Dad to Dad 57 – Tim Kuck, co-founder of Nathaniel’s Hope, named after his son who passed away at age 4
Tim Kuck: There was a nurse that was standing over my son’s bed. And she says, there’s something about this boy, there’s just something about this boy. She says, can I pray for you? And we were like, you know, we’re, we’re kind of spiritually bankrupt, emotionally bankrupt, trying to care for a son. And so she prays for us, but she never really pray for it that he’d be healed and go home.
She prayed that his purpose would be fulfilled. And I thought what an odd prayer for this little boy who doesn’t walk or talk or eat with his mouth,
David Hirsch: it sounds like it was prophetic or some foreshadowing.
Tim Kuck: Well, that is sure what we believe. That’s special father Tim cook. Tim not only builds boats. He’s the COO of Regal Moraine, but he’s also a special father to three children, including Nathaniel who passed away at age four due to multiple birth anomalies.
Tom Couch: In this dad to dad podcast, Tim talks of the journey he and his wife Marie have taken, including the formation of Nathaniel’s hope, a charity that celebrates kids with special needs. Here’s our 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 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. As David Hirsch talks to special father Tim Kuck,
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend, Tim cook of Belle, isle, Florida, a father of three children and a business owner. Tim, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the special fathers network.
Tim Kuck: Well, it’s privileged to join you today.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Marie had been married for 29 years and are the proud parents of three children, daughter, Brianna 26, Ashley 24 and son Nathaniel born in June, 1997.
And who passed away in 2001 at age four, as a result of multiple birth anomalies, including du Dono, Artesia and cranio. Gnosis, let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Tim Kuck: I grew up mostly here in Florida though. I, uh, was born in Ohio and spent eight years in, uh, Wisconsin, right outside of Madison, Wisconsin in a place called Evansville that moved down to Florida.
Our family did, uh, when I was 11. So I’ve been in Florida in central Florida since I was 11. So that would put me at like 50 years in central Florida.
David Hirsch: So not a native Floridian, but a Florida guy through and through,
Tim Kuck: I would say so I would say so when my mom and dad moved to Florida, because they knew they were going to retire in Florida.
And my dad wanted to start his own business. And so at the age of 39, he took his life savings along with investments from two other dear friends of his and started a boat company called Regal boats. And this is our 50th year. That we’re celebrating the boat company that mom and dad started in 1969.
Introducing the Regal 42 grand coupe boasting an all new open air atrium and the most innovative luxury in nearly 50 years of boating excellence. The 42 grand coupe is truly in a class.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So did you have siblings growing up, Tim?
Tim Kuck: Yes. I have siblings. I have a brother who’s three years older.
And so he would be 65 almost. I think he is 65. And then, uh, I have a sister who was a couple years younger would be 59. So our family was a family of five.
David Hirsch: How would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Tim Kuck: A very good to excellent. I had the privilege. My dad went to heaven in 2006 and my mom did in 2005.
I had the privilege though, up until that time of working with him in the family business and family business can be a challenge. Anybody that’s in one or as participated in one I’m sure would kind of echo that. But, uh, you know, I believe that they can be as good as they can be bad. And I was privileged to work for a dad that gave us a lot of, a lot of room and really encouraged us.
To, uh, develop and grow. He D he was not a dad who was about control and so had a very, very good relationship in the business and a great relationship outside the business. So privileged to have a dad that, uh, I would say gave me the blessing.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous.
Tim Kuck: Being encouraged by that. He gave that to me verbally and in other ways written word and things like that.
So a great, really a great role model as a dad.
David Hirsch: That’s wonderful. Um, I’m wondering if there’s an important lesson or something that you learned that always comes to mind. When you think about your dad.
Tim Kuck: Dad was a man of integrity. He was a man of principle and conviction, and he was a man of faith. And so he, uh, he lived his faith through daily life.
And whether that was at work or outside of work in the community, He lived that to this day, I will run into people that knew my dad and say, let me tell you about my relationship with your dad and really just way cool. You know? And so I was blessed to have that and still have that today, both my memory and my experience, but also people in the community telling me about how they experienced that.
And so a really tremendous blessing.
David Hirsch: That’s pretty powerful. Thank you for sharing. Is there anything else that comes to mind when you think about your dad
Tim Kuck: and incredible work ethic? I often say that other than really pointing me to the gospel of Jesus Christ and living a life of integrity, his work ethic was just phenomenal and he, uh, taught us how to work at an early age.
