Jim Elliott, the father of two daughters with disabilities and founder of Diveheart.org, changes lives by people with all abilities through scuba diving, scuba therapy and related activities.
Dad To Dad 4 – Jim Elliott: The Story Behind Founding Diveheart.org & Scuba As Therapy
David Hirsch: Hi, I’m David Hirsch. This is the Special Fathers Network podcast stories of fathers helping fathers.
Jim Elliott: There are pools in every community, and my thought was we can get people with mobility issues out of their wheelchairs into pools.
David Hirsch: That’s today’s guest, Jim Elliott, the father of a 37 year old daughter Erin, who was born blind and 35 year old daughter Maureen, who was born with scoliosis.
Jim founded a nonprofit group called diveheart.org this group helps disadvantaged people change their lives by teaching them to scuba dive in a weightless environment,
Jim Elliott: And it doesn’t matter how deep it is, they’re getting relief from gravity.
David Hirsch: This new aquatic space helps eliminate chronic pain and gives these people a whole new perspective on life.
Jim Elliott: Usually people with chronic spinal cord pain roll up in their wheelchairs on the second day and go, I’ve been in chronic pain for 10 years. This is the first time I’m pain free you since my injury, and it lasts up to three weeks.
Tom Couch: For 21st Century Dads, this is the Special Fathers Network podcast. Stories of fathers helping fathers.
Our host is the founder of 21st Century Dads, a man who’s devoted his life to increasing awareness of the importance of being a father and has helped dads to better fulfill their paternal responsibilities. 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.
I traveled down to sunny Cozumel, Mexico to join a quarterly diveheart.org scuba training program and talk to my friend Jim Elliott. I first asked him to tell us a little bit about his history.
Jim Elliott: Well, I, yeah, I went to Downers Grove North High School. Uh, fell in love with journalism and then went and put myself through school.
I went to college at in Glen Ellen, Northern Illinois University, where I was recruited by the Chicago Tribune right out of school and then went to WGN radio and helped set up a TV station for the Tribune company called CLTV, which at the time was when the cable company cable business was exploding.
So you had CNN and then I had in Boston had one, and then there was New York One, and then we were like the third one on the playing field. So that was, that was exciting. And um, yeah, that was, that’s kinda my background. A media guy. Thought I’d be doing that my whole life and here I am not doing that.
David Hirsch: Well. It’s a lot of twists and turns along the road.
Right, and in a good way. What type of relationship did you have with your own dad?
Jim Elliott: With my own dad? My dad was a disabled vet, so I spent a lot of time at Hines VA hospital in Maywood, Illinois, dodging wheelchairs, and it was just fun. I was a kid, I was running around and I saw dad. I didn’t think anything of it. That was just Dad, right? It didn’t matter that he was in a wheelchair and stuff. So that was my first experience with people with disabilities, you know, and, and we grew up and, you know, dads are dads and moms are moms and dads kind of want you to, I was helping him fix cars and we pulled engines and did all that kind of stuff. And, um, so yeah, that was, that was kind of our relationship.
David Hirsch: What kind of disability that your dad have?
Jim Elliott: was in a Jeep accident in the army and they wanted to take his feet off and he said, forget about it. He said, you know, I do whatever you gotta do, but you’re not taking my feet. To his credit because they eventually figured out a way to put them in braces, you know, ankle, foot orthotic braces, and they were very rude, rudimentary at the time and, but in his feet looked like just there. It looked like some, they’re bludgeoned. I mean, they just like took them out and just beat the snot out of his feet. And, um, but he walked, he eventually walked and became a millwright at BorgWarner, uh, where they made transmissions and stuff in Bellwood, Illinois. And. Yeah. That was, who’s a, it was a mechanical guy and got me into helping, you know, know how to work on cars. Although you can’t do that nowadays.
My parents went through a period where they were divorced and then they remarried each other. Yeah, yeah, right. Is that crazy? So at five my parents divorced when I was five, when I was five they divorced and remarried at 10 so it was kind of, we’re getting reacquainted period with my dad. And my mind was really social and very good about saying, why don’t you go work in the garage with your dad? You know? And you know, dads are, I mean, you know, it’s kind of like you almost got to force him into certain situations. And my mom was really good at that, so, so yeah. And I got to re-know my dad, and we got very close as it was awesome.
