In this Dad to Dad Podcast we hear from an amazing father with three amazing children. One of those kids, Ryan, is a Paralympic champion with Spina Bifida who has pushed his wheelchair all the way across America to benefit “Stay Focused”, helping kids with disabilities experience a new world underwater. That’s all on this Dad to Dad podcast.
Dad to Dad 48 – Gregg Chalmers’ son Ryan didn’t let Spina Bifida keep him from being a sports champion.
Gregg Chalmers: There was nothing more impacting or beautiful in my life. From the moment I had, when dr. Miller walked out of the surgery room and said, your son is going to be fine. And I shared with him, and I said, I was told he wouldn’t live beyond 16. And he said, he almost laughed and hugged me and said, your son is going to have a wonderful life.
And. The fact that the fact that I could call my wife who was fighting for her own and tell her, you know, what Ryan is going to be. Okay. Well, that was, that was prevalent. The greatest moment of my life.
Tom Couch: That’s Greg Chalmers and amazing father with three amazing children. One of whom Ryan is a Paralympic champion. Who’s pushed his wheelchair all the way across America to benefit, stay focused, helping kids with disabilities. Experience a new world underwater. That’s all on this dad to dad podcast. Here’s your host, 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 you’re a 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.
Gregg Chalmers: My name’s Ryan Chalmers and I had spinal bifida. I’ve always been a competitor. I’ve done a lot of sports throughout my entire life.
My favorite part really about being an athlete is having something to strive for.
Tom Couch: So let’s listen now to a fascinating conversation with Greg Chalmers and host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend, Greg Chalmers of Rochester, New York, a father of three, a business executive and air force veteran.
Greg, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Gregg Chalmers: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: You and your wife. Linda had been married for 36 years and other proud parents of three children, Josh 35, Emily 19 and Ryan 30, who is born with spina bifida and who gets around in a wheelchair? Well, let’s start with some background.
Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Gregg Chalmers: I grew up in Rochester, New York. I moved here probably when I was seven years old with my parents, both of which were business owners. And I, um, pretty much stayed at home. I’m I met my wonderful wife in the same neighborhood that I grew up in.
I’m a homebody, uh, aside from the fact that I went out to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to serve in the air force for four, six years. I am pretty much home. I have a. Close family have a close relationship with my siblings and my parents were all, you know, within five miles of each other. And my wife’s family is tight as well.
So I went to school, high school sweethearts with my wife and my kids actually went through the same school district that my wife and I graduated from. Oh my gosh.
David Hirsch: Well, I tell people from my own situation that I barely left the state of Illinois. Um, I was born and raised here in Chicago. I went to university of Illinois.
I went to Northwestern and other than some vacations and business travel, I’d barely left the state of Illinois. And you might be able to say that about Rochester, New York.
Gregg Chalmers: I can’t, I can’t, other than serving in the
David Hirsch: military and some business and vacation, you know, you’ve been there your entire life.
That’s pretty impressive.
Gregg Chalmers: It’s funny when my kids, teachers call them their grand students, you know, that there’s concerns. They don’t share much about what they experience with their parents. Thank goodness. That’s good.
David Hirsch: So, um, I’m wondering, how would you describe the relationship with your dad?
Gregg Chalmers: My dad and I are very close today.
I would say that growing up as a child, because he was just starting his own business. Um, my mother, my father did the best they could given the circumstance that they were trying to start up a business, which had a high demand on their own time. The, the, the term absent sounds very cold because they were very present, even though they weren’t there.
I think if you asked any of my siblings who were very influential, very caring, very loving, And they brought us to work with them and they, they spend as much time as they could. However, we spent a lot of time with babysitters and as I grew, I I’m the oldest of four children. I, I practically raised my brothers and my sister because they were so, so busy as we age, as we grew.
And. Businesses established where they hit employees and they can spend more time with, with ourselves and the grandchildren as it is today. That relationship really grew. I would say, you know, the fact that they, they weren’t there, but they wanted to be there and we knew they wanted to be there. And we knew.
Why they weren’t was very impacting. If we hadn’t understood what they were trying to invest in and that it was for us, I think it would have been a different situation, but we’re very, very close family. You know, it was probably some times that I reflect down that I wish they were there and they weren’t.
But in today’s terms, I understand as a parent, myself, the sacrifices they made for their family.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, no, I think what I heard you say is that your dad. Had a business and your mom had her own business.
Gregg Chalmers: They did. They had two businesses, correct?
David Hirsch: Right. So, uh, it’s a little bit unusual that you’d have two working parents, you know, going back, you know, 50 years ago.
So thank you for sharing. So, uh, when you think about advice, is there an important lesson that you learned or lessons from your dad or something that he’s said that’s always stuck with
Gregg Chalmers: you. I can remember my grandfather, my mother’s father saying it, my grandparents, 45th anniversary, and my father repeating it afterwards.
And I was very young at the time. And I could remember that he stood before the head table there and said to all of the grandchildren. I was probably seven or eight, but for some reason it still resonated with me. And my father would remind me all the time. And he stated to me that the greatest thing.
That a father can do. First children is to love their mother, regardless of the circumstances. And throughout my childhood, that statement resonated whether somebody is going through a divorce or whether there are difficult times in a marriage, or you didn’t know where the family unit. It wasn’t a particular time.
I think we all come back to the point that regardless of the relationship, when you think about a child growing up, the thing that’s most impacting is that. There’s still love. There’s still love regardless of the circumstances. And that was profound to me because as we grew up in life and as we meet other people and other, whether they’re friends or brothers and sisters that are going through certain circumstances in relationship, when it comes down to children, I think the core.
Impact is that their father still loves her mother and appreciates the impact that the mother has in their lives. So I think that was the biggest thing that I learned.
David Hirsch: That’s great. Um, it’s very foundational, right? It’s something that’s at the core, like you said,
Gregg Chalmers: it is brick and mortar, brick and mortar, regardless of the family unit, whether you’re all intact.
Which nowadays, you know, not many families are the same unit that they were when we started, or whether you’re together, which I’m very blessed and very fortunate that I am and that everybody other than my sister are in the same units and unit, when I say it sounds. Commercial, but the same entity is they started with, you know, same marriage children.
Um, but that’s not the dynamics of families every, you know, in today’s world. And regardless of that, you know, when there’s love and especially respect from the father to the mother, um, and vice versa, I mean, that’s that, that’s a core that’s, that’s very core.
David Hirsch: Exactly. Were there any other father figures, uh, when you were growing up or maybe as a young man that played an influential role in your life?