I went to work when I was 13. At the boat factory probably earlier than most kids, but I am so thankful for the way that they, uh, help guide me, even though I didn’t appreciate it at necessarily. At the time when my friends, friends were playing, I, I was having to go to work, but we taught me a great work ethic.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, if I could summarize the gospel, a life of integrity and a work ethic, and if that’s all you took away, those are three blessings.
Tim Kuck: For sure. For sure.
David Hirsch: So I’m wondering, um, if one or both of your grandfathers played an important role in your life from your dad’s dad and then your mom’s dad?
Tim Kuck: My dad’s dad died early.
I was only, I believe eight years old when he passed high was the first death that I really experienced and he lived in Ohio. So didn’t have a very close relationship with him. My mom’s dad, another German, actually I think like a second generation German, tremendous work ethic. He, uh, helped out in the early years of our business and was instrumental in, in helping new, various things at the boat company and incredible worker.
And, um, him and his wife were always there kind of for mom and dad. And for us as grandchildren, they moved actually from Ohio to Florida to be with us. Oh,
David Hirsch: wow. Well, I’m not everybody gets to know their grandparents. Like you said, your dad’s dad died when you were quite young, but it sounds like you got to know your mom’s dad, your maternal grandfather as not only a young guy, but into adulthood as well.
Tim Kuck: Yes, very much so.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s something we have in common, Tim is that my maternal grandfather was my father figure growing up. I knew him from one perspective as a young guy growing up. And then I got to know him as an adult, as a business person. The blessing, at least in my life was that he lived to age 93 and he died when I was 48, literally 18 years ago a day.
Doesn’t go by that. I don’t think about him and, you know, think about how important a role instrumental role that he played. So again, thanks for sharing.
Tim Kuck: Wow.
David Hirsch: Did anyone else serve as a father figure while you’re growing up in addition to your dad and your maternal grandfather?
Tim Kuck: I grew up working in the business and there was a Cuban who, um, I affectionately call my, my Padre Cubana.
I’m probably destroying.
And he grew up with me in the business and we were, we were, he was 20 years my senior, but, um, we ended up being great friends and he was very instrumental in teaching me the boat business. He grew up building boats and. Ended up being a really good friend and a man that I grew to love and I loved him and he loved me.
And there was that unconditional love that was there on a different plane in a different way than my existing dad. He, his hand prints will always be upon my heart.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s very nice. That’s not very common either that you have that type of relationship with a non family member.
Tim Kuck: Well, I’m thankful for it.
And he passed a few years ago and, um, Was a moving time for me, because I was saying goodbye to really the only other person in that generation that it was kind of intimately close with.
David Hirsch: Okay. So, um, my recollection was that you went to college, but, uh, that wasn’t the path for you.
Tim Kuck: I, um, so our business was very young at the time.
We barely made it through the 1973 oil embargo. I graduated high school in 76 and began to go to college kind of part time and work working 40 hours a week. Probably never have been super inclined towards the academic kind of education. And so I poured myself left school and went to work in the business and kind of grew up in the business.
We kind of grew like a weed from kind of 76, up to 88. And it was a real exciting, I would say season in my life and in our, in the business.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, you have a lot in common with super successful people like bill Gates or Steve jobs for that matter. Right. You know, they don’t have college degrees, they have honorary degrees, but, uh, you know, it’s not the path for everybody.
Uh, even though as parents, we want to encourage our kids to. You know, develop their intellectual curiosity and, you know, challenge themselves academically, but let’s recognize the fact that not everybody’s wired the same way and the circumstances are different for that matter as well.
Tim Kuck: Right. Right. Well, I will take the comparison between me and bill Gates.
That works okay for me. No, I don’t have any honorary degree.
David Hirsch: so, uh, let’s switch gears. I’m sorta curious to know how did you and Maria?
Tim Kuck: I was in my late twenties and a pastor friend of ours here in Orlando. Had told me that, Hey, I’ve got this girl that I used to know from Chicago that was at our church in Chicago and she’s coming down and I would love for you to meet her.
She’s a widow. Her husband died of Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 24. And so he made an introduction. The significance of the introduction though, was it was 1988. I just came back from my first short term missions trip. Where God really broke my heart in a way that hadn’t been broken before the missionary, his with called it this way.
Born again again. And, and so I went through this kind of, I’ll say the spiritual transformation to a place that was a new place for me. It was on the way home from that mission experience that this pastor said, Hey, how about next Thursday coming over Marie? And I didn’t think. Just a whole lot about it, but met her that next Thursday and got together again the next day with the pastor and his family by the grace of God.