Later on when my great grandmother broke a hip and needed to be put somewhere. There was a deal cut with all the siblings. It said, okay, guess what? We’ll give her to Darlene, my mom, and we’ll all like raise $5,000 for an addition that has to be put on the house. So it was done and the deal was, grandma’s great grandmother lives with you forever.
So I learned very early about being a caregiver. And then later on, my grandmother’s husband died and I became a caregiver for her when we started Diveheart the nonprofit that we run. And then now my mother has cancer and I’m a caregiver for her.
David Hirsch: A lot of compassion growing up for people with disabilities.
So, um, let’s talk about your connection to the special needs community. First of all, on a personal level, um. You’ve mentioned that your daughter Erin, was born blind and your daughter Maureen, was born with scoliosis. So think back to the first reaction that you had when Aaron was born and that you learned that she was blind.
What was that experience about?
Jim Elliott: Well, when my daughter was, was born, she, um, after a certain period of time, I can’t remember if it was, you know, how many months it was or weeks it was, but we realized she wasn’t tracking with her eyes. And so we brought her to the doctor and the doctor said, well, your daughter probably has brain damage.
And so we. Of course, dealt with that announcement and then had went through all the barrage of tests that they gave her. And the doctor walked out after the tests and said, I have good news and bad news. And he said, the good news is your daughter does not have brain damage. He said, the bad news is she’s blind.
And I, and I celebrated. I mean, I went, I almost did fist bumps. I went, Oh yeah, she’s blind. So. That’s great. I mean, because
David Hirsch: Your expectations were over here, right? And now you’re here.
Jim Elliott: I can, what I can do with a blind kid or a kid in a wheelchair or a kid with no legs. I mean, cognitive disabilities is because we deal with them at Diveheart, you know, physical and cognitive.
It’s a complexity issue that in my twenties I didn’t even know how to deal with. And so I celebrated the fact that I got a blind kid. I can do pretty much anything with.
David Hirsch: And, uh, when Maureen was born, um, was it right away that you knew that there was an issue or
Jim Elliott: No she developed scoliosis over time and scoliosis is when her spinal cord was actually curving into her heart and she would have died had we not had surgery.
We brought her to Shriner’s hospital. I was Elian Elian, the service organization that helps people who are blind and deaf and things, and through my daughter, of course. And then when I met some of those guys. He said, well, you know, your daughter. I started talking to people about my daughter with scoliosis, and he’d go, well, your daughter needs to come to Shriner’s hospital. I go, well, I don’t know anything about Shriner’s hospital. And so I went there and all of a sudden my daughter’s in Shriner’s hospital there. I made a donation. They’ve, they straighten your spine out. And it was, you know, it was amazing. And I said, these guys do incredible things. So to become a trainer, you have to become a Mason.
So I became a vet and I didn’t know anything about masonry, and I became a Mason and went to Scottish Rite and then became a Shriner and helped them as much as I could in the media business, getting them PSAs and doing that kind of work because they just do just selfless, incredible things as do all the service organizations I’ve been with out there.
David Hirsch: So how old was Maureen when she went to Shriner’s and she had the surgery?
Jim Elliott: I want to say she was 11 but I don’t recall exactly. Yeah. But we spent, you know, weeks in there where she got this surgery and slept in there and got to know a lot of people. And when I started Diveheart, actually Shriner’s was the first group I went to because I knew a lot about people with spinal cord injuries.
And I’d been around therapists and PTs and OTs and rehab docs. And I went to them and I say, you know, I have this idea. I want to, I started this nonprofit called Diveheart and I want to take kids with spinal cord injuries. And get them out of their wheelchairs and get them in the water and give them freedom.
What do you think they’re like, where do we sign up? They were very excited about it and we probably, I don’t know how many trips we’ve done. 20 plus.
David Hirsch: Excellent.