Gregg Chalmers: Positive and negative? I worked for a man when I was probably 11 to 12 years old. He owned half of the community that I lived in and I worked for him cutting lawns and painting buildings and infrastructure and so forth. But he was a harsh person. He was, he would scream and yell. And, um, if you didn’t rinse the paintbrush off, totally FTP painted the building, your head would spin.
And, um, but when I went into the military and face. The TIS and basic training, they were nothing compared to this. So it prepared me a lot for life in the outcome. And I think it toughened me up and taught me something in some respects, how to, and how not to treat the employees that I have the privilege of working with today.
David Hirsch: That’s a, that’s a very good lesson to learn at an early age. Absolutely. Have a thick skin. You know, respect
Gregg Chalmers: for authority
David Hirsch: probably emphasize the importance of a work ethic and detail and you know, not doing things sort of half ass that’s right. So, but at a young age, 11 and 12, you’re probably like, so a as I remember you went to the Rochester Institute of technology.
What were you thinking when you first graduated? What was your career vision?
Gregg Chalmers: Well, when I graduated from high school, my wife and I kept pregnant very early, married, very early and children, very early. We had Josh, our oldest boy before I started school. And at that time, the gentleman we were just talking about, I’m also in the restaurant.
As a, as I had my family, I said, okay, I’m going to continue working here. And I was flipping burgers and so forth in his restaurant, but I wanted to do more for my family. So, um, I joined the air force and when I joined the air force, I also joined the air force, um, community college, which started me in courses that can transfer it.
So you can enroll in any school and contribute to a degrade. It was extremely tough for me because I struggled when I first started college courses because it was working two jobs and I’m doing school on the side. I have four degrees. Now I’m two masters and associates and in a bachelor’s, all of which were on a part time basis.
It was tough to try and raise a family. But my drive was, I want to do better for my family. I wanted to be able to put a roof over their head. I wanted something better. And my goal was to try to strengthen my skills and my resume and my education to be able to do more than I possibly could with what I had at the time.
And the day is U S that I had graduated and completed. There was a motion. I can still remember the moment it wasn’t graduation. It wasn’t walking across the aisle. It wasn’t being in front of people. It wasn’t getting a degree. Wasn’t being handed a diploma. It was walking out of my very last class. From the classroom out the building to the sidewalk and it was snowing.
And I think I sopped, I think, I think I just thought, wow, wow. You know, the first day that I sat in my first class and crumpled up every paper was an English class. I hated writing. It was terrible in English, crumbled up every paper and threw it out because they couldn’t get through two sentences to get through a two page paper.
And I never thought I would get through a full degree when I kept going back and looking at every course I had to take to get through a degree and walking through that parking lot, when I finished it, it was. This is a very impactful, very emotional moment.
David Hirsch: Yeah. What a great sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t, like you said, walking across the stage or being handed your mama, but you know, just the, you know, like you crossed the finish line and that’s really powerful.
So I’m sort of curious how old were you and Linda, when Josh was born?
Gregg Chalmers: I would say 20. You’re both 20. We were both 20.
David Hirsch: So you weren’t quite teen parents, but you were super young.
Gregg Chalmers: We were very super young. We, we dated in high school and we, we decided very early on that we were going to marry. We were loved and Linda became pregnant and I was determined to provide for my family.
The best course of action for my family in the current need was joining the air force. Bring my family with me. And the rest is history.
David Hirsch: I love that story. I didn’t hear you mention there was a shotgun involved though. Your future father-in-law didn’t have a shotgun daddy.
Gregg Chalmers: He didn’t, it was the most uncomfortable sitting that I’ve ever had between a father.
And father-in-law, it was the third generation shotgun. So. Okay, well, thank you for being
David Hirsch: so transparent.
so let’s talk about special needs first on a personal level. And that involves, you know, go beyond that before Ryan was born, did you or Linda have any connection to the special needs community
Gregg Chalmers: in a very, very. Almost foresightful way, which, you know, when you talk about blessings and, and reason for life, Linda had been very exposed to, she was an Eagle girl scout and worked with the disabled community and a lot of nonprofits growing up as a very young, young woman and had a very passion for helping those with special needs.
I who all I was in the air force. With Linda at my side started getting involved with the JCS and special Olympics and, and a lot of the fundraising events. We had four local communities that serve the population special needs. So we were very, very much engaged and it was ironic that when Linda was pregnant with Ryan, I had a dream that we had a child with special needs that I expressed to her while she was pregnant.
And in the term of her pregnancy, she also expressed to me prior to giving birth that she felt that we were having a child with special needs, which was very. Unusual a lot of it, you know, in hindsight was because she didn’t feel the movements that she was used to when she had Joshua or older son. But at the end of the day, when, when Josh, when Ray, I’m sorry, when Ryan was born for some odd reason, it was almost an expectation versus a surprise.
David Hirsch: Wow. So can you remember, uh, when he was first born, when you. Learned what his situation was when he got the diagnosis, what was going on.
Gregg Chalmers: Wow. Um, to set the environment for you. Um, I was in the military. Ryan was born in a military hospital and the doctor, the gynecologist that delivered the birth was in officer.
I was not typically you, you don’t question an officer and so forth. So, you know, Linda gave birth. It was a tough pregnancy, was a tough delivery. And she gave birth in the first thing Linda asked the doctor without even seeing Ryan was, is his back. Okay. Which was, which was in retrospect, it was amazing that she would ask that because she foresaw it.
And the doctor looked at Lyndon said, no, Oh, my gosh. And unfortunately, the doctor did not have a very good bedside manner and he placed, um, Ryan on Linda’s chest and said, your child’s not going to make it through the night. Oh, my God, who was spinal bifida in Ryan’s case, there was an opening intrusion on his back spinal column.
In his, his case, there was an out, you know, a slight, a slight protrusion on his back. And when the doctor wipe that off had happened to expose his spinal column to. To the elements of the environment. And they basically told us that he wasn’t going to make it so long story short. And, and then he went on to say that if he did make it, you know, he wouldn’t live past 16 years of age.
And at the time spinal bifida, you know, 30 years ago with hydrocephalus, which Ryan had, which is fluid on the brain, um, wasn’t. Is where it is today. It wasn’t the advances in the medical industry. Weren’t where they are today. And I can remember thinking, you know, boy know he’s not going to get through the night.
And if he does, we won’t have him. Beyond 16 years of age, we were up all night. They were going to care for Linda. They were going to care for Ryan and they sent me home. And I didn’t know what to pray for. You don’t know whether to pray this child makes it. Through the night and we get to share the love and the time we have with them for 16 years, or that you reflect on 16 years of age, it’s a tough time to lose somebody and grow that close to him.
