In this Dad to Dad podcast, host David Hirsch talks with his guest Tom Delaney. Tom’s the president of Bankers Insurance Services, he has two boys Charlie and Jack who has Down Syndrome. We’ll hear the story of Tom’s family and how he’s worked to be the best Dad he can be. That’s all on this Dad to Dad podcast.
Dad to Dad 44 Tom Delaney – father of Jack, who has Down Syndrome
Tom Delaney: And I think this is a common thread actually, throughout the special needs community is the siblings are such good people. Charlie’s got the biggest heart that I’ve ever seen.
David Hirsch: So what advice can you share with dads helping a child with a disability reach their full potential.
Tom Delaney: Lots of hugs, lots of encouragement.
Every time that the jacket chief, something for the first time, it’s a monumental and it’s so worthy of celebration. That’s a portion of a conversation between our host David Hirsch and his guest, Tom Delaney. Tom’s the president of bankers insurance services. He has two boys, Charlie and Jack who has down syndrome.
Tom Couch: We’ll hear the story of Tom’s family and how he’s worked to be the best dad. He can be. That’s all on this dad to dad podcast. Here’s David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad to dad, podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs. Presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: So let’s listen now to David Hirsch’s conversation with special father Tom Delaney.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend, Tom Delaney of downers Grove, Illinois, a father of two boys and president of bankers insurance services in Chicago.
Tom, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Delaney: Thanks for having me.
David Hirsch: You and your wife. Peggy had been married for 13 years and are the proud parents of two boys, Charlie 13 and Jack 11, who has down syndrome. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up?
Tell me something about your family.
Tom Delaney: I grew up in Fort Madison, Iowa. Which is a small river town, about two hours South of the quad cities. I have two brothers. I’m the baby of the family. The middle brother is two years older than I am. And then there’s a big gap between the two younger brothers and my oldest brother, my oldest brother’s 14 years older than I am.
Oh my. Yeah. So mom and dad had an only child for about 12 years and then two came along very late in life. So yeah, family of five lower middle class, that was a blue collar worker and, uh, a factory called DuPont and he, uh, pretty much made labels for pink cans, his entire life, uh, DuPont.
David Hirsch: Okay. So, uh, your brothers, what are their names and what are they doing now?
Tom Delaney: It’s my brother. Mike works at DuPont, actually. He’s the older one. He’s 14 years older than I am. He bounced around and was a very good guitar player and tried to make a living, being a musician for quite a while, and eventually ended up back home as most aspiring musicians, uh, in, uh, in my own town. And so he’s worked out there for probably the better part of 15 years.
My other brother is in the insurance industry at state farm in Bloomington, Illinois.
David Hirsch: So that’s the mothership right for state farm. Okay. So how would you describe your relationship with your dad? Interesting
Tom Delaney: question. My dad, he was childhood the depression when he was in high school. I believe when he was 17 or 18, his mother passed away and then shortly thereafter, Is probably within a couple of years, his father passed away.
So it was a very young man. He had lost both of his parents. And within a few years after that, he got drafted to go into the Korean war. I say that is way in the way of background to tell you that he was a hard guy, you know, a lot of hard bark on it. And it wasn’t always clear. The dad wanted to have children, but as an Irish Catholic.
And having a wife who wanted children, they continually try to have children in spite of that big gap between my oldest brother and my other brother. So dad pretty much was go to work, have a couple beers at the Knights of Columbus on the way home, have dinner and go to bed type of guy. So he didn’t engage much with us actually.
Uh, when he was a kid, when he was in high school, he actually was a pretty good athlete and, uh, got recruited to play basketball at the university of Iowa, actually. And for. That guy is athletic and into sports as my dad was, he never once went to one of my ball games. Wow. So he was one of these guys who just was not that engaged with his kids.
You knew that he left you, uh, he wasn’t good with hugs or anything like that, but he was, he had a term about, and that you could see, um, but. Not close. So I wasn’t close to my father.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, thanks for being candid. It sounds like he is a little bit more old school. Yep. You know, dads were expected to be providers years ago.
And if you got more than that, that was a bonus. And, um, is he still alive?
Tom Delaney: No, he passed away 20 years ago. Oh, wow. Actually, yeah. So relatively young age and yeah, he passed away at age 70. Okay. So he’s been gone for awhile, but I have very fond memories of him and this might be too much. I’m not sure, but I’ll tell you that there was a point where I was in college actually as a fairly young man when I was in a quiet moment, thinking about that and my relationship with my father.
And it was probably, well, maybe it was when he was starting to get sick. Um, found a way to forgive him for every, everything that ever didn’t go, how I wanted it to go with my dad. And, uh, I have no hard feelings or Harbor any ill will toward my father. Well, that’s
David Hirsch: fabulous. Uh, thinking about your dad, was there an important lesson that you learned, something that he said that, you know, sort of always resonated with you?
