In this Special Fathers’ Network Podcast, David Hirsch talks with Dan Marquardt, from Marquardt of Barrington, Buick GMC. Dan and with his wife Jennifer are parents to 9 children, including six adopted children who all have special needs. It’s an amazing story of a couple who are trying to make the world a better place – and succeeding.
Dad To Dad 15 – Dan Marquardt Father of 10 Including Six Adopted Kids With Special Needs.
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 21 stcenturydads.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 today. David talks to Dan Marquardt from Marquardt of Barrington Buick GMC.
David Hirsch: So what is the quiet household or was it like pandemonium?
Dan Marquardt: It was more pandemonium.
Tom Couch: Dan and his wife, Jennifer are parents of nine children, including six adopted children who all have special needs.
Dan Marquardt: They have physical challenges. Absolutely. But nothing that they can’t overcome.
Tom Couch: It’s an amazing story of a couple who are trying to make the world a better place to joy and happiness.
Dan Marquardt: Each of these kids bring us every day is a gift beyond words.
Tom Couch: Here’s 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 hear it now. David Hirsch’s conversation with special father Dan Marquardt.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking with my longtime friend, Dan Marquardt from his store Marquardt of Barrington Buick GMC.
Dan, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Father’s Network.
Dan Marquardt: It’s my pleasure, David. Thank you.
David Hirsch: You and your amazing wife, Jennifer are parents of nine children, including six adopted children ages 14 to five years old, who all have special needs.
Dan Marquardt: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Let’s start with some background.
Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your own family.
Dan Marquardt: Well, that’s an interesting one. I grew up by my wife and I both grew up in Libertyville on Northwest suburbs of Chicago. I grew up in a family of 12 kids, so I have 11 siblings. Where are you in the pecking order? Right in the middle
David Hirsch: middle child syndrome.
Dan Marquardt: It’s exactly six, the sixth of the 12, but it was, it was fun growing up in a large family, never a dull moment. And all my siblings were biological, had a wide age gap between oldest to youngest, I believe is 24 years.
David Hirsch: 24 from top to bottom. Yep. Wow. So there’s some that might be 10 years older than you and 10 years younger than you.
Dan Marquardt: Yes.
David Hirsch: Holy cow. So the older ones, you know, would have been like. Getting college, like when they
Dan Marquardt: younger ones were born. Yeah. Yeah. It was quite remarkable.
David Hirsch: Your parents must’ve had their hands full for decades.
Dan Marquardt: Literally. Not even figuratively, but yes, literally. So what was it like
David Hirsch: growing up in such a large family?
Dan Marquardt: Um, it was interesting being in the middle. I think I was able to really garner a unique perspective because I could relate to my older siblings, which was a little bit of a different generation and also relate to my younger siblings, which was also a different generation having that from youngest to oldest, a 20 plus year gap.
But my parents were wonderful people. Um, my father and mother really were steady. We’re constant we’re present and I’m just affirmed their love for us and our love for our family and, uh, and really, uh, uh, a high emphasis on, on faith and trying to really live our lives for God and not just for ourselves.
David Hirsch: So let’s talk about your dad, Larry. Uh, who I remember was a Korean war vet. How would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Dan Marquardt: You know, it was interesting, um, in my dad, he really had a passion to help people in need his story growing up as a relatively poor kid on the South side of Chicago, I started working when he was 11 years old and he, uh, actually.
Oh, it was going to the university of Illinois to be an architect and really felt called to ministry. So he left there and ended up going to SMU and the Korean war was going on at the time. And he saw a lot of people actually going to SMU because if you had a divinity deferment, you weren’t. Going to be drafted.
So there were a lot of kids go on to Southern Methodist university, but he just felt that wasn’t necessarily the right place for him. And he knew if he left, he’d be drafted and he was sure enough drafted. So he served his two years and I came back from the service and started selling cars and love the car business.
But saw there was a lack of scruples and integrity, even back in the fifties. And so he said, I have to be my own boss. So he specifically sought out he’s very entrepreneurial. So he sought out a business that didn’t have a successor that had a great product and Buick was as hot as any automobile product in the fifties.
And he wanted a place that was economically sound and Barrington, even in the fifties was a. Great community. So he came here, started selling within six months. They made him a sales manager and within three years he became part owner and eventually full owner. The automobile business was a way to support his family.
He was, he loved cars, but he loved helping people. And so really his greatest passion was mission work, world missions. And then humanitarian work, the hospitals or the medical service providers, if they had, if Baxter or Siemens made a heart monitor that was 4% more accurate or fill in the medical device, um, they would replace it because they needed to have the most modern equipment to mitigate liability.
Well, a lot of that stuff ended up getting disposed of, and he said, this is crazy. So for years, What used to be our body shop. He was collecting medical equipment that was fully functioning hosp from hospital beds to radiology labs, to, um, all sorts of medical equipment. And, um, he found a place through many of his networks through the church, through world missions, distributions, long story short.