What do you pray for? And I can remember going home and just not knowing, you know, not knowing. Where you are, what to do, having no resources, having nobody to lean on nobody question. Nobody’s sharing the same experiences in life. And it was a very, very, very tough night. And I went home. I had laid down and I thought, you know what?
I know this is the military. I know this, this doctor’s a Colonel. I know I’m, I’m in the less enlisted, but I got back up and I drove back to the hospital. And I walked in. I said, I want to move Ryan. And they said, what? I said, I want to transfer to another hospital. And the doctor said he is fine, where he is.
And I went to a payphone at the time. They don’t have those anymore. I went to a payphone and I called nine 11 and I asked for an ambulance come to peace air force base to transfer my son to a local hospital. And. There was nothing that he did to stop it. And he came in and they transferred him. And we went into Portsmouth.
Regional that chief of surgery came in. Linda was still in the hospital at Pease air force base, and they transferred him to this other hospital and rushed them through as though he was, you know, an urgent care immediate need. Boom, boom boom. The chief of neurology came in. Dr. Miller came in, rushed, a man carried him in.
They didn’t put him in a stretcher, carried him into a surgery. They took him right into surgery to close the spinal column. And, um, while Ryan was in surgery, I received a call from Portsmouth regional hospital that. Told me that my wife had excessive bleeding and they didn’t know if she was going to survive.
David Hirsch: Oh my God. So she was still back on the military base. Right?
Gregg Chalmers: She’s in the military base and I’m over at another hospital with my son and I called Linda and there weren’t cell phones at the time. And I asked to speak to her and Linda and I know Linda. And when I heard the tone of her voice, I knew she was serious.
She said, you stay. With Ryan. And then my kinda, you know, and I’m thinking I’m going to, I’m going to lose the mother of my child, the love of my life and, and, and my wife. And she’s telling me, you stay with Ryan, a component of my life at that time that I really bonded with, but. Not in a way that had already had with my wife and I stayed with him and there was nothing more impacting or beautiful in my life.
From the moment I had when dr. Miller walked out of the surgery room and said, your son is going to be fine. And I shared with them and I said, I was told he wouldn’t live beyond 16. And he said he almost laughed and hugged me and said, your son is going to have a wonderful life. And the fact that I could call my wife who was fighting for her own and tell her, you know, what Ryan is going to be.
Okay. Well, that was, that was probably the greatest moment of my life. And then I left the hospital and went back and sat by my wife’s side. And she was fine, a few blood transfusions later. And she was kicking in. The first thing she wanted to do was get out of the hospital and go see her son. Wow. And she did, and we spent some great times by Ryan side as he, he went through, you know, an amazing point in time to fight through this and be the man he is.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, that’s an amazing story. Thank you for sharing what a touch and go situation. It was there for 24, 48 hours. And, uh, the hotter you had instead of just like trying to go to sleep, you know, all your wife and baby were at the hospital, whatever it was. I don’t know, like divine intervention that said, you know, I got to do something I have to take control of the situation, you know, do you want it to be respectful to the.
Colonel who had delivered a baby, but you’re the dad. You have to make the decision and dialing nine one, one. That was a
Gregg Chalmers: pretty bold move.
David Hirsch: Oh. Um, but you know that
Gregg Chalmers: it w it wasn’t respect. It was, it was how you were ingrained to operate, uh, that,
David Hirsch: that probably is the single boldest or the most important part of the story, which is, you know, you took action, right?
You did something as opposed to being passive and saying, Oh, everybody else knows there’s professionals. You know, I think that’s, that’s the essence of the story, which is, you know, no one knows your family. No one knows your child as well as you do. And it doesn’t always turn out for the best, like you’ve just described, but what an influential decision that was with the benefit of hindsight.
Wow. That’s taking my breath away, but now that I’m, uh, I’ve got my composure
Gregg Chalmers: back.
David Hirsch: Um, how long was right in the hospital
Gregg Chalmers: while, um, along time, um, the, in fact, the whole staff there used to come Ray guy, Lyndon, and I would go there at that point in time. It’s her to reflect, it seemed like an eternity. I would say six, six months.
Wow, just in that stent of time. So probably six months. And then he was in and out beyond that because he had numerous revision surgeries and at the recommendation of dr. Miller and Fort Smith, which is 50 miles North of Boston for his orthopedic and neurological care. And we were recommended to go to Boston.
Children’s where we started to having treatments for Ryan there. And we’d go back and forth with numerous surgeries at that time.
David Hirsch: How many surgeries as he had in total?
Gregg Chalmers: Um, I can’t count, but just on, just on his, um, hydrocephalus and in the, the shunting of his brain ventricles, which drains the fluid on the brain with hydrocephalus the stomach, um, I would say 19 revisions.
Oh, well only just in that orthopedics and so forth were. Way beyond that. But at the time the allergy to latex was not known. It was not prevalent. It was not known, it was not diagnosed. It wasn’t recognized. And what would happen is Ryan would go in for surgeries to insert a particular Shaunte in one side of the ventricle of his brain to drain the fluids so that they can relieve the pressure.
And they didn’t recognize that at the time that he had an allergy to. To latex. It wasn’t recognized that, you know, what could be happening with the reaction is that the latex gloves themselves, that you’re putting your hands in the head of a child is what’s causing the problem. They didn’t recognize that.
And over the course of time, you know, 19 different revisions, every time ended up being a reaction to the gloves they were wearing during surgery.
David Hirsch: Oh my gosh.
Gregg Chalmers: Yeah. And they kept saying it was, was a strep. Virus that they’re picking up in the hospital and it’s an infection. So when it was actually an allergic reaction, they were treating him for an infection, calm it down and then take them in for another revision.
So the 19 times we went back and forth, it was her breaking in emotional experience, but then every time you drill into. The brain ventricles, something else kill, run with the body that you don’t anticipate. So you never knew what you were coming out with.
David Hirsch: Yikes. Well, thank you for sharing. I’m hoping that that’s just like a well known now that, Oh, even though I’m just learning a lot for the first time, but
Gregg Chalmers: yeah, today it’s the first test they take before taking into surgery.
Anybody. Okay. But yeah, back in the day,
David Hirsch: it wasn’t that way. Okay. Um, So, uh, looking back, um, what were some of the more important decisions that you and Linda made raising three children, including one with special needs.
Gregg Chalmers: I w I would say that that’s a very good question. I would say sometimes it’s not the best decisions you made, but sometimes the decisions you’ve made that you could have made differently is just as important.