Tom Delaney: Yeah, well, I, one of the special moments that I have with my father was I mentioned that he was a good athlete. He played a lot of sports and was a competitor. And, uh, I put high school basketball and we were going into a game against the second or third ranked team in the state. There were. Just the team of up the street that would beat the tar out of us.
Every time we played them. And I was saying this out loud before I went to the high school for the game, that all my goodness we’re going to get killed tonight. You know, these guys just woke us every time we play. And dad who was a man, very few words, kind of stopped me in my tracks. And he kind of pointed his finger at me and he said, Don’t you ever go into a ball game thing and you can’t win.
And that was something like I’d never really had him like look me in the eye and be that serious about something like that. And it was a life lesson actually, and a tie as I carry that on through life. Cause you have to go into every challenge that you face in life thinking that you’ve, you’ve got control.
David Hirsch: With the right attitude
Tom Delaney: with the right attitude, right? Yeah. So that was a very valuable thing that he said to me, it translates.
David Hirsch: Yeah. That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing. Yeah. So, um, from what I recall, you spent two years at Saint Ambrose and Davenport, and then, um, graduated from a university of Notre Dame in South southbound with a degree in business and marketing.
When you were graduating from Notre Dame, what was it that you were thinking. Good you’re going to do for their career.
Tom Delaney: Very interesting point in my life, uh, for a lot of reasons, uh, to actually have gone to Notre Dame and to graduate from Notre Dame was kind of a dream come true. And it was a difficult time for me because what do you do when you’re 22 years old and you’ve achieved your life’s dream?
What am I going to do in that? Right. Well, I guess I actually have to go. Find a job. And of course it came out in 1991 when I graduated into a very difficult job market. And again, having come from Southeast Iowa where there’s not a lot in the way of big business roles or jobs, I spent my summers in between years of college, cleaning high school floors and upright umpiring baseball at night.
I really didn’t know anything about business other than what I had learned in class. So. It was really, I just wanted to put a suit and tie on and go try to figure it out. And I knew that wasn’t going to happen in Iowa. For me. I actually wanted to be close to South bend. We’re all like I could get together with my college friends.
I always loved Chicago from the trips. I’d come up here to see the Cubs. And I just found my way to Chicago. Like I said, just to put a suit and tie on and go figure it out. So I really didn’t have big business goals. Just, just wanted to get, get my foot in the water and see what I could do. Okay.
David Hirsch: From what I remember, you started as a loan officer in Northwest Indiana bank.
Tom Delaney: I did. That was your first career. Yeah. And, uh, the bank didn’t pay a lot of money. So I was moonlighting as a fitness instructor and while I was at the health club, My job was to take people through their first two or three workouts who had just signed up at the gym so they can learn how to use the equipment and how it worked and how to get a good workout in.
And, and one of the girls that came through, worked at the parent company that I would now work for, which is a corporation and she had, we were just making small talk. And I had mentioned that during the day I’m a loan officer and I was involved in the mortgage industry. And she mentioned that there was a company down the hall from where she worked the sales insurance and mortgage companies.
And she knew that they had an opening and was curious if I would be interested in putting my resume on to see if I could get that job. And I did. And two interviews later, I got a job and I got to move to the city. And, uh, I’ve been there ever since. So
David Hirsch: same company
Tom Delaney: at the same company.
David Hirsch: How many years is that?
Tom Delaney: 25 in June. Wow.
David Hirsch: And you were president of the company
Tom Delaney: and I am. Yeah.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. What a great story.
Tom Delaney: Yeah, so it’s kinda, yeah, it’s kinda been a wild ride in terms of things falling in my lap and various lessons and getting a bit lucky, not only in getting to go to Notre Dame, which is another story altogether.
And, uh, and finding my way to Chicago and getting the job that I got. Great.
David Hirsch: Thanks for sharing. Okay. So, um, I want to know how you met Peggy, how you had a very interesting story that you shared with.
Tom Delaney: Okay. So Peggy and I grew up two houses away from each other in Fort Madison, Iowa. She didn’t go to kindergarten with me, but from first grade through senior year of high school, And actually two years at Saint Ambrose, we were in the same school, same class, always friends, but never dated, no romantic relationship at all.
And I knew that she was in Chicago and she found her way to Chicago out after she graduated from Saint Ambrose as well. But we weren’t in touch at all. And I was riding the Brown line home one night and she came up and kind of tugged on my sleeve and sits on and said, yeah, Right. And I said, Oh my gosh, Peggy, I haven’t seen you in forever.