A lot of it ended up going to Mexico. Through rotary. And through those efforts, they actually built full hospitals in Mexico. And, um, and then much like the medical industry, our municipalities, they want to replace, they get a referendum or they want to replace their fire equipment or the emergency equipment.
He was able to get fire engines and ambulances, and actually they built entire fire departments and supplied them in Mexico, which is really remarkable. So that’s just a small snapshot, one of his real passionate ventures as well. I’m missionary called him. And this was, I believe, 1990 and said, Hey, in, in Ukraine.
And he said, Larry, there’s two segments of the population that are not going to make it through the winter, the seniors and the orphans long story short through some contexts that my late father had through the state department, they were able to get a few thousand Ukrainian orphans flown over to the United States, placed with host families.
And about half of these children throughout Milwaukee and Chicago ended up actually getting permanently adopted. Wow. And, um, about the other half, in fact, my parents took in three Ukrainian orphans and still remember them family wasn’t large enough. So just to try to get to the 15 number hotel, Mark bar that, uh, you know, I still remember it was URI.
Cola and Allah were the three kids from Ukraine and, um, it was really quite an experience for them. That was a neat and very impactful venture that my father was involved in. But he was involved in dozens and dozens and dozens of things like that over his years.
David Hirsch: What an extraordinary role model.
Absolutely. And, uh, yeah. Large family, open your heart, open your home to others. And, um, did you feel like you had like one on one time with them or was it not really easy to do that? Because you’ve got all these siblings it’s chaotic, he’s working. Again, I’m going back to the, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
You talked a lot about what you admired about your Dad and the role model that he was, but I want to dig a little bit deeper and say, how would you describe or characterize that relationship?
Dan Marquardt: Well, it was, it was a blessing to be able to, I spent more time with my father. After I graduated from college and started chose to work in the family business than any other time in my life.
Okay. It was interesting because when I was getting married, my father or actually I think it was one, our, our oldest Hannah, um, when Jennifer was pregnant with her just before she was born, he said, let me give you a little bit of advice. Fatherly advice. He says, I’ve always tried to ratio my time in thirds.
He said one third for the work one third for ministry. In one third for the family. And I started laughing a little bit and he said, what are you laughing at Dan? I said, can I give you my ratios of your time? He said, you have to divide that one third.
And, uh, my ratios are a little different, but he, um, he was a good man and a good father, but did we have that one on one time?
Not like we would have liked, but you know, I also know that he didn’t have a really strong role model or relationship with his father either. He always emphasized with us, um, the importance of, of faith. Living for God, trusting for God, compassion, caring for others, and then also hard work. And he was a great role model in that aspect that he taught me hard work.
In fact, it was funny when I was 13 years old, extra it’s probably started when I was 11 years old. I harassed him. I won, I love cars since I was a little kid. I always wanted to be in the car business. And I told him, Hey, you’re going to let me work at the dealership. And he’s like, it’s the kid. You can’t work at the dealership.
And you know, I. Badgered him for years. And then finally, when I was 13 years old, he broke down one day. He was like, all right, fine, come to work with me. And during the summertime. So my first day at work, he introduces me to the service director. He says, this is my son, Dan, this is your boss. And he said, do whatever he tells you to do.
And then he looks at the service director and he says, and if he doesn’t do a good job, just fire him. And he walked upstairs and I’m thinking, wow, but that was much how my father operated no preferential treatment. It was, you have to earn, learn the value of hard work. And I did at a very young age, but as far as the relationship, I would say we didn’t have a super close relationship, but I also being a father now of many kids, I learned from that, what did I want to change with how I’m raising my children and how was our family dynamic supposed to be?
And what did we want? And so. We were very, very Jennifer and I were very intentional about that with our children.
So, uh, after college, You had already been working at the dealership. Did you contemplate going to work? I think you might have contemplated going into the automobile business, but like working for Buick as
opposed to working in the family business.
Yeah, that was actually neat. It was my senior year of college and it was actually at that time, a marketing manager for Buick had reached out to me. And he says, Hey, what would you like to, I know you’re at school in Michigan. Would you like to take a tour of a Buick city plant and come see Buick world headquarters?
I said, Oh yeah, I’d love that. That’d be great. And, uh, and he’d known I was a, uh, a marketing major management marketing major. And so I had a personal tour of Buick city and, and, uh, which was really. Amazing to see how much manual labor still went into manufacturing cars back in that era, but also how much it was automated.
It was really amazing to see that blend of automation and manual assembly afterwards took a tour of the corporate headquarters and, and sat in his office for. About an hour. We talked about all sorts of stuff. He invited some colleagues in, and I had no inkling that this turned into an interview. And at the end of our, probably two and a half hour discussion, he says, how would you like to come work for me?
And I was, I said, Why. And they said, no, we really need some youth, some, some people who understand Buick’s heritage and are passionate about the brand. And he says you would be a great compliment to my team. Why would you, how would you like to join my marketing team? And, uh, and I was really, really humbled and, and stunned at the same time.