Um, growing up, raising Ryan I’m, especially with a brother that was five years older. Um, some of the decisions we’ve made when, when raising Ryan, uh, would have been, um, Probably where his older brother, Josh was an incredible their brother. He was so protective. So caring, so giving so attentive to Ryan. I mean, every picture I have on my desk here, it was ironic because I’m just before this interview, somebody asked me to send a bunch of photos of the younger rang.
Cause they’re getting ready to do a fundraiser that, that involves Ryan. Um, and it was. Pulling for the first time, a box of photos that, um, that we hadn’t shared in a long time or haven’t feud in a long time. And it’s funny, every picture I have his, his older brother, Josh had the side and hugging them and encouraging them, pushing them through Ryan knew to go to a wheelchair competition and Joshua would say, don’t push you’re exerting your energy.
And Josh just five years old, it will be pushing them through, um, as a parent. I would say of a child with disability, especially with older siblings, as well, as much as you think you’re engaging the older sibling. In retrospect, I wish we had spent some alone time with Josh only because if five years of age having a disabled sibling come into the picture, if he had five years as an only child and at the birth of Ryan, He no longer had that alone time.
And we tried to engage him. We tried to keep him in the picture. We tried to include him. And our love for him was 110%, what it always was. But I think in retrospect, as a young five-year-old it impacted them and the decisions we made. Is young parents that that time would have been one spend more time with the children that you have prior to the special needs that come into your life, you know, include yes.
But, but, but also spend that one on one time they’ve always had, they were accustomed to, and to, um, probably the most important decision that we made. Was I left the air force. It was, I was going to be a career individual and Ryan had medical needs and I put the mobile nature of the air force. Um, as the secondary need to Ryan’s need for a stable.
Medical team that could accommodate his needs and medical needs ahead of my career ambitions and left the service to pursue career that was unknown at the time and, and came back to Rochester, New York unemployed, but, but ready to take on, you know, what a heads take on to provide for my family, but more importantly, provide for his medical needs going forward.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, that’s very profound. So when you look back, when you look back over the last 30 years, um, is there a point or two that you can remember that seem most challenging?
Gregg Chalmers: Whew. Wow. The most challenging time we had as a family. And it’s funny because you would’ve thought it would have been the day that, um, That Ryan was born or grabbed my finger on the way to the hospital ambulance to the, to the, the hospital from one point to the other in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
But I would say the most impacting point I had as a father in my life was when I received a call from my older boy, Joshua, who in my mind was doing well, working for my family. And he said to me, it was probably. One or two in the morning. And, um, the phone rang and my wife was next to me and I picked it up and it was Joshua.
Who’s living in an apartment with a bunch of friends and he said, dad, I need help. And I said, what do you mean you need help? He said, um, I’m an alcoholic. And I, and I could tell that that he, he was probably calling me at a tough time under the influence. He said, I need your help. And I said, what do you mean?
He said, I I’m an alcoholic. And we already kind of sensed there’s a problem. Cause we had issues along the road with certain, you know, driving in productions and so forth. And I dropped everything. I said, I’m on my way over there. And Linda and I, I said, Linda, we’re going over to Josh’s apartment needs help.
And when we went there, he just sobbed and said, you know, there’s things in my life that I can’t control and they need help. And. And we were convinced to put them in, into a rehab and put every resource we have to make it happen, whether we could afford it or not. And when I shared that with, with Ryan, he sobbed, he sobbed because he felt that he, he impacted, you know, Josh’s life.
But those days, those moments one, I was profoundly impacted. Over the fact that Josh would call me and ask for help, but I was also reflective and you know what? We, as parents could have done differently to have help on the way. But I would say that the biggest challenge, um, that I had as a father going forward was.
You know, how do I help my son suddenly that I thought was the one going forward that didn’t need help. Cause they had a child with special needs director’s life in a positive way that this is much as we, as a family could influence going forward, could have, and it was unexpected. It was blindsided. And in retrospect, we should have recognized it.
But in hindsight, the greatest decision I think we made was to support. Josh, even though he was a young adult in his rehabilitation from his dependency in Oklahoma.
David Hirsch: How old would he have been at the time? He’s
Gregg Chalmers: going on 35 now. So I would say 25.
David Hirsch: Oh wow. So 10 years ago.
Gregg Chalmers: 10 years school. Yeah.
David Hirsch: And he’s, he’s come a long way since then from our prior conversations.
Gregg Chalmers: Yeah, absolutely.
David Hirsch: He is married, right?
Gregg Chalmers: His three beautiful children. They are not married. Okay. His beautiful, beautiful mother of my grandchildren is also a reformed alcoholic and she would not marry him until he reached 10 years of sobriety. And that has been his. Driving force an incentive to continue his sobriety.
And to this day, I think, you know, if she hadn’t held ground that that said, you know, we have children together, but I’m not committing to you till I see this is a lifelong, I think that’s been his motivation and nothing motivated the more than the fact that he wants to marry Jamie, this, this woman to maintain the sobriety and be a father to his children that.
Can we prevent his own kids from taking the path that he did and in some ways, um, I think it’s probably the best decision he’s made or she’s made to hold that, you know, what he wants from the current. Yeah,
David Hirsch: well, I, what I hear, that’s a very powerful story. Thank you again for sharing, is that a she’s going to hold him accountable, um, in a way that, you know, might seem excessive, but you know, it’s, it’s really important to address the challenge.
Like these are demons that come out and can come back and get ya. And the longer that you can stay sober and focus on. What you need to do to be there for your family. Uh, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, you know, is a beautiful thing. And, uh, while it sounds a little unorthodox,
Gregg Chalmers: if you’re married and have kids, it does,
David Hirsch: um, you have to respect that.
Gregg Chalmers: That’s right. And
David Hirsch: it sounds like she’s a person, a very strong character,
Gregg Chalmers: very much,
David Hirsch: and a loving mom and a loving partner.
Gregg Chalmers: They’re both loving parents. And, uh,
David Hirsch: is there a date
Gregg Chalmers: there, there was a date. In fact, we, they have their 10 year anniversary coming up and, uh, we’re all waiting for the big announcement, but I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna have my breath.
They were looking at a grand, came with wedding here and, um, Linda and I learned a one time, my wife and I learned a long time ago, you know, it’s gotta be on their terms and, and their reasoning and their. Their timelines. So, but it’s coming.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. It’s coming. I love it. It’s beautiful. Thank you for having for sharing.
So we didn’t talk about Emily is your youngest and there’s a big age gap between not Emily and the boys. I’m wondering, um, what impact, if any, has this had on Emily?