And we sat down next to each other and shared an L ride home and said, well, we should get together for a beer sometime. And a beer turned into a Cubs game, turned into a movie, turned into dinner, turned into dating the girl next door. Right. And it just worked out. It worked well because Peggy and I. Laugh at the same jokes.
We liked the same movies. We liked the same books. We come from the same place, the same experience, and it was easy. It was easy. And we came, we basically became best friends. So it just made sense to, to marry and start a
David Hirsch: family. Yeah. Well, that’s a remarkable story that you grew up so close to each other.
You’ve known each other. Literally our entire lives, but there’s this big gap of time in the middle. And then you reunite in your early thirties and the rest is history. I love this story. Thanks for sharing. So let’s switch gears and talk about the special needs community first on a personal level, and then beyond.
So before Jack was talking to host, did you or Peggy have any connections to the special needs community?
Tom Delaney: I did not. Um, piggy has a cousin who has a son with down syndrome and she also has a cousin that’s on the autism spectrum. So she had a little bit of a family connection with kids with special needs.
I did not at all, not at all.
David Hirsch: Okay. So it was brand new. Brandon
Tom Delaney: threatened me.
David Hirsch: So, uh, when did you learn about his diagnosis and what was your first impression?
Tom Delaney: So we did not, we did not know Jack. He had down syndrome in utero. He he’d had, it actually had, had a very interesting ultrasound experience where the tech was having a hard time doing some of the measurements because Jack was moving around so much in the womb.
And they had to actually call a, I think a physician and, or a higher level tech. And I think it was a physician to actually finish off the ultrasound and then do the measurements and then act them in different things like this. And, uh, he was very, very quiet during the, during the procedure and when he was done, he just kind of turned in the tech and nodded and said, okay, and turned and walked out.
And it seems strange to us, we, to this day, Peggy and I are Archer fee. If he knew. If he suspected if he didn’t say anything, but by the way, we didn’t know. Right. Somebody calls, uh, my experience at Illinois Masonic in Chicago, where Jack was born was wasn’t great, frankly. And that Jack, uh, Peggy was having a hard time delivering Jack and he was an emergency C section and he came out and they whisked him away into a side room.
And they called me in a few minutes later and neonatologist. So mr. Delaney, I’d like you to introduce you to your son and it appears that he has down syndrome.
David Hirsch: That’s how it was
Tom Delaney: delivered to yes. Wow. So I knew Jack for all of about five seconds without knowing he had down syndrome. And of course I said, well, how do you know?
And the doctor started pointing out. Features about Jack
David Hirsch: very subtle features though, right?
Tom Delaney: Well, yeah, and I mean, it was the almond knives, the long neck protruding tongue, the toe, it sucks out the increases in the Palm of the hand. Thanks. And he pointed out five or six different things. And I stood there with my hands are on top of my head and I said, I think you’re right.
You could tell Jack had down syndrome. But I still had to ask the question and I said, well, what are the odds? And he said about 90%. And he said, we’re going to do a chromosome test. We should have that back in the 24 to 48 hours. Don’t know for sure. And then the next thing I said was, well, my wife is being stitched up right now.
Do I go tell her now? You know, I don’t do it now. No, she’s still on the operating table. It means stitched up. And I said, okay. And the doctor kind of turned and walked out of the room and the nurses pretty much walked out of the room and left me alone with Jack. And, you know, it’s interesting. I made it, I made a decision on the spot that like, this was my son and I’m very proud of him and he’s no, no more, no less.
My son or a person or, and I stood there and just talked to him. Yeah. And I, and I tried to do with him that the same thing I would have done with his older brother, Charlie, which is he’s, he’s my boy. And I’m going to talk to him now. I had a million things going through my head. Right. And probably see tears in my eyes too.
But. Yeah, it was interesting within the first couple of minutes. And now in fact, I made a decision that, you know, he’s, he’s my boy, and I’m gonna treat him like no different, no better, no worse than typical child.
David Hirsch: Very powerful story. Thank you for sharing
Tom Delaney: that I need to share with you that the other difficult thing about it was I started walking them down the hall after I left Jack and the staff at the hospital.
Was nowhere to be found, like missing an action missing in action, which was the exact opposite of my experience when Charlie was born. And everybody’s patting you on the back and congratulations that. And isn’t it. This is the greatest thing. And I couldn’t find a friend in that hospital to save my life.
Nobody wanted to talk to me. Wow.
David Hirsch: They probably didn’t know what to
Tom Delaney: say. I didn’t know what to say. Yeah. And they didn’t know what to say. And I think that’s where organizations like Nads and, and other organizations that focus on bringing literature and educational information into hospitals for first time, or for parents who need that sort of diagnosis.