So, uh, what was the like, um, with the girls schooling, right? Uh, Erin had different, uh, challenges in then Maureen did. Erin was diagnosed at a much earlier age than Maureen was.
So talk a little bit about. Erin’s, school experience early on, and then as she progressed through, and then Maureen as well.
Jim Elliott: Yeah, Erin, Erin, because her, she never, her eyes never learned to track. Her eyes darted back and forth, and I might get this wrong, but I think it’s a stigmatism or something like that where her eyes are back and forth.
And so of course, when, when she left her cloistered little protective blind class where all the teachers and aides loved her and her friends loved her and the parents were always there. And she went to a sighted class and she had recess with kids who would look at her eyes and go, what’s wrong with you?
What’s wrong with your eyes? You know? And she could technically read a two inch letter about a half an inch from a right eyes. So she said, “dad, I can read. Why are they making fun of me?”
You know? And they were teasing her and she said. She finally decided that, and I tried to resolve my kids to be independent, which I Rue that day when I became, they became teenagers, as we all know if, right. If we’ve raised teenage kids, you know what I’m talking about. But, um, yeah, she, she, um, said, “I don’t want to be blind anymore.”
She threw it on her cane, refused to learn braille as a WGN radio. I was telling everyone I knew. Ankle. I don’t know what to do with this kid. And finally, one of the announcers, Floyd Brown said, you know, I’m gonna hook you up with a guy who started a blind ski program who is blind himself, the American blind scheme foundation, sandwich, cobalt.
And after a couple of weeks, I went back to school and they said, well, what’d you do this weekend, Erin? And she said, “well, I went skiing.” And they go. Right? You went skiing and you’re blind. How do you do that? This is in the eighties and she goes, no, here’s the pictures. And they’re like, Oh my God, this is so cool.
You’re blind. How do you ski? That is so cool. All of a sudden, a paradigm shift occurred. It became Aaron the skier instead of Aaron the blind kid. So. As a dad, I’m going, yes, I’m going. This is a win win for me because now I’ve got my daughter involved in something that gives her self esteem, confidence, and independence.
I skied every weekend, every weekend from the time I got her involved to the time I handed off her skis to her husband and said, she’s yours now. And of course when I did that, they quit skiing it, right. But anyway, I did my due diligence, you know, and even times when she was a teenager and saying, I don’t want to get out of bed, I go, you’re getting out of bed because you need to inspire others.
You’ve benefited from this. Don’t be selfish. So she got that.
David Hirsch: That’s an awesome story. Thanks for sharing. So, recall a Marine’s experience at school. Were there any challenges or issues as it relates to the surgery that you had?
Jim Elliott: And you know, Maureen was very confident, very early on, and she, um, in fact, Erin met her husband because he wanted to date, take Maureen annotate to prom, and Maureen said, well, you know, no, I’m not going with you to prom. I’m going with somebody else, but you’re taking my sister. I mean, she didn’t even ask. She just said, you’re taking my sister. So she had no problems at all, and she was very, she’s very compassionate, very sympathetic as a minister now they’re very loving. That’s
David Hirsch: A very interesting story that a, this young guy, what’s your son’s name? Aaron’s husband, David?
Jim Elliott: David,
David Hirsch: And David was interested in dating Maureen, but Maureen says, Nope, you’re taking my sister.
Jim Elliott: Exactly. Right.
David Hirsch: That led to the beginning of their relationship. They’ve been married for the better 20 years. Yeah. Right. And they have, uh, they have one Oh, one son. Yeah. Okay.
Yeah. So that’s, that’s fabulous.
So let’s switch from your personal experience with your daughters and the special needs community. To what I call your professional experience. Moving from for profit to a not-for-profit career.
So what was it that motivated you to leave this? What I think is a cushy job and the for profit world in the media industry with one of the premier companies in the country. to, starting a not-for-profit diveheart.org?
Jim Elliott: Yeah, I, I, you know, I mean, in some ways what I’ve seen happen to the media business glad that I got on when I did.