Gregg Chalmers: Wow, very good question. I think that the canvas is still being set in the pain, still being. Drawn I think is a young woman. She’s 19. Now know I was doing the math there and I’m like, Oh my goodness, my daughter’s going to be 20 in November.
I would say that. She’s very, very, she’s very close to Jamie, which is Josh’s, I’ll call her my daughter in law. Um, Joshua’s wife, mother of my grandchildren. She’s very close. And Jamie is very Jimmy coaches and leads a lot of AA meetings for alcoholics and they inform our drug addicts and so forth. She leads that.
And Jamie, because she’s been in Emily’s life for. 10 years, you know, since she was eight, nine years old is had a profound impact because Jamie is very close with, with Emily. My daughter, Emily is very sensitive to situations in which, you know, could impact herself and others. And, and she’s going to school right now at our 80 for psychology.
And she wants to be in a role that helps people that have had the path that. We’re older brother Joshua has had, and I hope all these influences in her life, you know, Ryan with the disability and her brother with his challenges and watching mom and dad trying to navigate through these things is impacted her in a profound way.
I sense that it has, but you don’t know what you don’t know. So yeah. Well, thank you. It’s
David Hirsch: a work in progress. Like you said, it’s a canvas, that’s not the way painted
Gregg Chalmers: it is.
David Hirsch: We’re all sort of works on progress for that matter. Right. So thank you for sharing. That’s right. I want to circle back to Ryan and his growing up and, um, thinking about, uh, Supporting organizations.
I’m wondering what supporting organizations, um, have you relied on you and Linda relied on for Ryan’s development?
Gregg Chalmers: There was a point in time when for whatever surgery Ryan had, I can’t even count them or, I mean, he has been in the hospital so many times to do with some Rochester strong hospital here in Rochester and a young woman.
Young woman. And she’ll hug me for saying that, um, rolled into his room. She was a Paralympic athlete herself rolled into the room and said, this young man would be a great athlete on my team. And we never met her. Never knew her Joanne Armstrong. She was a gold medalist and the Paralympic games back in the sixties.
And she had started a program for you young. Disabled kids too, to participate in wheelchair, sports racing, and track and field. And we, we told her we’d get back to her and Ryan was encouraged. And as soon as we got in the hospital, he said, I want to go. We went and he started participating at eight years old in this, this track and field program that would travel around to regional competitions and so forth.
And what we recognized was Ryan had a very competitive streak. I mean, he was just in his element. He would, when, I mean, I don’t care what it was, whether it was throwing a softball or pushing on the track. If there was somebody next to him pushing faster, Ryan would go back out. When we got home, push up and down our street number mill drive in Churchville New York.
20 times until he knew that he was ready to be the next race and he would, so he had that very competitive streak in nature, and he adored Joanne Armstrong, who was a Paralympian who was a medalist who, who. Had that dynamic, very inspiring, very motivating, very intense focus on her athletes, um, approach to people that he just glowed when she was around.
And I can remember we did a five K race in Churchville New York, and he had just had a spotlight for whatever reason in sports illustrated is this young. Athlete there was excelling in wheelchair sports. So that national attention brought a little local attention to then there was a, I think I still have the recording.
There was a newscaster that came to him and said, what do you want to do with this? You know? And he said, I want to be, he was eight years old. He said, I want to be, I’m going to be. A Paralympian, I’m going to be an Olympian. I’m going to work hard and I’m going to be an Olympian. It was just funny. And we laughed at the time.
I said, that’s okay. He wants to be Joanne Armstrong. But, um, it’s ironic because that’s the path he took. He worked hard. He, he focused, he, he did wheelchair track and field. He did basketball with the register rockets here. It was funny because Linda and I used to drop him off the airport, fly him to Baltimore from Rochester so he can participate in a local that’s the local, if you consider flying to a local team, um, wheelchair basketball team.
And he, he went through regionals and so forth and had the visibility to be spotted by the university of Illinois. To join their team and they tapped him and said, Hey, you have a sports scholarship. And, um, you know, from regional to world competitions, he’s gone to Sydney, Australia, Dublin, Ireland, Johannesburg, South Africa, the London Paralympics, he’s just sports, sports sports
David Hirsch: on sounds like he was driven from a very early age.
And that was very fortuitous that, uh, this, uh, Paralympian Jillian Armstrong rolled into the room and, you know, anointed hammer or touched him in a way that just like sparked that interest.
Gregg Chalmers: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: And he’s literally seeing the world.
Gregg Chalmers: He has
David Hirsch: a, what an amazing story from that perspective. And I think you mentioned while he was at university of Illinois of the basketball team was a two time national collegiate champs.
Gregg Chalmers: And I do have to share with some something with you as a parent, Is we raised Ryan and we raised Joshua and Emily and so forth. Our thought was always that we would always in some way, be involved in his life, supporting him in some way or another financially, or, you know, we’ll bring you here, we’ll bring you there and so forth.
We thought that right up to the time that we brought him to the U of I, and Champaign-Urbana. I can remember when Linda and I, we drove from Rochester, New York, which is about a 12 hour drive. We drove him there and I can remember that when we dropped Ryan off at the end of the sidewalk, cause you can pull the cars up to the dorm room and there was a pretty long sidewalk.
I can still still imagine when we dropped him off. And I can still remember when he finally got us to the front door. And he rolled out the sidewalk from the dorm room to say goodbye to us of the car. I can still remember when Linda and I got in the car, we shut the doors and we didn’t leave. We watched him roll back up the sidewalk and get got to the door and just kind of waved like bye guys.
First time he was away from home. We, we cried for 12 hours driving back from, from Illinois to Rochester. Not because we didn’t know if he couldn’t make it or, or what, but it was almost like it’s a codependency. We’ve raised him. We’ve done everything for him and our son. That’s not our routine anymore.
And, and the funny thing was. That Ryan didn’t come home for nine years. He finished school. He didn’t come home where we thought we would be supporting him and raising him and beaten their decide, and in ticket, taking care of him along the way. He’s the one child that, you know, ran away and didn’t come back.
He’s finally home. But in our case, we always thought that he’d be living with us and we’d be supporting them. And. It turns the other way around. It was tough to get him to come back home.
David Hirsch: That’s a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing.
Gregg Chalmers: What an amazing opportunity to give teens. A physical disabilities is opportunities.
Stay focused, founder, Roger Mueller, to experience a freedom of being in the water and where better to do it. Then in Cayman. Yeah. I started with this organization in 2005, Ryan Chalmers, and really the reason why I’ve been a part of it for so long, 10 years is really because of the passion that I felt right when I came through the program, you know, and also if it really has to do with the people each and every person that has come through this program has become better and has made me better along the way.