And he’s like, take your time, think about it. Let’s touch base in a week or so. And so I, I had, I had prayed about that and I talked to, um, Jennifer and I were engaged at the time. And so I talked with her about it and TA reached out to my father and my father gave me some very wise counsel and he says, he says, you do whatever you want to do, but let me just give you, I want you to go in with eyes wide open if that’s what you choose.
And he said, Number one, you are a very opinionated guy. And he said, you’re very passionate. And he said, not that I think that’ll get you in trouble, but he said, I can see you getting really frustrated really quick because things at general motors move slower than the government. So I’m way slower than Congress.
So he said that will likely be frustrating for you. And he said, number two is that I know you and Jennifer want to settle down. I have a family and you grew up in the same home, your whole life. You had part of the same community. He said, if you go that Avenue, your family’s not going to know that. And they said, because you’re going to bounce around the country and probably around the world.
And he said, that can be really tough on your spouse. It can be really tough on your kids, but when those opportunities come, if you ever turn them down, that’s where the ladder ends. You’ve got to keep taking those opportunities to move up the ladder. And then he said, lastly, No matter how high up you go.
Even if you become CEO of general motors, you always have someone to answer to. And he said, as your own, as a business owner, yes, you have certain compliance matters and other things, but you’re your own boss. You can set your own schedule. You can operate in your own convictions. You can do things your way.
And he said, you’re, you’re always gonna have someone to answer to. So those, it was very, especially in hindsight, very, very wise counsel. And I’m grateful for the path that I chose. And I’m also very thankful that my parents one really unique. Blessing that my parents bestowed on us. They were, they were very focused on education.
They really emphasize the importance of education and they wanted us to pursue our dreams. So there was no nepotism. In our household, there was nothing about, Hey, you’ve got to follow in the family and dad’s footsteps. We want you to do this first. It was always follow your dreams. So we have a wide variety of vocations amongst my siblings and everyone’s doing what they really wanted to do.
And I have two brothers that are attorneys. I have one brother. That’s a pastor one, that’s a police officer. My baby sister is a physician and a lot of school teachers and also some small business owners, et cetera. So it’s, it’s just very, um, a wide array of vocations. And that’s really a Testament to not only my parents’ emphasis on education, but really a rare compliment that they wanted us to do whatever we want wanted to, and to live to our full potential.
So. After contemplating the Buick offer I chose to pass on that offer gratefully declined and, uh, was very humble that, uh, the compliment that it was. But in hindsight, I’m very thankful. That I chose the path and it’s allowed me and my brother. That’s a huge blessing. My brother Curt who’s my business partner.
We have a great relationship and we have something that our late father never had. And that’s also a perspective. I always have to remember too, that my dad didn’t have a business partner or manager that he could completely rely on. That’s shared his same worldview that shared his same commitment to taking care of customers that he could trust with his bank accounts, you know, it’s, uh, he did it all himself.
Yeah. And that was a huge burden to carry that between all the things that he did. My father always did it by himself. And that’s one huge blessing that having my brother Kurt as a business partner has. Taken a lot of that burden off and also enabled both of us to be able to be the husbands and fathers that we really aspire to be.
And that’s a, that’s a huge blessing.
David Hirsch: Note to self don’t try to do it all yourself.
Dan Marquardt: Yes. Yes. It’s a whole lot harder.
David Hirsch: So speaking of that, uh, how did you and Jen meet?
Dan Marquardt: We actually met in high school. We were high school sweethearts dated through college. Got engaged my senior year of college and got married literally six months after graduation, I will still say she’s the best.
Thing that ever happened to me, she’s really an amazing woman and you know, most of my best life decisions and directions in our family and our marriage, God has used her to guide and direct us and just, uh, doing things in unconventional ways. And really even her helping keep me on the straight and narrow in many ways.
She’s, she’s an amazing woman.
That is a blessing.
David Hirsch: And you don’t know that until you can look backwards and sort of connect the dots.
Dan Marquardt: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: So let’s, uh, talk about your connection to the special needs community. Is 14 and was adopted from Korea in 2004.
Dan Marquardt: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Uh, five months you already had three biological kids.
Dan Marquardt: Yes. Yes we did. We had three biological children and Jennifer came home. From a doctor’s visit with one of our kids at the pediatrician. And she actually stopped at the dealership. She stopped at my office. She was incensed and said she had just come from the doctor’s office. And she saw this little blind girl in a dirty dress with matted hair who just looked like she was neglected.
And although we found out that ironically, it was our physician’s daughter and that he allowed her to wear her favorite dress and his wife was out of town and he didn’t know how to do her hair and other stuff. So, so there was really an innocent story behind it, but until Jennifer found that out, she was just.