When I got back from that trip, my dad had made plans for me to go to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to go through its three day training. We were opening a new plant, a new Coke plant in Tennessee, and he wanted me to go through this three day training. And I’d never been in Minneapolis before in my life, but at the end of July, I was in Minneapolis and that’s where my wife lived.
Wow. God cares about the details. So he orchestrated that trip and the timing so I could meet Marie and the church she went to, she was on staff at a church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a large church. She replaced her husband as youth, pastor after he passed. And so. We courted for a year and four months, and then we’re married in the year.
And the day we got married was the day she moved to Orlando. Wow. So it was a long distance relationship, but had a lot of, a lot of fun associated with it, actually.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. You can only look backwards and connect those dots, right. It’s a pretty amazing story. So thankful. Thank you for sharing.
So let’s talk about the boat. Business just a little bit, just because it’s played such a central role in not only your life, but multigenerational. I now, so it’s Regal Marine. It’s a boat manufacturing company. From what I remember in our prior conversations, you’d mentioned you manufacture boats that are 19 to 53 feet long, and you’re the COO and EVP of that business.
Uh, what else? Can you tell me about the business?
Tim Kuck: Well, currently just a couple adjustments for what you just said. We actually built 19 to 42 feet. Now we’re not building a 50 any longer. And I am executive vice president. I was COO for a good portion of my life and recently stepped out of that role to, uh, contribute in some other ways in the business and actually to create a little bit of white space for myself.
We’ll we’ll build a little better. In 2000 boats this year, we ship to over 50 countries around the world. We employ 750 people at two different plants, 650 people in Orlando, and about a hundred people in Valdosta currently. And we have about 650,000 square feet of facility. Back in the early nineties, when we went through a recession and H w Bush said no new taxes, we ended up with a luxury tax on boats, and it was a very difficult time for us.
And we went without pay for nine months. We said never again, that could family went without pay, and we’re not going to do that anymore. And there’s a proverb that says the debtor will become servant to the lender. And so we, uh, we were experiencing that and we said, well, we’d prefer not to do that. So in the late nineties, that free and we’ve been debt free since then in this last downturn in 2008, that was incredibly difficult.
It could have been a lot worse or thankful to be very well established as a family run privately held company. We are among a, uh, a decreasing minority of family held companies in our industry that have any kind of size, but we feel like we’re stewards of the business that God has called us. And we got a five, uh, five point mission statement, which says with God’s help, which means this is not about us.
It’s really about him. And we’re dependent on him and, uh, and steadfast commitment to integrity. Doing the right thing, the right way, we’ll develop an exceptional team of people and relationships because relationships are the only thing that have a chance of being eternal. We’ll provide exceptional customer satisfaction.
So that’s our mission statement that we’ve had for a little better than the 20 years. And so it’s our endeavor to really honor God with what we do personally and corporately. And so what we try to do that through the boat.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So, uh, out of curiosity, where did the name Regal
Tim Kuck: come from? You know, as I recall, my mom and dad were looking literally through a world book encyclopedia, and it was, I believe from that world book, they, I think, uh, drew out the name among other names and they ended up choosing Regal.
David Hirsch: Well, it sounds very classy. Like as in a Regent or aristocratic. Yes. I don’t know if that’s intentional, but it has that sort of feel or sound to it.
Tim Kuck: Yeah, I think very much so. And I think much better than cook craft,
David Hirsch: you know,
Tim Kuck: craft crashes.
David Hirsch: Wonderful. Well, um, let’s talk about the special needs community first on a personal level and then beyond.
So before Nathaniel’s birth, did you and Marie have any connection to the special needs
Tim Kuck: community? You know, I would say almost none. I remember vividly even going back 30 plus years, maybe 40 years. And I’d have this sense of guilt when I would perhaps see a person, perhaps an adult that was disabled. I just had this guilt and I actually kind of went to God with it at one point.
And I feel like God said, I don’t want you to feel guilty. I want you to feel grateful. And out of that, gratefulness, I want you to, to kind of give yourself away, honor me with you, giving yourself away. And so I never had any direct connection of any significance and neither did my wife.
David Hirsch: Okay. So what was it like when you got the diagnosis or how did things transpire with Nathaniel?
Tim Kuck: Well, uh, I would say at about somewhere in that vicinity of say 24, 26 weeks of pregnancy, that was a concern that came up when we had a sonogram done and the parent ecologists, which is baby doctor for the baby, that’s in the womb, shared some concern. And so we had an amniocentesis done, not that we would consider abortion, but we just try and understand the circumstances and whether there was a chromosome issue related to our son or not.