But at the time I was doing very well left a six figure income to start Dive Heart. Don’t draw a salary. And I did it because since the eighties I was always, I, you know, is a journalist, student journalist. I took scuba diving in college because I thought it, if you’re of a certain age, you know who Jack Cousteau is.
And I thought, you know, if I have to interview someone like Jack Cousteau, I better know how to scuba dive. So I took scuba diving. It’s another arrow in my quiver.
David Hirsch: That was your motivation.
Jim Elliott: That was total had no interest all career oriented. All journal. All vocational. Yeah, and all of a sudden I did my thank God, I didn’t do my open water dives in a quarry. I did them in the keys and I went, Oh my God, this is amazing. This is like being an astronaut. And I fell in love with it, decided I wanted to be an instructor. Of course, got married, that that derailed that whole idea for awhile. But I did continue to dive when I had an opportunity raising four kids, and then at some point when the kids were grown and gone and I was divorced, I thought, you know, I can keep making money for the man.
Return on stockholder’s investment was our mantra at the Tribune company as it is with most companies. And I said, or I can go try to do in diving what I’ve been doing in skiing. Cause there’s only certain times of the year that you can ski and only certain places. But there are pools in every community.
And my thought was we can get people with mobility issues out of their wheelchairs and the pools. And it doesn’t matter how deep it is, they’re getting relief. From gravity. And that was my thought. And so I decided to start a nonprofit. I had trained some lawyers who I went to, and I grabbed this crazy idea.
I want to start a nonprofit called Diveheart. Thinking of Braveheart, right? With no Gibson Ray, that movie, and I thought this would be, the logo can’t be available. It has to be taken. They went and they go, let me do a check, and our lawyers at shift hardened, God bless them, since 2000 they’ve been watching our back.
They said, we’ve done a background check; the logo’s available and work we did. I talked to my partners, we’re going to do your 501-C3 corporation incorporation pro bono. I went, Oh my God. And they go out and start raising money cause you can, and I like this, I need it. Right. Greenlight.
Right. Exactly. So immediately my first four years that I was in this, I didn’t talk to any of my friends in the media business because I did not want to create more demand than I could fulfill. I trained instructors and buddies and friends to help support me. And then once I had critical mass. Then I started reaching out to media, creating demand, and then it just perpetuated now or worldwide.
To start a nonprofit to help people with mobility issues and no idea that we would be helping people with autism and down syndrome and cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD. Um, we’ve done research with university medical centers like Midwestern University. We did the first study on autism and scuba therapy.
Uh, we’re working with Northwestern University now in Chicago. Um, John Hopkins went with one of our teams to the Cayman islands, which you’re familiar with, and they did a study with a bunch of veterans and PTSD and pain management and found that 80% of PTSD symptoms are alleviated if you get them deep enough.
Three atmospheres, 66 feet, and then usually the, the tribute we’re on right now, the second day, usually people with chronic. Spinal cord pain, roll up in their wheelchairs on the second day and go, I’ve been in chronic pain for 10 years. This is the first time I’m pain free since my injury, and it lasts up to three weeks.
So one of our goals is to build a deep, warm water facility in the Chicago land area. Cause it’s very, very wheelchair and you know, accessible for people with disabilities. We think this is center of the country. It’s a great location. And so we’re talking to people now about building deepest warm water therapy people to revolutionize rehabilitation in the world.
David Hirsch: So what’s your vision for that?
Jim Elliott: Well, it’s, it’s to do exactly that. It’s to create this paradigm shift where you have an unrealized human potential that exists in people with disabilities. I believe one out of five people in the country, in the world have a disability, so that’s a big constituency. When you add family and friends and coworkers and neighbors and people that just want to help, there’s a lot of people that want to support that population.
So you create that paradigm shift. Right now, it’s not Johnny in a wheelchair anymore. It’sJohnny the scuba diver. Right? So now he goes, God, if I can scuba dive, what else can I do? Wants to take on other challenges. And what we want to do is point them in the direction of being good stewards of our environment, right?