Steaming hot mat. And she said, if I had a blind daughter, she would look just as beautiful as any of my other kids. And she was just really upset about it, but she had stopped by, and God used that, that, that incident to really instill in her a righteous anger. And she just came in and said, you know what?
There’s so many kids in this world that need a family that need a good family that need, need, uh, parents. And, uh, we should adopt. And I just said a K a, you know, it was just kind of out of left field and that’s what provoked it. And then that was the seed. That was the seed. And so. I got home. And she said, what, what do you think would done you shouldn’t we adopt?
Why would we not? And I said, well, I really don’t know anything about it. I guess we can look into it. And, and, and we did, and we met with our caseworker. We went through, um, uh, Bethany Christian services in Chicago. We went downtown, met with a caseworker when she’s typing everything into her computer. And she turns around and says, well, Yeah.
Yeah. We’re looking at probably about a four and a half year wait. He said four and a half years. That’s absurd. I can’t believe there’s not a greater need. And she said, well, given the fact that you already have three biological children and we don’t recommend you disrupt your birth order. And your youngest son right now is one, um, you’re looking at an infant.
So we said, well, multi-racial anything. It doesn’t matter. And she goes, no, I, I understand that. She said, unfortunately, you fall way down on the list. So yeah, it’s about four and a half years. I can’t believe there’s not a greater need. And she said, well, have you ever thought of international adoption? I said, tell me about international adoption.
I didn’t really know anything about thought about adoption until like a week or so. So she went into an explanation of international adoption and what that means and what the need is and the different options. That exists out there. And so I just said, well, I mean, Korea fit our parameters based on age and where it was one of the few countries that actually placed children infants, because that’s what we were told.
We had to adopt an infant by age. And so. We started that whole journey and jumped in both feet with Korean adoption and it went quickly and we got a call and just said, Hey, we have a little boy. It sounds like he may have some minor medical conditions, but he looks healthy and, and, uh, we saw his picture and he said, yeah,
David Hirsch: So, um, sort of sight unseen just to picture.
Dan Marquardt: Yeah. So he saw a picture and, and, uh, they gave us basic medical file, but, um, we just said, yeah, Gabe is, he’s an amazing kid too. He’s uh, he really has, he really has no physical challenges at all. And he’s brilliant. Um, very, very smart, very gifted young man. And you met him.
David Hirsch: Age five months,
Dan Marquardt: five months. And he was a gigantic five months when we saw him, we had picture Korea, we flew to Korea to bring him home.
David Hirsch: So he already made the commitment to say, okay,
Dan Marquardt: yes,
David Hirsch: we’re adopting. Here’s all the paperwork. You probably had to write a check.
Dan Marquardt: Yeah. And we did went through the whole process. So we find a creative. Finally bring him home. When we see him for the first time we’re stunned because he’s, he’s gigantic. He looked like my best.
A comparison is like the Michelin tire man as a five month old baby, he had these rolls of fat. He was such a gigantic baby is 23 pounds at five months old and little Sumo. He was, he was literally like a little Sumo wrestler. He was adorable, but gigantic and a backbreaker we found out though that Korea has.
Primarily foster care. So foster homes so that he was with a foster family. And because so many of in most of those are seniors that were the foster parents. So most of the seniors that had grown up during the Korean war and post Korean war faced extreme poverty, never had access. And so those foster parents, they believed that the demonstration.
Of a fat baby is a loved baby. So what they did, and we found this out afterwards that they literally doubled up baby formula. So the babies would get double cork intake. They were right. Supposed to be getting by regular standards. And so he was, um, very large. So he was very locked though, until he could be with his family, but you know, games and incredible kid, you know, we couldn’t imagine our lives.
Any other way? Not long after we had gotten home with Gabriel.
David Hirsch: So it wasn’t like, Oh, check
Dan Marquardt: the box. Nope. Jennifer had this image in her mind of a little girl missing a hand or an arm and it just. It just stayed in her mind and she asked me one day, what would you think if we adopted again? And I said, Oh, I would be up for adopting again.
She said, well, but this time a little girl missing a hand or an arm or something like that. And I said, well, why that? And she said, well, it just breaks my heart to think that. A little girl wouldn’t have a family purely because she’s missing a hand or an arm. And I said, well, yeah, I mean, that seems very logical.
So we had met with our agency adoption agency again and started the process this time with China and our caseworker said, Oh, that’s way too specific. You can’t specify something that. A limb malformation or missing a hand or arm, she said, you’ll never get matched to a child. And we said, well, Jennifer, well, that’s really what we really want to do.
So we’ll, we’ll wait for a child miss a little girl missing her hand, her arm. Well, sure enough, we got matched to a little girl missing a hat. She had no left hand and forearm and then her right arm hadn’t fully developed and that’s our daughter, Maddie. Today.
David Hirsch: Oh, how much time had elapsed between the time that you made the inquiry about a young girl without a hand or an arm until the match got made?