And I remember the day we got the phone call. From our pediatrician that said the chromosome test all came out normal. And I remember my wife crying and crying and crying out of happiness that there wasn’t any known concern. I was pretty stoic and I don’t know why, but I, I actually feel like God kind of said, Hey, hang on.
You gotta, you got a rough ride ahead. I mean, that’s kinda what I felt. And matter of fact, even previous to that, In December, my son was born on June six, but in December I told my wife, I felt like there was a storm coming and didn’t know what it was, but just that there was a storm coming. So the test came out normal.
But a few days prior to our son’s birth, there were concerns related to some negative gram rods in the amniotic fluid or something like that. That showed there was a problem. And in addition to that, because the dual Dino, our Trecia, he wasn’t processing amniotic fluid, like they normally would, a baby would normally would.
And so my wife’s belly was huge at 32 weeks. She was like at 40 weeks. And so they had to take a needle. And draw out fluid, amniotic fluid to remove some of the tension of rebellious. So we knew something was wrong. We just didn’t really know what the baby was taken by. C-section at about 32 weeks, our son’s lungs weren’t completely developed.
Andy had other challenges which required him to be in NICU for 89 days before coming home. Wow.
David Hirsch: That sounds like a very trying experience, right? Not only before the birth, but as a result of the birth to spend the better part of three months in the hospital,
Tim Kuck: I would, uh, I would say it was the most difficult season of our life.
Even though there were many quite frankly difficult seasons to follow, but it was an incredibly difficult season because he had multiple surgeries to try to rectify a blockage that was in his dual denim. And then, um, he also ended up getting a hernia when he came home. He never ate with his mouth. So he had a G tube that was required for feeding.
So when he came home, we had his nursery was like a little hospital room because he was on an Ivy. He was on oxygen. Cause his lungs hadn’t fully developed. He had a GI too. He had a heart monitor. And so we had to kind of care for him with those things going on. And it was, it was an intense situation. And my wife.
Marie did an incredible job as a mom, caring for us and would literally sleep on the floor beside his crib to do her best to care for you.
David Hirsch: Wow. Well, my heart reaches out to the two of you just for that part of the experience. And when was it that the cranio stenosis was diagnosed?
Tim Kuck: Well, uh, I would say about nine months or a year into his life.
There were questions about his development because he was behind way behind in development and his head shape was not what would be considered normal. It was maybe just a little bit combed though, that there was no way to confirm that he had craniosynostosis. But if he did have craniosynostosis, it would prevent the brain from fully developing.
And that’s basically the skull plates growing together. Prematurely is craniosynostosis. So he, we had two surgeries in Orlando and then when he was about three years old and they literally go in and cut the skull so that the plate separate. And then we had surgery in Dallas, Texas with it team in that particular case.
And this was when, when he was about three years old and the surgery went well, but he ended up getting pneumonia and he ended up being in ICU for almost 11 days. And then when he rolled out of ICU, there was a nurse that was standing over my son’s bed and she says, there’s something about this boy.
There’s just something about this boy. And we get talking and she’s of like faith and she says, can I pray for you? And we were like, you know, we’re, we’re kind of spiritually bankrupt, emotionally bankrupt, physically bankrupt, you know, just trying to care for a son. And so she prays for us, but she doesn’t really pray for that.
He would be healed and go home. She prayed that his purpose would be fulfilled. And I thought what an odd prayer for this little boy who doesn’t walk or talk or are eat with his mouth, but took note of, of the prayer and then kind of know, went on with life.
David Hirsch: It sounds like it was prophetic or some foreshadowing to what transpired from that point.
Tim Kuck: Well, that is sure what we believe. We believe that God in his grace gave us. A glimpse though. We didn’t understand it at the time of maybe what our assignment would be, uh, after his death.
David Hirsch: Wow. So was there some advice that you got during Nathaniel’s life early on that helped you Emory
Tim Kuck: and well, we got all kinds of advice.
The best advice we got was probably from our pediatrician who joined us. About a year and our son’s journey, because we had been told by a pulmonologist that we needed a sign. I do not resuscitate a DNR. And this pulmonologist approached my wife to get this thing signed without me present without any conversation.
And our pediatrician, we called our pediatrician and he said, forget that. He said, you got, he’s got no business, you know, encouraging you to do that. You know, your son is really on, in God’s hand and on his timetable. And it’s too early to be making decisions to sign a DNR. And it’s not saying that you’ve never signed a DNR, but it was not.
Our son was not in that stage. Matter of fact, at, during one of his surgeries for craniosynostosis he coded. And if we would’ve had that DNR sign, he wouldn’t have been resuscitated. Wow. And so anyways, he encouraged us that in a sense that there’s there’s value in life and that there’s value in even the suffering that goes along with life and that God will reveal himself through that and shape your character and your heart during the process.