God knows. We need good stewards of our environment right now. We can help on the, I don’t know a lot about, I’m not an environmentalist, but I do know what’s going on. And I think if we could get people with disabilities in numbers, great numbers, focusing on our environment, spending sedentary time on computers and doing research, and then getting in the water with teams that could help them.
Do coral reef restoration and Marine biology and oceanography. Those kinds of things can change the environment and multiply that times a million. You know, if we have a facility that could get a million people in a year doing that, that will just extrapolate and we’ll build. This’ll be a re a facility that can be replicated around the world that school.
So that now we have 50 in the US and a hundred worldwide, and all of a sudden in every community, there’s a facility where we can replicate the benefits of open water deep. And I’m not guys from Duke. When I presented it at grand rounds at Duke University medical center, they said, Jim. You’re, you’re not a doctor or a therapist, so be careful how you talk about hyperbaric medicine, but there are benefits to pressure.
I mean, kids with autism, it’s an epidemic. Pressure is a therapy. You know, any dad or mom that has a kid with autism know that they have pressure vests and weighted blankets. In sensory deprivation rooms and diving does that, it takes away surface distractions. That ambient pressure helps him feel in his zone.
We’ve had kids, I’ve had kids that I thought were nonverbal. They were like, you know, and the teachers going, you’re not going to be able to do this with Diveheart if you don’t calm down Johnny, and all of a sudden they go down, come up 20 minutes later and go, you know, I really enjoyed that. I had to try it again, and you’re going, your mouths are falling open and going.
Is this the same kid that got in the water with me, but with autism and a lot of cognitive disabilities, you kind of find that person inside and this helps us do that.
David Hirsch: Yeah. That’s just an amazing story.
Jim Elliott: And you know what the thing is to not only do you help the person and his family, but they’ve sphere of influence, so they help their neighbors.
All of a sudden they see the kid in the wheelchair. You knew you were going to get me here. Right. Doing amazing things helps the community.
David Hirsch: Yeah. While you’re changing lives or transforming lives, it’s very powerful. Even in the week that I’ve been here on the diveheart.org. Quarterly training, scuba training that you do for buddy diving, advanced buddy diving. There’s two adaptive divers here and the training that you put people through.
Um, it has a lot to do with empathy, right? So I’m role playing as a blind person. I’m roleplaying as quadriplegic. I’m roleplaying as a paraplegic. Right? And you can’t walk away from that experience and be the same person. Right. True. So the more people that have those experiences, um, are also transformed.
So it’s not just transforming the lives of people with disabilities, but typical people, um,
Jim Elliott: with abilities. Right. Right. So we all know that that
David Hirsch: doesn’t, you know, it’s just enhancing people’s lives all around. It’s very powerful.
Jim Elliott: Yeah. There’s a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of families and dads that are raising kids with obesity issues too.
And I have run into this where. Some people say, well, that’s not a disability. It’s a choice. In my book, you know, when my parents were divorced, I went through a period where I was very sad, depressed. He hit a lot, God heavy. So it’s emotional. It’s a lot of things going on there. And one of our goals is to do a documentary and we want to call it weightless.
And we want to take kids who are struggling with obesity issues and we want them to go through, tell their backstories and do it. Intel, watch their challenges and have them come out of the water in a place like Cozumel going, I’m a diver. You know, here’s some kid on the other side of the country, sitting in a chair, look at going, you know what. If he can do it or she can do it, I can do it cause they’re fatter than me. That’s exactly what they’ll say. And you know what it’ll do. It’ll inspire them to get off that couch and do something.
David Hirsch: Like we’re trying to inspire dads.
Jim Elliott: Yes.
And others to be a little bit more intentional about the relationships.
You told me unbelievable story about, I think it was a woman who’s a. Quadra amputee?
Yes. Right. Anna?
David Hirsch: No arms. No legs.
Jim Elliott: Houston. Yeah. Yeah. She
David Hirsch: What was the backstory on that. Um, person, what did they do with, Diveheart?