Dan Marquardt: Um, it was a, probably a little over a year. Okay. And the process of actually getting matched and bringing her home was probably about a six month wait time. So it was probably from when we brought Gabriel home to bringing Maddie home. Total window was probably about two years.
David Hirsch: Just out of curiosity. Cause this is a big deal. You’ve got young kids, you’re going to South Korea to make an adoption. You’re going over there. Just the two of you. So somebody. Picking up the Slack here.
Dan Marquardt: Right, right. While you’re
David Hirsch: going off and
Dan Marquardt: doing these sure.
David Hirsch: Some of your siblings or your parents, where do you guys think?
Dan Marquardt: Actually, we had a lot of, a lot of interesting reactions and thinking of what in the world are you guys doing? And, and a lot of people thought we were a little, little crazy, but it gets crazier because we kept going. And so Gabe. Then Maddie, and then we got a boy and a girl. Yeah. The option. I have five kids.
Right. I would say pretty, fully challenged. Right.
But yeah, we just kept going. And it’s one of the things too, that more kids we adopted, the more, our hearts just grew with this passion and this hunger to not just care for kids, but the realization of. The kids are such a blessing because parents would say all to us all the time.
You guys are so amazing what you do, you guys are so great. And I said, well, you know, we’re so blessed and we really are. It’s, it’s one of these things that, um, yes, they came into our family through unconventional ways, but the realization that the joy and the happiness, each of these kids bring us every day is a gift.
Beyond words. And it’s an even greater gift when you see these kids who literally had nothing and no one who no one in this world that loved them, gave them affection or attention or a stability. Every child needs a family. And the reality is that there are more orphans in the world today than there ever have been in world history.
And when you actually go to an orphanage, then you see. Dozens and dozens of kids who are longing for a family, it just breaks your heart. Some good friends of ours. They adopted a little girl from China and he speaks Mandarin. They were at the orphanage picking up their daughter and all these kids warmed them.
And they were saying he could understand everything they were saying. And I said, are you my, my mom and dad that I’ve been waiting for, are you my family? Are you bringing me home? Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for him? And he said, you know, to hear dozens and dozens of kids saying this and the realization you said it took all of his composure, not just to weep and to break down on the spot.
So when you see that firsthand. A lot of people say, Oh, you guys, aren’t going to keep adopting again. And we just feel like, well, how can we not adopt? If, if, um, if we can give our kids the love and attention that they need. We’ve said, and even with this current adoption that we’re in the midst of that we’ve said, you know, we always use to say one child at a time, although with Kevin and Millie, we broke that rule and we adopted too.
But, but, um, you know, it’s, it’s just a beautiful journey of faith and it’s one that is just, yes. Are our kids better off being adopted? There’s no question. Their wives are forever altered, but our lives are forever altered in the most beautiful way. And I like to use the comparison. If someone offered anyone a million dollars cash, most people would associate cash as a blessing because it could change your lifestyle could change.
A whole array of circumstances, but a child and the blessing that a child is, is so beyond monetary value. And so to deprive yourself. And that’s really the way that I look at it, deprives yourself of a child and the blessing of a child and adoption is a reciprocal blessing. Yes, it’s a blessing. You it’s a blessing to that child as well.
It’s really a win win. It’s a beautiful thing. It really is.
David Hirsch: Wow. Were there any challenges along the way? What do you consider to be the biggest challenge you might’ve encountered? Because there was Gabe, there was Maddie and that happened four more times. And now you’re considering
Dan Marquardt: a seventh adoption. You know, there, there are always different challenges, you know, adoption isn’t free.
So that’s that I think is one challenge. There are costs associated with international adoptions, but it’s a journey of faith. And I tell people all the time that, you know, it’s one thing that is completely out of your control. You don’t know the timetable, you don’t know the child, you don’t know a lot of variables and it’s a journey of faith.
Uh, but it’s a journey of faith. As many journeys of faith are. Oh, the most rewarding. And it’s one that, uh, wouldn’t change anything we’ve had. We’ve had bumps in the road. I mean, we had one adoption, uh, with an agency we didn’t use again, nor did we recommend anyone, but they had, um, some their licensing got frozen.
Before we could bring our child home. And there were a couple other variables as well. Our caseworker, um, she had four months had been working on our, our home study. And then unfortunately she took an immediately of absence. She found out she had cancer, but we found out that she had are all of our bios and interviews in her head.
She hadn’t written anything down immediately. Leave of absence and no notation. So we had to start all over again. And so we’ve had the little bumps in the road like that, which are not common. That’s one thing I, I try to encourage people that are thinking about adoption or contemplating, praying about adoption, you know, jump in and because it’s, it’s an awesome journey.
It’s one that I tell people all the time. You’ll never regret adopting, but if you don’t adopt. You will likely regret it because the blessing of each of these kids. And that’s one of the things Jennifer and I look at and every morning to see these smiling faces and get a hug and get a kiss from each apart, my kids, it’s just a blessing beyond words.
