentially thousands of other dads to step up and be a mentor fathers as well. Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
Scott Sowers: Uh, not really. I think what you’re doing is a wonderful program. I’m glad to be a part of it. And for those dads out there that, uh, get this information and they’re praying about it or thinking about it. You know, I’m one of these guys that, uh, nothing ventured, nothing gained, but do it. Sign up. You may get a call from some guy, you may not ever get a call.
I’ve been down that road with Stephen minister. Just sign up. If you have a special needs child, sign up. If you’re a young man and you’re starting out with a special needs child and you want to talk to somebody. Pick up the phone, reach out. We’re here. Just do it because just do it. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Sign up as a mentor or do it cause you have no idea how much stuff you have to share until you start sharing.
David Hirsch: Great advice. So if somebody wants to get a copy. Or watch the movie special needs, how would they go about doing that?
Scott Sowers: They need to sign up for Pure Flix. Okay, and so video on demand? I think.
So. It would be www.Pureflix.com or just type in pure flex. And just sign up, you know, because they family films, uh, faith-based films. You put your kids in front of it and not have to worry about it, but, uh, yeah. And just type in special needs, you’ll find it. Awesome.
David Hirsch: Scott, thank you for taking the time and sharing so many insights, uh, as reminders.
Scott’s just one of the dads who is a created to be a mentor father, as 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 thanks again, Scott.
Scott Sowers: You’re welcome. Thank you.
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 that’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And thank you for listening to this Special Fathers Network podcast stories of fathers helping fathers.
Scott Sowers: The special fathers network podcast was produced for 21st Century Dads by Couch Audio music provided by Purple Planet. Find out more purple-planet.com and to find out more about 21stcenturydads, go to 21stcenturydads.org.