Jim Elliott: She was born with no arms, no legs. She, uh, worked when I met her, she was involving, um coordination of new patients to trainer’s hospital in Houston, and she gave me a tour of the hospital one time. It was really funny, she was, was talking to me and she said, what do you know? You’re a TABI. And I go, what’s a TABI? I go, I never heard that term before. And she said, temporarily able-bodied individuals. And I went, Oh my, my mouth dropped open. I went, Oh my God, TABI, we’re all TABIs. If you get up and put your pants on in the morning and you’re vertical. You’re a Tabby because eventually someone’s taking you down. Right.
David Hirsch: Whether it’s mental or physical or injury. Right, right.
So that perspective shifted for you.
Jim Elliott: It was, yeah. We’re trying to get TABI pins actually made now. Yeah, it’s, she’s quite a person. She inspires a lot of people. She was Ms. Wheelchair Txas a number of years ago,
David Hirsch: Sounds like, she has quite a personality.
Yeah. Anna Calvo, amazing.
So there was somebody you were talking about earlier this week, I think his name was Robert. Um, what’s the back story on Robert’s situation or some of the things that you help him do?
Jim Elliott: Probably as a parent, Robert’s story is just a nightmare. Um, Robert at 10 was picked up on a playground by bullies and turned upside down and was driven, his head was driven into the concrete. Resulting in a C5 spinal cord injury, incomplete injury. So he had some movement in his arms and legs. Complications from that led to an aneurysm and a stroke. So Robert is one messed up dude, right? We met him at the Illinois center for rehabilitation and education in, in, uh, in Chicago.
And we did several pool programs and he came with us to the key is a couple of times. And then in may this year we brought him here to Cozumel and because he had some leg movement, I made the dive masters that were working with them. I made him bring them down last dive at the last dive day and a nice Sandy flat.
It was a mild current and I got him nice and vertical where he was standing like, and he was able to, with his breath control look like he was walking on the moon. I mean. And I have some film editors that have helped me and they, they edited in some Neil armstrong, you know, astronaut Neil Armstrong footage where Neil Armstrong says, you know, the gravity on the moon is cooler than the gravity in outer space in the space capsule where your toothpaste is floating away from you. You know what I mean? And then also on earth where you’re, you’re a slave to gravity really, and the moon, you could, if you, if you moved a little and jumped a little, you’d go up a few feet and come be able to come down and underwater we can do that with our breath. It’s an eight. The environment’s 800 times denser than, than air. But when we were scuba, we can get them weighted properly and allow them to become astronauts here. I don’t know if we call that their astronaut moment and they become aquanauts, you know, which is very similar to being an astronaut, and we had him running, I filmed him for eight straight minutes swimming backwards.
David Hirsch: You were swimming backwards.
Jim Elliott: I was swimming backwards, videotaping him, watching him run across the Sandy flat and bounce up and look like he was going to fall on his face, but then use his breath to come back and control his bouyancy. It’s amazing.
Robert: In this video I’m 30 feet under the ocean surface, walking without objects holding the meetup for the first time in over a decade. It’s a whole experience that I never imagined that I would have totally have.
Jim Elliott: I want every PT and OT, occupational therapists and physical therapist and rehab doc in the world to see that cause they’ll sign up for, for scuba therapy in two seconds if they see that video. That’s fabulous.
So for the last 10 years, you have been in a wheelchair for the most part, right? You have not been vertical, right? Like this?
Robert: Right. For the last 13 plus years.
Jim Elliott: 13 plus years. Okay. You’re on the bottom, your feet are touching, you’re using your breath to control your buoyancy. What’s it like?
Robert: I’ve never been out of the Earth’s gravitational pull, but I would have to liken it to being in space like not the moon,
Jim Elliott: Weight listens.
David Hirsch: So what advice can you share with dads or parents for that matter? Uh, who like yourself. Um, helped raise, uh, of two special needs kids. Um, to help them reach their full potential. So it’s kicking from a dad’s perspective and perhaps from our not for profit leader’s perspective.
Jim Elliott: I was, you know, Erin had a lot of friends with disabilities and I saw a lot of parents be over protective. And I think that that handicapped, if you will, or crippled, which is not politically correct term, but they crippled their children by being over protective. I’m not saying throw caution to the wind. I’m saying get smart about your kid and their disabilities and know the limitations, but push the envelope a little bit and make them as independent as they can be based on their abilities.