I think they do a good job too, talking to the staff and saying, you’re saying, yeah, you should treat the parents. Right. So,
David Hirsch: you know, differently.
Tom Delaney: Yeah, exactly. No differently. And so that was difficult. That was tough. And I finally spotted it kind of an intern who had been checking in on Peggy during the labor process.
And he seemed like a young guy and a good personality. And I kind of waved at him and I pulled them into a side room and I said, here’s my issue. And I told him the story and he goes, yeah, I know. And I said, how do I tell my wife? Because they’re taking her to recovery right now. She does not know. It’s like, wow, really didn’t have any good answers for me.
And we talked it through and I said, do you know the guy who told me the neonatalogist was a little bit direct, but it was very matter of fact and kind of political. Maybe that’s the way to do it. Can we find him and have him come talk to her? And he said, yeah, I’ll go find the doctor and have him come to deliver the message to your wife.
I thought I had some time to walk down the hall and call Peggy sister to let her know that Jack was born. We have a beautiful baby boy, but it’s always that, but right. But yeah, stance. And can you share the news with her family? But it’s not, it came back down and walked into the recovery room. I can still see that doctor walking out of the recovery room.
He came in and told her without me in the room. Right. And, and it was just horribly, horribly. So, you know, we don’t have stories like that. We all have kind of different stories about how we got the news. But when I look back. At Jack’s birth and his birthday was obviously bittersweet. Yeah. For a lot of reasons.
David Hirsch: that sounds like a very challenging situation to be in the know about your son’s situation. And then have this lag, whether it’s 10 minutes or half an hour or whatever period of time it was, where you’re sort of waiting and wandering. Right. How’s Peggy gonna come up to speed on this. What’s the best way to make sure that we’re both have the same understanding and it seems like they really fumbled the ball.
Tom Delaney: It is. Yeah. And there’s an interesting photo. Somebody took a picture of Peggy holding Jack when she first got into recovery and they took him away, kind of put him in the, under the heat lamp and that’s, and that type of thing when the doctor came in to deliver the news. So he has that picture and she has a very special moment.
Where she was holding check for how long she got the call in five, 10 minutes, whatever it was without knowing she can, she’s still full set that picture up. This is what I was my, and my little moment with Jack, but it, when I didn’t know. Wow.
David Hirsch: You know,
Tom Delaney: and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing.
I don’t know if that’s a good picture to have or not.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it is what it is.
Tom Delaney: That’s your story. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Right. And, um, it’s helped shape your. Character, both of you and your way of communicating with other people and maybe having the knowledge that you have has helped you better communicate with other parents when they’re first learning about their situation, whether it’s downs or something else for that matter.
Yeah. And it goes without saying what the benefit of hindsight that if the doctor’s going to deliver that news, To the extent that it’s possible that you’d be to both parents at the same time.
Tom Delaney: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Not one parent and then see ya. Good luck.
Tom Delaney: Right, right.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I think people will be able to relate to that on different levels.
So beyond that first experience, I’m wondering what type of advice did you get early on in the days ahead or in the weeks ahead? But you can look back on and said that was really key. Well, we,
Tom Delaney: we were fortunate enough to get introduced to a great pediatrician, Kathy who had triplets herself, and one of her children, one of her triplets had down syndrome.
David Hirsch: Okay.
Tom Delaney: So she has a lot of sheds and I think quite a few special needs kids in her practice and kids with down syndrome. And it was great to be able to take Jack in for the first time to get that first checkup with somebody who’s a mom of a child with down syndrome. And the name Scotty is coming to my head.
Scotty is her dad’s. Yeah. And, uh, And I think the most valuable thing she said was enjoy your baby, you know, go home and enjoy your baby. And that kind of reaffirmed kind of my initial thoughts when I talked to Jack and the doctors left the room when he was first born, which was, yeah, just going to treat him like my baby’s mobile.
So that kind of reaffirm that idea of him not being in no better, no worse. Different certainly. Right. So that was helpful. It’s good to hear from, from somebody who not only was, I guess, a little bit of an authority on it because of being a pediatrician, but more so, because she’s not good with dancing. So it’s
David Hirsch: the voice of authority.
Tom Delaney: Yeah. It’s good to get my situation.
David Hirsch: So I’m wondering what are some of the bigger challenges that you faced with Jack’s situation early on? And then years down the road.
Tom Delaney: Yeah. Um, with Jack wasn’t really, he avoided the heart issue. He did not have look at small couple of small holes in his heart that closed up.
So we didn’t have to have a major surgery. Like a lot of family students, no scar, no scar, but he was not, he was fairly, he was a sickly child, I’ll say at, at about six weeks old, he had RSV virus and in the winter. It was in the NICU for better part
David Hirsch: of a week. Wow.