And as, as a father of several kids, you, you can relate, but had we just stopped at Charlie? Or had we just stopped at Gabe, how have the whole dynamic, the face of our family would be so radically different and yeah. Would any of our children, it breaks my heart and it’s, it’s hard to even try to comprehend like Mabel who is just one of the most adorable, sweet, loving kids.
In fact, her name means lovable and a sh that’s very, very fitting for her. Had we stopped at. Six kids and didn’t bring Mabel home. And Mabel was still now seven years old and living in an orphanage. In China. And what would her future look like? That’s just, it’s heartbreaking to try to try to even comprehend that.
I mean, people say all the time, are you done? I said, well, this’ll probably be our last China adoption because they’ve, uh, changed the rules. Uh, but are we open to domestic adoption now? Absolutely.
David Hirsch: And you’ve been called not to us to adopt, just to be clear. But with each of the five Chinese adoptions, you’ve intentionally adopted a child that might not otherwise be adopted because of the physical disabilities.
Dan Marquardt: Yes. Yeah. And that’s one thing that, you know, it’s amazing how God works too, because we looked at like with Maddie, um, she’s, uh, she’s an amazing young lady and she’s 12 years old now, which blows my mind and of itself. But, um, Yeah, she has physical challenges, but as we tell any of our kids, you can do anything.
You just may have to do it different and we’ve taken that mindset. We would never refer to any of our kids is handicapped or, um, they have physical challenges. Absolutely. But nothing that they can’t overcome or in many cases that Maddie has, Maddy is completely mad. He does the dishes. Maddie has no left hand, no left forearm.
Her right arm, fully didn’t develop. So she has very limited range of motion. She does the dishes, she does her laundry. She does all of her schoolwork. In fact, out of all of our children, she has the best penmanship out of all of our kids. Yeah. I know. It’s amazing. She rides her bike. She does everything.
She’s a beautiful, very talented young lady and, um, but. As I still remember very vividly that, you know, she was frustrated when she was probably four, four years old, five years old, she was frustrated. She couldn’t get herself, couldn’t get her shirt on by herself and Jennifer to see you’re going to have to figure it out and not in any, any a lot of people say, Oh, that’s so mean, but not in a, a mean way.
But in a loving, um, spring her on challenge way to motivate her, to inspire her, to figure it out. You have to figure out a way out, you know, you can’t be 10 years old and mom’s putting your shirt on, you know, it’s, you have to learn these things at a young age. And so she does, and she comes up with some amazing and creative ways to do things, but she.
She’s able to do everything and that’s, and that’s one thing, all of our kids from China have some type of a LinMail formation, but it doesn’t slow them down at all. Do they do things different? Yes. Do they look a little different, I guess, to, to the person who sees them the first time? Yes. To me, I won’t see him any different, but yeah, no, it’s just doing things different.
David Hirsch: So you told me the story sometime back. Shortly after Kevin had been adopted at age two, plus I think it was like a dinner table type of conversation. So re that situation, cause it was very powerful
Dan Marquardt: and it is, it speaks to exactly that whole concept we were talking about with Maddie. The last several kids.
Uh, we found it easier for me to travel solo to China, to bring, um, having as many kids. And Jennifer’s very structured and has routines with all the children. Not only because it’s less expensive and permissible by China, because it’s just easier with the transition coming home because in China with Chinese adoptions, you have to be in country two weeks.
So I traveled to China to bring Kevin home. So I had fed him and taking care of him for the two weeks and we get home, Jennifer and the kids picked us up at the airport and were at home at the dinner table having our first celebratory welcome home dinner was Kevin and I’m feeding him. And Jennifer looks at me and says, Well, give him a fork, said he doesn’t have any hands.
I mean, Kevin, Kevin is our only child that has no hands and he has no hands and he has no left foot either. And he’s an amazing kid and a really want to happiest. Funniest kids I’ve ever seen, but Jennifer looks at me and says, give him a fork. I’m like, he doesn’t have any hands. So I’m like, okay, I haven’t got the look.
So I got a fork and I gave it to Kevin. And, uh, and so he just looks, he looks at the fork. And he looks at his siblings and he sees how they’re all eating. And he now mind you he’s two years old. He puts his arms together. He grabs the fork, kind of moves it around a little bit. He kind of flips it over sticks.
His food puts it right in his mouth and surfed feeding himself. And I, my jaw almost fell off. Oh my gosh. It was just such. A reminder, not only was it amazing and humbling at the same time that here I was babying him, if you would catering to him when he didn’t need that at all. And Jennifer being the amazing mom, she is just immediately as a reflex, just wasn’t tuned to it that give him a fork.
So, but yes, that is a great picture and great reminder that. Kids can do anything. They just have to be persistent.
David Hirsch: So what was the most important gift or gifts that you think your six adopted children have provided you or your family
Dan Marquardt: themselves? I mean, it’s, it’s, uh, themselves, they’re just, I could go through each one of them and how special they are to me.