And that’s really the reason why I’ve been here for the past 10 years.
David Hirsch: Well, let’s switch gears and talk a little bit about stay focused. Yes. This is a organization that Brian got involved in at a very young age. What is stay focused? What’s the mission of the organization
Gregg Chalmers: stay focused. I would say, you know, Linda, myself and Ryan are very involved in the organization right now.
And I’ll start with that and then reflect on why stay focused. I mean, we met. Roger Mueller. Who’s the founder in the director right now of the organization. He started the organization, um, used to dive with his brother, Bobby, who was, who was a Nobel peace prize winner in it, disabled individual himself through the Vietnam war.
And he said he started this organization of the motivation of, you know, diving with his brother and seeing the beauty of his brother and the water and the poignancy and the lack of barriers and the freedom of movement that diving brought for Bobby. So we started this organization stay focused, which would bring young people with disabilities to grand Cayman with the concept of fostering independence.
And growth and leadership skills and responsibility, the four for young people with disabilities. And I ran into him and I approached them because they heard about it. He had only been running one year at the time. And I said, you know, I heard about your organization and my, my son, Ryan, you know, I, I couldn’t, I didn’t tell him.
I pretended like good swim. I had no clue. I said, my son ran would be a great candidate. No. All I knew it was, you know, I wanted to reach out for Ryan and, and give him my opportunities. And I said, you know, Ryan would be great. Right. Ryan was one that, you know, he was climbing rock walls. He’d do any, you put anything in front of him and he would do it.
So I thought, you know what? If he says, yes, we’ll teach him to swim before he goes, you know? So, um, I approach Roger and Roger met Ryan and they really clicked. And, and Ryan hidden outgoing personality. And Roger talked to him about what the, what the organization was about. And, and he went, you know, at the time Ryan would only eat pizza.
And chicken wings. He was very picky and I was afraid I would be like, I would call Roger as a controlling parent say, Roger, you know, you have to understand Ryan only eats chicken wings and pizza. So make sure you have chicken wings and pizza, or he’ll starve to death before he gets home. So Ryan calls us when he’s down there in grand Cayman and says, Oh, I’m having shrimp on the beach and I’m having my shrimp on the beach.
You don’t need shrimp. So Ryan went down there and he started really engaging and really developing. And if you think, okay, if you think about, you know, of these kids push from the deck to the boat or to the water, through the sand, In a wheelchair or dragging their bodies because they’re walking with their arms or with crutches and slowly getting there and then getting into the water with the buoyancy.
If you equate that almost to the logo, which is like a sea turtle, you know, pulling their themselves through the sand and then getting into the water and having that buoyancy and that beauty of movement, that’s what he experienced. And that’s what he loved. And. Roger after he went through the first program and learned in certified scuba, he took to Ryan so much that he said, Ryan, you want to come back for the first mentor of the program?
You know, how do I keep this kid coming back? Because this kid really loves this and we engage. And we, we, we connected and he said, you know what, let’s start an ambassador program or mentor program. And since that point, um, out of every program, you know, you identify the kids that have these leadership skills and really Excel and bring them back into the mentor program.
But I’m say focus is, I mean, you’re talking right now over 10 years that they’ve been in existence, put over a hundred kids through the program. It is an incredible program that really, really. It brings the confidence and the, you know, kids going back saying, Hey, I’m certified in scuba and experiencing the freedom of movement in the water, the buoyancy and the beauty of movement in the water.
And it’s a profound, profound experience for these kids.
David Hirsch: Well, I love the program. Um, I think I mentioned to you in a previous conversation, I am a scuba diver, uh, another one of the dads in the network, Jim Elliott, uh, super early on when we first got started, uh, has a program called dive heart and been around for 20 plus years.
And they take people who are blind or paraplegics, quadriplegics, almost any type of disability or there’s one person that’s a Quadro amputee that they’ve taken scuba diving, which is like, You know, it’s hard to get your mind around somebody in that situation going scuba diving had a lot of similarities between the two programs and it is transformative, right?
To be doing things that you thought you’d never be able to do. And I do remember you telling me about your first diving experience? Cause Ryan got certified before you did
Gregg Chalmers: that’s right.
David Hirsch: That was a really powerful story. So if you would share that with our listeners as well,
Gregg Chalmers: it’s funny, I’ve only shared it probably twice once in front of an audience and once with you David, but I would say that, um, it’s funny cause I get emotional every time I talk about it.
I went down to grand Cayman. Ryan had done one event or he had done his first time dive and he had done this for union trip down in grand Cayman. And Roger asked him, he took to Ryan only, I think because there is some connection there that with Ryan’s passion and in Rand’s love of diving and. The changes he saw on Ryan.
He, Brian was very introverted. And from the time he went there to the time that he went through the program, there were probably two different people that he got to know. And Roger had asked Ryan to come back down to do a fundraiser, speak at a fundraiser it’s called the dinner of the decades in grand Cayman in Rogers tight.
You know, maybe it might be a little bit dynamic if we brought a parent Greg Ryan’s father down to talk about the changes he’s seen in Ryan. So I said, yeah, I’ll come down. I mean, who wouldn’t pass up a trip to grand Cayman, right? I’ve never been there. So I came down and while we were down there, we had a dinner and so forth, and we were talking about the dinner of the decade.
And then all of a sudden, one of the dive instructors said, you know, Roger and Ryan are going on a dive. I’ve never even go on the stand. Would you like to come on? You know, we can certify you beforehand. We’ve got several days before this event. I said I’d love to. So I went through my certification program and I gained at least the skills enough to be confident enough to go under water with my son and with the dive instructor and experience, you know, get to see my view at the time.
My, my initiative at that time was, you know, I’d love to see Ryan down there. I didn’t care about my own skills, but I’d love to see Ryan underwater. Cause I, I know he loves it so much. And we went and we dove and yeah, it was a little uncomfortable. I, you know, I kind of rush through my skills, you know, I did what I had to do to get certified.
And it was funny because Ryan knew I rushed through my skill and he knew that, you know, it was a little uncomfortable. We rushed through them. Now we’re going out on a dive boat. And we’re going to dive in the deeper water and Ryan kept looking at me, you know, are you okay, dad? I’m like, I’m okay. You know, I’m okay.
And you have, you have a signal underwater with the okay. Sign, like everything. Okay. And I’m like, yep, good. You know what? I’m, I’m looking at Ryan like, okay, I want to see how you do thinking, you know, not knowing what to see. We went into the water. First of all, Ryan did this. Jump off the boat, kind of put your gear on in the water and down, down, that was blew me away.