Tom Delaney: We weren’t sure if he was going to actually get through that and then had a lot of bouts with pneumonias as constantly on, on different steroids and antibiotics.
It felt like for a while you did, if you could catch it, he would catch it. It’s like a Petri dish. Yeah. And so we spent a lot of time in hospitals, but. Even though he is physically strong, his gross motor is off the charts. It’s just is me and system wasn’t wasn’t there and that God he’s grown out of it.
So we have a lot of challenges with, with him and doctors and being in the hospital. And I think the other challenge is I think there’s a challenge in how we dealt with it as a married couple. Right. Just in terms of, I deal with it this way and you deal with it that way, and it doesn’t mean your ways, right?
My way is wrong or vice versa. It’s just, we’re dealing with it differently, you know? And so I think there was a fair amount of not necessarily seeing eye to eye with how to deal with the diagnosis and the time management and Charlie was to the time and having another young son at the same time. I think, I think it’s obvious things were.
Just trying to figure out how as a couple, we were going to deal with it, but also Jack’s illnesses.
David Hirsch: Okay. So it sounds like most of those are behind him now. Yeah.
Tom Delaney: The health issues really well. Thank goodness. That’s good to hear. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So what are some of the more important decisions that you and Peggy have made?
Along the way.
Tom Delaney: I think one of the most important decisions I made was getting involved with the stats group that we have, because it put me into a network of fathers who understand and can relate to what I’m going through. Some of the greatest guys in the world. I mean, they’re so courageous and they’re strong and their perspective is, is amazing.
And just off the charts, good guys, their ability to maintain their sense of humor in the face of some pretty, pretty challenging circumstances. I’m inspired by them. I’m inspired by the guys in the group every day and it pays me back. I feel like it’s a good thing that I’m involved in. And I think it to see the good that it does to the guys that show up.
It allows me to feel like in some small way, I’m making the world a better place.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome.
Tom Delaney: So that’s, that’s a good that’s. I think it’s a good thing.
David Hirsch: So what impact has Jack’s situation had on his older brother, Charlie?
Tom Delaney: Yeah, this is, and I think this is a common thread actually, throughout the special needs community is the siblings are such good people.
Um, Charlie’s got the biggest heart that I’ve ever seen. He’s wonderful. And his brother, he loves him to death. He’s protective. Charlie sees the world differently than other kids. Charlie’s best buddies is a child from grade school who has a skeletal issue and is confined to a wheelchair. And Charlie is the guy in class who meets up with him on weekends.
And if the weather’s nice, we’ll wheeling to downtown downers Grove, no, go to Starbucks and to the library and play video games and trolley runs around with. Um, the kid in the wheelchair, you know, and it’s natural for him and he’s, and he’s, and he sees things in society. If you’re in the mall, if you’re a ball game, and if you’re in a restaurant, he sees the world differently.
He notices things that other people get other kids down, and he’s just got a massive heart that way. So I’m really, really proud. That’s awesome. Yeah,
David Hirsch: because if you’re not around as a young person, if you’re not around people with disabilities, You don’t know what to say. You don’t know what to do. It’s easier to avoid the situation because it might be awkward.
So maybe Charlie hasn’t really known anything other than having a younger brother with, you know, a differences.
Tom Delaney: Yeah.
David Hirsch: And, uh, that doesn’t shock them. It’s not abnormal. It’s just, it is what it is. And, uh, the thought that came to mind when you were sharing this story about this other young guy, the one that’s confined to the wheelchair is that he probably doesn’t have as many friends.
As the average person and what a godsend it is for trolley to be his friend and want to do things with them, not at a sympathy or pity, but just because he can relate
Tom Delaney: to it. Yeah. Pretty powerful stuff. Yeah. I’m really, really proud of him. And he’s in middle school
David Hirsch: now.
Tom Delaney: Yeah. Just started junior high. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So let’s talk about supporting organizations that you’ve relied on for Jack. Uh, what role say has special Olympics or duties Playhouse or Nads played for that matter? Yeah.
Tom Delaney: Uh, we’re recently in the special Olympics has mentioned earlier, Jack is, is really, uh, he has very strong, gross motor skills, so you can throw a ball pretty well and he can run pretty fast.
Um, cause what
David Hirsch: sports is he involved
Tom Delaney: with? Special Olympics events at innovators, and he does a soft ball thrown at the tennis ball throw, I guess. But you put a ball in front of him and he wants to play. He goes out in the driveway and shoots baskets and he can put fall in the hall. I’d take him to the driving range and he can get hit it very far, but he can put the club on the, on the golf ball.