And ended Jennifer and to their siblings. They’re just all incredible kids. It is beautiful to see a child who comes from an orphanage setting and has likely experienced a lot of neglect and not been given a lot of love and affection and attention to see that bud blossom. And become this child that God created them to be.
And, um, you know, and I I’ve seen that with each of our kids and to see them come in within trepidation with, with some fear, with sadness, with lack of emotion, all these different factors and to see them just. Blossom. And that is one of the most rewarding things for me is to see these smiling happy faces every day.
And to see that they all have bright futures and a very bright futures and that they can do anything that they set their minds to.
David Hirsch: So what advice can you share with a dad or with parents for that matter? Um, about helping. A child with disabilities reach their full potential.
Dan Marquardt: Well, number one is that every child needs, love, encouragement, stability, and opportunity.
And if you give a child all of those things, or they’re going to thrive, You know, children are born with all sorts of different challenges. I’ve got several friends. I get several siblings that have had children born biologically with physical challenges. What do you do? You give them the medical care and attention that they need?
To live to their full potential and you’ll love them and you support them and you encourage them and you give them opportunity. And that’s what every child needs. And I think that lesson that I learned very early on, that our kids can do anything. They just have to do it in a different way sometimes.
And, um, we’ve never put limitations on any of our kids for anything. Um, can I go ride a bike of nursing? Oh, you can’t do that. Yeah, sure. Let’s figure it out. They may have to do things in unconventional ways, but to give them that. Persistent unrelenting assurance that they can do anything. It speaks volumes.
And, uh, you know, it’s funny. I just looked at our daughter, Maddie, when she went for her first one. Pediatrician checkup here in the States, he was very concerned. He was feeling her abdomen. He is very concerned. He’s like, Oh my goodness, she’s got a hard mass here. He’s feeling around. And he’s like, then he realizes after like maybe 10 seconds, like, Oh my goodness, these are super developed.
Abdominal muscles. I’ve never seen ads like this on a child before he was absolutely stunned. At first, he thought he had a hard mass in her stomach. There was some serious concern than you realized, but it was one of these things. So Maddie’s core is like no other person on the planet and she’s just solid muscle.
And, uh, you know, what, if you are, I tried getting up after we laid down and sit down without using arms. And do that constantly throughout the day and bend over to pick things up, you know, two inches off the ground versus, you know, two feet off the ground or three feet off the ground, it’d be a different dynamic.
So it’s just, our kids are, are in many ways, built a little differently physically, but they can do anything. If your child doesn’t have hands, guess what? They can still brush their teeth, you know, but I’ll give you a quick story. So my son, Charlie, who loves basketball, um, and we’ve got some friends of ours that are in NBA.
So we were at a bulls game and Nate load wound center, who is one of the bull’s assistant coaches. Nate has no left forearm or hand. So we were in the bull’s family room and, uh, Nate came over to our son, Charlie, who has no left forearm or hand same arm, by the way. It goes over and starts talking to Nate and it’s like, Hey, I’ve seen you at some of these games and they start talking.
And so I came in and I said, Hey Charlie. And he’s like, Hey, he was just, he was like one ear out the other he’s so focused on Nate and they’re talking. And I said, Oh, Hey Nate. And so we introduced each other and, but he’s talking to Charlie and he’s like, um, yeah, Charlie, you can do anything. He says, well, when I was in high school, I wrestled, I played football.
I played basketball and Charlie’s like, you played basketball. You don’t even have a left arm. He’s like, yeah. You know what? I need your left arm to shoot. And he’s like, I wore a prosthesis when I played golf and I wore a prosthesis. When I, when I played football, when I was a receiver. But that was the only time I wore a prosthesis.
He said, he said, you can do anything. And by the way, Charlie, I stuck with baseball. I played baseball. I became an Allstate player. I got a full ride scholarship to college for baseball, and he has no left former him. Now he’s an NBA coach and Charlie was so all inspired by Nate. And Nate was so kind, he gave me his card and he’s like, you keep in touch with me and use my cell, call me any time.
We’ll get together after the season with Charlie. And he says any way I can encourage Charlie or any of your kids love to do that.
David Hirsch: So he’s got a role model.
Dan Marquardt: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Charlie has a role model. He sees somebody who’s just like him as far as
Dan Marquardt: yeah.
David Hirsch: Might be considered as disability or a shortcoming. And all of a sudden the paradigm gets broken.
Dan Marquardt: Yeah. And he’s just like, Scott is an NBA coach. He can do anything. And so just for Charlie to see firsthand and meet someone. So I look forward to my kids, to Jennifer, my kids, to being an inspiration to other kids. And in fact, it was remarkable. We were at church last week and I wasn’t, I had already left, but Jennifer had gotten pulled aside by a couple that they were talking about there.
Daughter and son in law had come to our church and saw that our family was in the Christmas program. And they remembered seeing a bunch of kids that were had limb malformations and were missing hands or arms. And needless to say their grandchild was born a few months ago, missing a forearm and hand.