If they’re in a wheelchair and they don’t have a cognitive disability, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be out there doing everything that you could possibly do. If they have a cognitive disability assess their, their their. You know, th their abilities and then put them in what is safe and, you know, supervise legitimate programs that will help them get involved yourself. Because, you know, the rewards are amazing. You know, had I not, you know, guided in top lines, skiiers for decades before I did this, I wouldn’t be in the position to start Diveheart.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So why was it that you agreed to be a mentor, father, as part of the Special Father’s Network.
Jim Elliott: Because of you? Um, you were inspiring.
I love the concept of what you’re doing. I think it’s, it’s amazing. And, and fathers that are, that are willing to be there, that, you know, we want to give them as many tools as we can to be successful.
David Hirsch: And you’re in a unique situation, um, for another reason, which is there was a point in time that you were divorced, right?
So you’re not living with your kids, and that shouldn’t be an obstacle for maintaining a full engagement.
Right? While not physically there,
right? You need to be. Financially there. Emotionally there. Spiritually there.
Jim Elliott: Kids. I was, I was, you know, I, I’m, I’m blessed in that I didn’t divorce until my kids were grown and gone, you know?
But I understand that, that fathers, I mean, that have to go through that. And do the sharing weekends thing. It’s, it’s very challenging. I would say maximize those moments, you know, and I know there’s, there’s a lot of politics and games that go on and playing mom against dad and things like that. And I’m, I’m not one to speak to that, but I know that, uh, that goes on.
And I just, I would say make every, every moment count. And, and make them as independent as you possibly can. Um, there’s a tendency probably, if I were a dad who had kids that were split, I would probably want to just throw caution to the winds and spoil them and make them everything and give them everything.
And in my mind personally, that would be a huge mistake. I would want my kids to be independent and they will go oh, mom lets me do this, man. Must be do that or whatever and go, well that’s great. I mean, but I want you to be everything you can be. Isn’t that what you want? And that’s probably, they’re going to probably say yes.
And then you use that in different. Dad’s have different communication skills, but there are other dads that can help support them, and I’m happy to talk to any dad to help him talk them through that kind of stuff because it’s, it’s not easy. It’s challenging.
David Hirsch: You realize when you have children, how quickly the time goes.
Right. I know you blink, they’re in school, you blink, they’re in high school, you blink again they’re in college or beyond. Yeah. And then you’re sort of looking back wondering, well, what was that all about? You don’t want to ever look back and say, coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Jim Elliott: Right. Exactly.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So is there anything else you’d like to share before we wrap up?
Jim Elliott: You know, I would, I would encourage dads listening to this to, uh, go to diveheart.org our website and click on the media button and there’ll be a recent media, and then there’ll be the media kit. And just click on some of those images. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and CNN and PBS did a documentary.
There’s a lot of testimonials that are go on of children that are not perfect family situations that come out going, this is amazing what it’s done for me. And, and you know, might not be diving. It might not be zero gravity or physical therapy and zero gravity that it might be horseback riding, it might be skiing, it might be something else.
Special Olympics are amazing. Um, and we collaborate with a lot of those organizations. So I would say make them independent, give them a lot of kudos, give them a lot of experiences and, and, uh, don’t be afraid to call.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Jim thank you for the time and many insights. As a reminder, Jim’s just one of the many dads who has agreed to be a mentor father, as part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers, raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor, father with a similar situation to your own. Please go to 21stcenturydads.org thanks again Jim.
Jim Elliott: Thank you for starting 21st Century Dads!
David Hirsch: And thank you for listening to this Special Fathers Network podcast.
The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers, raising children with special needs. Again, 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
I’m David Hirsch, and thanks for listening to the Special Father’s Network podcast.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network podcast was produced for 21st Century Dads by Couch Audio. Music provided by Purple planet. Find out more at purple-planet.com and to find out more about 21st Century Dads, go to 21stcenturydads.org.