Yeah. And, uh, He’s kinda my jock, he’s kinda my athlete and kind of the two boys, ironically. Yeah. So yeah, so we would so special Olympics has been great. There’s another group in Elmhurst that does both track and basketball. I can’t think of the name of the group, unfortunately, that the Jack’s active in that Peggy’s on the board from ads right now.
So we’re pretty active with the national association for down syndrome and all about. All about trying to contribute all about trying to get back a little bit. And, and one of the strongest messages I heard out of Joe mayors, who started up the dad’s group down in Indianapolis was, you know, we stand on the shoulders of the guys that came before us and made the world a little bit better and a little bit easier for us.
And I believe that. And I think, I think we have an obligation to try to change the world a little bit and make it easier for the guys to come after us who have kids with down syndrome or any disability. So it was
David Hirsch: tedious Playhouse
Tom Delaney: cheese. We started to go to GGS. Um, when we lived, where we lived in the city, when we had jacks, I am an MTG, is that it opened a Playhouse on, I think it was under a new park road while we were still in the city.
And for awhile, we were, we were active with GGS and, and so we moved, I would say until Jack got into preschool, basically at NGGS was, it was interesting. And that’s another case study of, of what’s good for one member of the family. Of a marriage actually is, may not be good for another one. Yeah. My wife was inspired by GGS and she loved to go and network with the moms.
And there were a lot of dads just standing in the corner, not wanting to talk to anybody or trying to find a toy to play with their kid and avoiding talking to the other dads. It was, it was a little bit of a different use. And you could tell it’s just, the dads are dealing with it differently and the moms were inspired and energized by.
Being around other moms who have kids that are three years old or younger that have down syndrome. And I think a lot of the dads are just still trying to figure it out.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. You should mention that. Uh, we’ve talked about Paula Nancy Gianni before Judy’s parents are really good friends, fellow parishioners and super inspiring, but, uh, they would say that it’s very common that the mom will come in with the child.
Sometimes the dad’s just pacing in the parking lot.
Tom Delaney: Yeah, right. He’s
David Hirsch: not even inside. Right? So there’s your experience. Your observation is not a unique or one off
Tom Delaney: situation at all.
David Hirsch: So we are talking with the Giannis about creating the special father’s network going out a year ago. Now they were like, we want to be involved, right?
There’s something we need to be doing. More with the dads to help them engage, help them connect, help them start communicating with one another. So I’m thrilled to have you as part of the network and hopefully you’ll be able to inspire even more dads to engage in what it is that we’re talking
Tom Delaney: about and say, look back at it that might even have been some fuel for starting up.
Dad’s appreciating, dancing grew up here in Chicago, maybe in a different environment. Maybe not in the Playhouse bunch of children with down syndrome, running around and moms socializing and networking. Maybe, maybe there’s a better, different, not better, but different environment for dads. A few feel, I guess, more comfortable opening up and talking a little bit and looking for support.
David Hirsch: dive into it. Um, so beyond your personal experience, um, I remember you telling me a story about how you got involved with the dads group, which stands for dads appreciating down syndrome. You were to Nads meeting or convention or something. Was it Indianapolis? Is that what you were referring to?
Tom Delaney: The conference was out in Rosemont.
David Hirsch: Oh, it was local.
Tom Delaney: It was here in Chicago. Okay. It is a national group, actually. It was started by a guy named John Barris in Indianapolis. And his mission was to get a dads chapter pretty much started up across the country and every major metropolitan area. Therefore he was a presenter.
At the Nass conference, I believe it was 2010. It’s a, dad’s only session there must’ve been, I don’t know, 12 or 15 guys in the room. And Joe Mears was presenting with another guy from Indianapolis and talking about the, the features and the benefits of the dads group and why we should. Try to get one started up in Chicago land and it really resonated with me.
And in the end we kind of had a dance meeting where we all got a chance to, just to talk and to share some of our experiences. And it was really helpful for me to be in that environment. And at the end, it seemed like we were going to break up and there was going to be nothing done in the way of organizing this group.
And I went up to the front and I said, Joe, I said, well, how do we get something like this started? And he goes, well, it’s like this piece of paper and start getting email addresses, kind of like that. And I said, well, who’s up, who’s going to be the organizer. Who’s going to lead this thing. And he pointed and pointed at me.
They actually poked me in the chest. And he said, it’s you. And he goes, every time we do one of these, the guy who’s going to start it up. Self-selects and it’s the guy who comes up and says, how do we do it? Wow. And so that’s pretty much how it got started. And I knew a couple of guys in the room and I was able to corner them and say, Hey, would you think about this?
Should we get it going? And it wasn’t just me. There were a couple other guys who, uh, who gathered up email addresses and. And we sent a note out and said, Hey, we’re thinking about getting this together. What do you think? And so that’s how it could go. So that’s how we heard about dad’s national and that’s how we started a group in Chicago.