And they said, well, we remember there was that family at your church at Christmas time. That they had a bunch of kids, um, that were missing hands or arms. Can you reach out to them? So Jennifer bumped into these folks and just to be able to be even a support and encouragement for this family that, you know, had an unintended, unexpected surprise that their child is born without a left forearm or hand.
And, uh, you know what? We have several, so, you know, and for them to see, okay, here’s a child who is five and seven. And 10 and 12 and look, they can do everything. It’s not that big of a deal. And to be able to just be an encouragement to them and to see our kids be able to do the same, you know, years down the road, decades down the road, just like Nate did for Charlie.
And we’ll continue to, I think that’s really inspiring.
David Hirsch: So beyond your own family, I know that you and Jen have a passion for a number of different things, which is amazing. Cause you work full time, you run a business, you’ve got this. Ordinary family, large family spend just a minute or two, uh, reflecting on your commitment to the A&M partnership and what that’s about.
Dan Marquardt: Well, A&M is something that means a great deal to me and to Jennifer. Uh, and it’s it’s abstinence and marriage partnership. A and M is, uh, was, was founded by Scott Phelps about 20 years ago and is one of the very few abstinence in marriage education. Organizations left in the United States. They’re not dependent on federal grants or state grants.
Um, and they publish, uh, educational materials for Christian schools for public schools and circulate them throughout the country. And also provide training and resources and educational support for, for schools and for students. And, uh, it’s just, it’s a, it’s a real diamond in the rough and it’s one of our best kept secrets in the Chicago land area.
But, um, you know, when it speaks to, um, you know, we know that I know certainly that fatherhood is something that’s near and dear to your heart. Um, and, uh, You know, the statistics as well as anyone of children that are growing up in a home without a father. And, um, you know, a lot of people would say, Oh, it’s old fashioned.
You can’t teach abstinence. Um, but you know what, with. The risk of STDs today with the risk of, um, so many other factors, teen pregnancy, absolutely teen teen pregnancy. I mean, if kids actually understand that there’s an alternative to choose and the rewards that it offers and this isn’t just speculation, there’s just amazing statistical.
Quantifiable irrefutable fact of the lifetime benefits to children and to marriages and to relationships. And it’s, it’s a, if. Adults choose to do something else. That’s their, that’s their decision. But here as education goes, I believe it’s important that kids understand choices and are given options.
And unfortunately, today that option of abstinence isn’t even taught in most schools today and kids don’t even know about it. And when they hear about it, They like it, they, they understand and they see the value on it. And, um, so I, it’s something I’m passionate about because I’ve, I’ve seen how people who growing up, even firsthand friends, kids that didn’t know that as an option and the poor life choices they made and how it affected them even in present day.
David Hirsch: Well, we’re winding down here. So why is it that you agreed to be a mentor father as part of this Special Father’s Network?
Dan Marquardt: I love the concept of the special fathers network, because I had a real world example of this from a business colleague. We had worked together and this is probably three years ago.
We had worked together. And he reached out to me. He still had my cell phone number from our initial business interaction three years ago. And he reached out to me and he says, I know this sounds like a totally crazy thing, but I just found out that my, my, my wife was pregnant with twins and, um, uh, they had already had three children.
And so he went from. Three kids to five kids overnight. And he was just literally overwhelmed. He didn’t know how to receive this, whether he should be excited, traumatized anything. And he was a younger dad, but it was, uh, we just talked for an hour and I just gave him encouragement and tried to give him a grounded perspective on this incredible blessing.
That he and his wife have. And so we literally talk for an hour and after that hour he said, man, I feel so different. I feel so much better. I feel that anxiety’s gone. I, I really, I really appreciate this time. Well, nine months later, maybe give or take, I got a phone call and he said, I just want to tell you what that hour to me meant.
And I said, and I’m thinking I’m trying to do grasp at what we’re talking about. And, uh, and he said, I was like, At the, at my wit’s end, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t really know anyone else to turn to. And you’re the only other guy I knew that had more than three kids. So, and he said you have a lot more than three kids.
So, um, and he’s like, I just really appreciated your sound, counsel, your encouragement, and get me my head screwed back on straight and giving me encouragement. Just that I, I felt so much better after that. Awesome.
David Hirsch: So, is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Dan Marquardt: Well, I would, I, you know, I’m always an advocate for adoption, so anybody that that is listening, um, I would encourage you to really do some soul searching and prayer and really strongly consider adoption.
David Hirsch: Well, Dan, thank you for your time. And many insights as reminder, Dan is just one of the dads. Who’s a creed to be a mentor father as part of this special father’s 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, Dan. Thanks again.
Dan Marquardt: It’s my pleasure, David. Thank you so much.
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.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network podcast was produced for 21st Century Dads by Couch Audio, and again, to find out more about the Special Fathers Network go to 21stcenturydads.org, 21stcenturydads.org.