I was, you know, I’m, I’m used to being the controlling parent protective parents. Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. You know, don’t jump, you know, but I, I backed off in, you know, refrain from my normal, normal hardwire controlling dad. And he went underwater and I went with him and we started diving and. I mean, our dive instructor was wonderful because he kind of let, he, he understood Tony understood that, you know, right here what’s happening.
Is that the dynamic between dad’s seeing son? Yeah. So he kind of led us lead it, even though he was in front and Ryan was such a natural and I was blown away, blown away by. The freedom of movement, the buoyancy, the fluency, the, the, I mean is a dad that watched and experienced a son with a disability that has no real movement between the waist down and always using a chair and trying to navigate through life, whether it be through a mall or through APOE.
Snow curbed sidewalk, trying to find a ramp or whatever, and to see that freedom of moment that was just, just flying there. It was just, all I can say is flying, you know, was so impactful for me that. I’m wearing my mask and I’m just, you know, try and try and keep things in tech,
David Hirsch: lucky they trained you on how to clear your mask when there’s water.
Gregg Chalmers: That’s right.
David Hirsch: Normally like a seawater, but you’re crying so much. Maybe you have to do that.
Gregg Chalmers: That’s right. David and I, and I’m going along and I’m thinking, you know, wow, this is so beautiful. At the same time, we’re starting to go around certain formations of the coral and so forth. And yeah, it was a little discomfort uncomfortable.
And Ryan kept turning to me. And he kept giving me that. Okay, son, dad, you okay. And I could see, and he would float in front of me and he was totally comfortable. Totally. Just like floating in the water and flying and you know, like it was nothing to him. He had no fear, no, no cares in the world. He was just, and I’m just kinda like.
Trying to figure out my buoyancy, you know, I’ve got all this weight, probably 20 pounds of weight in my, in my PC. And I’m trying to go up and down and trying to figure out my buoyancy and worried about my breathing and, and I’m kind of lumping along behind him. And he kept going okay to me. And at one point he was doing it so many times.
I was almost offended. I was like, Ryan, you don’t think I can handle this. I got this. And then as I’m going along, I thought, wow, wow. I’m really taken back by the fact that, you know, I put in to perspective and I’m almost offended by the fact, you know, I love my son, but I’m almost taking when he keeps turning back.
You okay. You okay? Like. He doesn’t have confidence in me. And I often it hit me like a brick in the face that wow. If we reverse roles, we reverse roles. Is this how my son has felt day to day? And. General life when we would be going to the mall and kind of navigating through all these clothes, clothes, racks, as we’re trying to get through JC Penny’s and I’d turn around and say, are you okay?
He’s like, I got it. I got it. But yet I’m turning around every five minutes saying, are you okay? And suddenly the roles are reversed. And I’m like, wow. Is that how you know, is that the impact I have on my child? No every time I turn around or the kids I coach in Rochester rookies, every time we turn around and say, are you okay?
You know, you got this just because, you know, you’re going around a corner of a, a quarrel, you know, and it was very David. It was a very profound moment for me because I thought to myself, I think that was the first time they actually realized that, you know what? Sometimes you just have to step back. And just say, you know what?
You have confidence in yourself. I have confidence in you, and I don’t have to check on you every moment because I understand, you know, the message that sends and the beauty of stay focused in that moment was I recognized at that point in time that when the roles were reversed, My coaching philosophy with Rochester, rookies my relationship with my son in questioning, whether you know, is everything okay?
You know, are you able to do this kind of thing? They’re no different, I’m no different. He’s no different people with disability are no different than anybody else. And if you need help, you ask. But otherwise, Hey. Let’s have fun. Let’s be side by side and I don’t need to check any every two seconds, you know?
So it was a, it was an impacting moment
David Hirsch: and very powerful again, thank you for sharing. I want to talk about two other things before I move on. Um, they both have to do with, um, Ryan
Gregg Chalmers: doing.
David Hirsch: Pushes or events. Right. Um, and I think it was, uh, on behalf of the state focus. So we’re still talking about state focused.
The first was push across Cayman, which is a modest. Experience because Cayman is only like 20 miles long, maybe eight miles high. Um, and it’s sort of a circuitous little thing. And then a another event, uh, that, that was sort of preparation for us. So just briefly, what is push across gamut, but what was it
Gregg Chalmers: push across?
Came in date. They started to kind of be an opening to Brian’s push cross America, and I have to go to push across America before I talked to Paul. Bush cross came in because it’s kind of a preface Ryan and Roger, Roger had approached Ryan at some point in time, financially stay focused was trying to figure out, you know, how do we sustain this?
And Roger had asked Ryan, you know, what, what can we do as a fundraiser and so forth? And Roger said, you know, what about, you know, push across Burke. And Ryan Ryan said to Roger, you know, if that could raise money for stay focused, I’ll do it. So he, he committed to pushing cross the United States of America, you know, 3,100 miles solo by himself, um, to raise money for stay focused.
But they thought that, you know, there was a lot of visibility. A lot of, you know, one way to drum up support would be to push across, came in first, which is 26 miles. So they did that first and they’ve done that ever since every year, since, so push across America.
David Hirsch: As I remember, it was a 71 day 3,100 plus mile.
Gregg Chalmers: That’s rush
David Hirsch: from LA to New York city. Right. And, uh, he lived, he lived to tell the story.
Gregg Chalmers: He lived to tell the story, his mother and father almost did not, but he did.
David Hirsch: That’s quite an accomplishment.
Gregg Chalmers: It is an accomplishment. He rolled Ryan made the Paralympic games and he had done the Paralympic games in, in London, England, and it was beautiful.
And it was so funny. David, I’ll have to tell you stare at the skin, some pictures of Ryan when he was really young and send them to this organization for a. Honored they’re going to do for Ryan. And they handed me the codec picture here a half here. And they said, you know, it’s really cool. He’s like seven years old, he’s holding a trophies and racing wheelchair.
And if you flip it over, it’s the Kodak paper with the Olympic signs on the back. Oh my gosh. You know, I said, that’s so ironic because at that age he said, I want to. Be a Paralympian and he, he strived to do that. And he went to the Paralympic games in London, England. And when he came out of that and Linda and I went there and we brought our daughter Emily there, when we went there, the community.
Press the, if they filled out the entire stadium of 80,000 people at the opening and closing ceremonies and the presence there, Ryan did the marathon there on the streets, which is aligned with a million people. Then when he came off of that and he said, you know what? We need to bring. This awareness, this support, this Paralympic movement to the United States.