David Hirsch: It reminds me of like a business setting. Uh, if you raise your hand, be prepared to. Take that idea and run with it. Or if you even make eye contact with somebody in the meeting, they’re going to be like, okay, Tom, that’s a great idea. Why don’t you run with it?
Tom Delaney: That’s right. That’s right. I’m very familiar with, thankfully this was a situation where I actually, they was like, I didn’t, obviously I didn’t mind if it ended up being mine because it was, it was important to me and you know, that.
What’s your thinking of what you’re
David Hirsch: feeling. So that was seven or eight years ago.
Tom Delaney: Yeah. How often does the group meet? So we get together the final Sunday of the month at three o’clock and we decided to do it. If I can be honest, downers Grove works out for a couple of reasons. One, because. It’s kind of that intersection of the Eisenhower and 88 and two 94.
It’s kind of, it’s not far from there. So if you’re coming from a different server, you can get there. I also live in downers Grove. Let’s
David Hirsch: not overlook that, you know, one small point,
Tom Delaney: right? Exactly. You know, Joe mirror’s advice to us was, have it in the same place at the same time every month. So the guys always know where you’re going to be.
David Hirsch: Okay. How many guys are involved
Tom Delaney: on the distribution list? Again? 144.
David Hirsch: Oh, wow. What do you think the age range of the guys in the group is from youngest to oldest today?
Tom Delaney: All the sky is probably 60 sort of a dinosaur I’m
David Hirsch: 58.
Tom Delaney: Yeah. So we have children with down syndrome. They’re a dad who we might have a six month old and we have, I think the oldest child is 22.
This is a great spread. Right. And in particularly I love it when the older guys show up and can talk about. Here’s where I am in my journey and here’s what I experienced. And, and, uh, if I have a question or there’s something I’m going through, they can say, well, yeah, here’s how I dealt with it. Here’s what you might track.
And that’s, that’s the whole point. Absolutely.
David Hirsch: Okay. So do you ever have a speakers?
Tom Delaney: We have actually a couple of occasions. We’ve had some local politicians who wanted to not only. Through a little campaigning, I think, but also wanted to learn a little bit about, about what’s going on with our families and what’s going on for kids and what resources are good in the community, where we could use a little more support in the community, how the school systems are working for us.
So it was a little bit of a give and take negative. They got, you know, they got some political campaigning done at the same time. We got to tell them, Hey, here are some things that, uh, That that we think need help in society these days in terms of how our kids get treated and the resources that our families need.
And, um, and I’d like to think that I gave exhibit two on, uh, appropriate language as well. So when you’re out on the campaign trail, avoid saying this, say that, so the child first, so you don’t right. So you don’t offend somebody or say the wrong thing. So we have, we had somebody come and talk to us about.
Research that’s being done into connections between down syndrome and Alzheimer’s so yeah, some interesting things. Okay.
David Hirsch: Well, if you’re interested, I’m going to come and speak to the group
Tom Delaney: and we’ll do it
David Hirsch: for the self serving purpose of hopefully inspiring some of the dads to be mentor fathers. Or if you’ve got some super young dads maybe to be mentee fathers, right.
The, we can connect
Tom Delaney: to the resources that we’re creating love to. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So I’m, I’m wondering. Beyond dads, which is the dad’s appreciating down syndrome, which is part of Nads, the national association of down syndrome. Is there anything else with Nads? That you’ve been involved with. Peggy has been involved with that our listeners might be interested in learning about.
Tom Delaney: Yeah. Yeah. So Peggy’s been on the board. I want to say about a year now. And she was really, really involved in the end by annual conference that they put on this past year. It’s it’s really, really well done in terms of the content. Peggy worked really hard to get the speakers in. That could talk authoritatively professionally about various topics from behavioral issues to how to get through an IEP, to the able act, how to sign up for enable account, what it does for you, what it doesn’t do for you for better or for worse.
I was a speaker about dance group and, uh, it was it’s very, very well done. Then you can learn a ton. There there’s some great networking opportunities. There are vendors there. Pushing product and services for families that have kids with special needs. So it’s really, really well done. So we’ve been very active in that we of course attend and support the bullet farm that they do, which is a big fundraiser.
And Peggy was a very present at the fashion show. Pretty much if Nat says an event, one of us is around and that’s Australian support.
David Hirsch: So switching gears, I’m wondering what role. Spirituality has played in your lives.
Tom Delaney: Interesting question, a figure, and I very much believe in the power of the human spirit and we’re very into how we can change lives to try to make the world a better place.
So the values that we learned do unto others, as you would have done, do it, send it to your son. We live. We live at. And so that foundation of we received through having religious parents and going to Catholic school very much lives through our, our values and what we try to teach our kids and how we try to operate and conduct ourselves.
David Hirsch: Okay. So, uh, let’s talk about advice. What was the most important takeaways that come to mind when raising a child with
Tom Delaney: differences? But I think it goes back for me. It goes back to that very first moment I had with Jack, which is no better, no worse, just different jacks, Jack. I think that’s when we talked about Charlie and how he sees the world differently because he has a brother with down syndrome.
I see the world differently because I have a summit downs and the big takeaway is. Everybody’s equal and we’re all about full inclusion and treating people the same way looking at it goes beyond disability, right? It goes to skin, color, religion, race, create sexuality. People are people. And if you have a child with special needs and you can’t appreciate that.
Have you surprised?
David Hirsch: Yeah. One of the dads, one of our special father’s network dads out in that way said that, you know, we’re all different. In fact differences are what define
Tom Delaney: us.
David Hirsch: So you need to embrace that.
Tom Delaney: Oh my gosh. How boring would it be? Boy, would it be if we were all saying exactly, I’m so glad that I live in the city where I can, I’m surrounded by people who are different.
And I have a child that’s quote, unquote different and he should be treated with respect.
David Hirsch: Absolutely. So what advice can you share with dads or parents for that matter? Helping a child with a disability reach their full potential,
Tom Delaney: lots of hugs, lots of hugs, lots of encouragement. Every time that the Jack achieved something for the first time.
It’s, it’s so monumental and it’s so worthy of celebration. I would, I would encourage in addition to patients that it takes to get there. In addition to patients, a massive positive reinforcement and encouragement and hugs and rely on other adults and other people who’ve been there before you and can tell you how they handled things.
And. Don’t be afraid to go talk to a friend about what you’re going through, because there are frustrating moments and sometimes you need to cry and sometimes you need to laugh and that’s probably new and that’s no different than the family that doesn’t have a child, especially things. Right. It is what it is.
And this is where we’re back to, which is it’s, it’s different, but it’s the same. Yeah. I don’t know. I would say be open and don’t crawl into a hole. And I’ll also say I’m a big believer in finding the opportunity in a difficult situation and it can be whatever it is in life. It can be a, a diagnosis. It can be a job loss, it can be a death in the family.
Maybe you just have to find that opportunity when life presents you in a difficult situation. So
David Hirsch: let’s give a shout out to Linda SmartHome and Chris Newlin, our friends of Nads for introducing us. They are fabulous ones.
Tom Delaney: Absolutely. Absolutely. The folks at NAZ are great. They work very, very hard. They’re passionate.
They care about our kids. They care about our families and they want the world to be a better place. It’s as simple as that. Pretty straightforward. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So why did you agree to be a mentor father as part of the special father’s network?
Tom Delaney: Oh, for a guy who started up a division of dad’s appreciating down syndrome for the purpose of creating an environment where guys can talk.
And guys can share. So we’re all about supporting each other. We’re all about fellowship and we’re all about, like I said earlier, standing on the shoulders of people that came before us, it’s a no brainer for me because I’m all in all in unhealth trying to help guests. I just hope I do it, right. Yeah.
David Hirsch: a little on the job learning going on, right? Yeah. That’s going
Tom Delaney: to be up too bad. And again, it’s, it’s that opportunity. It’s that fulfillment you get when you know that you’ve helped somebody else get through that makes it back. Like I said, it’s a no brainer for me.
David Hirsch: Great. We’re happy to have you. So is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Tom Delaney: I think I would just come back to finding that opportunity and that opportunity when you’ve got a tough situation and leave, leave the world a better place than you found. It can be in a little way, or it can be in a big way, but, uh, Don’t pass up an opportunity to help somebody else. Good advice.
David Hirsch: We wanted to get information on Nads or get involved with the dads appreciating down syndrome.
How would they go about doing that?
Tom Delaney: Yeah. Um, and that’s website is, is the obvious places where we get all our information. Isn’t it? Whether you Google it or where you go, I think it’s an ad stat or.
David Hirsch: That complicated.
Tom Delaney: Yeah. And I think you’ll find a live information or link to my contact information on the website as well.
Like I said, we used to have dad’s website. We don’t any longer, and we’re looking to maybe put together a Facebook page where we can communicate a little bit better, but, um, my information is, should be there on the, on the dad’s website. Excellent.
David Hirsch: Tom, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Tom is just one of the dads who was created 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, Tom. Thanks again.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to this dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. If you enjoyed this podcast, please be sure to like us on Facebook and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen.
The dad to dad podcast is produced by couch audio for the Special Fathers Network. 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, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: And again, to find out more about the Special Fathers Network, go to 21stcenturydads.org, 21stcenturydads.org.