And that’s where he started jumping on this push across America to bring awareness and in the U S for the abilities of people with disabilities he began his journey in Los Angeles. Covering an average of 60 miles each day, we caught up with him during a scheduled rest stop in New Jersey. What’s the message you hope to set up with this trip.
It really is just never give up, stay focused, find your reason, find your passion, you know, set goals for yourself and really just go out and achieve. He committed to it. Lyndon and I flew to LA. LA life had his, I don’t know if anybody’s ever been to LA live, but there’s mega screens and so forth there.
They hit his pictures all over there. The media was all there. They, they did this big launch that he went off on and Linda and I ran my wife and I ran down this corner street to watch him continue to go when he took off. And all of a sudden we walk over there. We run over there. And Brian Sila, we’re going down this unclosed street with all these cars, the rest of the team isn’t there.
We’re like, Oh no, we’re, you know, why is he by himself? You know? And finally through traffic and everything, they caught up with it and pulled it together. But, um, is a parent and you launch your child. Child to do 3,100 miles across country and not going to be able to see them again until they reach you have their end in New York city.
It was, we probably did as many miles going back and forth across the finish line as he did pushing cross country. Um, just because we were pacing back and forth. Wondering what was going on is going through death Valley and through, you know, the only wheelchair individual pushing with. Three cars following behind them, um, along this journey and to know his heart, his dedication, his commitment, and his passion for why he was doing this, um, was heart wrenching.
And I will tell you as parents, we questioned, you know, the impact on his body and non his health. Um, he needs his arms. He needs his shoulders. He needs his, his, his joints to get through life because his arms are his mobility and we questioned his parents. You know, whether this was going to take a toll on, you know, his, his, um, physical.
Means of transport going forward in life and whether what could compromise that versus the commitment he was making. But he was determined this, you know, more important than any consequence and we supported them,
David Hirsch: you know, I think it’s wonderful. Uh, you may remember that, uh, I did something sort of crazy, uh, Three, not quite four years ago, I did this dad’s honor ride.
And you know, for me telling people, I was going to ride a bicycle, uh, from LA to Chicago, sort of the old route 66, which turns out to be like 2300 miles in 21 days, 112 miles a day, I was the least likely person to be doing that. And, uh, it’s like, God touches you and puts this. Inside you. And it’s like, you know, never doubt a man on a mission.
And that’s what I heard you saying about Ryan’s drive and commitment to be completing that. So that’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing.
So I’m wondering what role spirituality has played in your lives.
Gregg Chalmers: Wow. I mean, even as myself as a young child and my family, I was always raised in faith. I was always raised to believe I was always raised that positive thinking is a powerful, powerful path forward. Um, and, and positive thinking, being faith equate, passive thinking to, to faith.
Um, I see, I have not had a more faithful moment than the day of Ryan’s birth. As I said, when I, I was trying to question what to pray for when Ryan was born. And I was told he wouldn’t make it through the night. And if he did, it would be 16 years. I didn’t know what to pray for, but there was something in my life and Linda speaks to the scene that just kind of opened up and said, you know what?
There’s a hand on your shoulder and there’s a guidance in your heart that leads me to believe and leave me to feel and leaves me to unquestion the fact that there’s a higher being, being in my mind, my faith and my love and my. And my full belief in Jesus Christ that there’s no question in our minds that there’s been a significant influence in a significant role.
Uh, faith and our upbringing and our raising of our children and our, our path forward.
David Hirsch: That’s wonderful. Thank you. So, um, I’m curious to know, why did you agree to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Gregg Chalmers: I will say one thing a front, and I asked you before this recording, you know, what is your mission?
Here is 21st century dads is a father. When Ryan was first born, I can remember the seeking and asking the doctors for resources, um, to help us navigate through what we’ve been handed. I can remember being a very young, the young parent with a. Child already and trying to understand, you know, what this means, who do we go to?
And, and bear in mind that Lyndon and I were in the military, we were away from family. We were away from friends. We were way away from resources that you would normally lean on. What means the most to me is I can reflect, I can reflect, I can reflect a March 14th. 1989 when Ryan was born and I can reflect on how lost I felt.
I wasn’t, I did not hit my wife at my side. I knew I had a child with disability. I was told by the surgeon that Ryan was going to make it, he was going to have the healthy life and, and not to worry about, you know, his duration of life, but focus on his quality of life. And I can remember the point in time, where do I turn?
How do I understand? What do I learn? There’s something about a network that really brings home. A connection that that can hit the heart that can really answer questions and they can really support you in the things that mean the most in your life. When something like a special needs child hit you out of the left field, you know, nothing prepared you for that, your, your schooling, your education, your, your upbringing.
Especially, if you haven’t had exposure to a child with special needs in your, your history, doesn’t prepare you for that. So what interested me in this particular organization is that, wow. If I, if I can provide insight or. If others can provide, wow. I put myself back to, you know, March 14, 19, 1989, and I thought, what impact would this head at?
Find me? I would have been the first one online. I would have been the first one reaching out because. I was lost. I was, I was a soul that was floundering on what a young man that was going to school, you know, working two jobs, trying to provide for my family and trying to be a great father. Could do. To provide the best I could.
And at that point in time, I had nobody to turn to, um, in 99 and today with the internet and with social media and with networks. What more powerful resource can you provide for a parent in my circumstance at that point in time, then. An organization like this, that can, that can connect you with people that have already been that path that can listen to your concerns that can share your heart.
And that can turn, you know, an emotional, heartbreaking situation to a positive forward influence.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, I love it. Thank you. Um, thank you for being part of the network. We’re thrilled to have you, um, let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, Roger Mueller, founder of state focus for introducing us.
Gregg Chalmers: He’s he’s a great man. He’s gonna make, you know, a change in many people’s lives and he already has God bless.
David Hirsch: Yup. Amen.
Gregg Chalmers: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: So is there anything else that you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Gregg Chalmers: No. Um, I would only say David, that I really appreciate this opportunity to share my experience. I was not skeptical.
I was leper handsome going into it because it’s not every day that you share your heart with others, but I appreciate, you know, the ability to open up my heart, my experience to anybody else that goes through the same circumstances, the same path I have in life and, and helping any way I can. Thank you.
David Hirsch: So Greg, if somebody wants to get involved or get information on, stay focused or contact you for that matter, how would they go about doing that?
Gregg Chalmers: Stay focused as Facebook contact and also they can reach out to www.Stay-focusedout.org stay, and they can reach us there.
David Hirsch: Greg, thank you for your time.
And many insights. As a reminder, Greg is just one of the dads who has agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with custody. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation, your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org, Greg.
Gregg Chalmers: Thank you, David.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. 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, go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a 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: 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. Thanks for listening.