And so we were encouraged to, you know, walk it out. It’s going to be hard, but God is faithful.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well that. Story that you were relating about this pediatrician who spoke up, spoke out and maybe on like a lot of doctors was saying that there’s certain things you have control over and certain things you don’t have control over, and it’s not really your decision.
Right. That’s what I heard you say about the do not resuscitate decision. It’s a very powerful statement about the value of life. And the suffering, because we all want to avoid pain and suffering, but that’s not unavoidable. And I think it’s through the pain and suffering that we learn a lot about ourselves and about life and what’s important.
And I think it goes without saying that that no doubt was part of your Murray’s experience as well.
Tim Kuck: It was incredibly painful at times. But I, I looking back on it, I believe that that God shaped our character through those experiences and that he also revealed his character sure. Through those experiences.
And there’s just no denying the reality of pain and suffering in life. And though we wish it weren’t. So it is a reality. And so I believe that trial and times of difficulty and suffering with God will produce a character that is more like him, more like the character of God, if we embrace those circumstances with God as part of the process.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I’m wondering at the risk of focusing on the negative. What were some of the biggest challenges that you encountered during Nathaniel’s life?
Tim Kuck: Well, there were numerous, but I will share a couple of them here. One of them early in his life, actually less than two months after he was out of the hospital, he acquired pneumonia and we took him into the hospital to have it diagnosed.
And we saw pulmonologists. They did x-rays and the x-rays revealed that his ribs were cracked and they come out and they tell us that he had pneumonia and they were going to treat it, but his ribs are crack and we’re going to need a, send the HRS at the time to your home. And we’re going to need to notify the, uh, child protection team at the hospital.
Because we’re concerned that you basically abuse your baby and we’re like, what? How could this possibly happen? And they let us, they wanted to keep our son at the hospital, but we convinced him we can take them home and you’ll be safe an hour after we are home. There’s someone from HRS to interview Maria and I, and our two daughters.
David Hirsch: Oh, my God.
Tim Kuck: And the interview all went well and she didn’t believe anything was wrong, but we took our son to the hospital the next day. And they said, no, you can’t, you can’t have your son. Oh my
David Hirsch: God.
Tim Kuck: He’s got to stay here until we get approval through the HRS that you’re okay. And we were like, you gotta be kidding me.
We’ve been we’ve. We’ve. We have given our life to taking care of our son. What we believe happened was that there’s something called CPT. It’s where you, you Pat, or you, you, you kind of clap the chest to break up mucus. It’s in the lungs. And this is commonly done with respiratory nurses at the hospital and the breaks were actually feeling.
So there wasn’t something that happened within the last week or two or even last month, but we believe it actually happened at the hospital when he was in the hospital. That’s what my Maria and I believe to this day. But in order to get clear of this accusation, because we were going to be listed on a list for child abuse.
Now, our son was only five months old and weighed four and a half pounds. Or not even four and a half pounds, we got an attorney. Then we got another attorney, the right attorney, if you will. And with basically an investment, we got to a place that we found the right person that could represent us properly so that we would not be on a child abuse list.
And we can take our son home. We met the director of the HRS on a Halloween night in 1997. And he, you told them that we wanted to take, we wanted to have our son and we wanted him to be home. And he kind of, kind of suggested, I said, it requires 24 seven care. And he kind of said that he didn’t have resources to take care of our kid.
And in my mind, I’m thinking I’m going to get him home and we’re going to Mexico. You know, I’m thinking, how could anybody think about taking my son away from me? It was just so painful and I felt so violated. And so that was incredibly difficult circumstance that happened then later on, I found myself being apathetic.
And for any dads out there that find themselves in a place where you kind of come numb to things in life, I found myself there and I just didn’t seem to really care what happened. Makes no sense, but this is where I was. And I have this analogy that came to me once I kind of broke out of it is I was traveling.
I’m traveling down the road in life and I see a sign that says fuel five miles, a place called Africa. And I pull into this place called apathy to get fuel. It’s dark, it’s cloudy. It’s cold. I can’t hardly see two blocks down the road. There’s no visibility. It’s lonely. It’s fearful. And I’m in this place.
I’m saying, well, this place isn’t so bad. Maybe, maybe I want to get real estate here. Maybe I want to move here to this place called apathy. And I find myself being content in this place called apathy. And then by the grace of God, And only by the grace of God, I climbed back in my car and get back on the road.
And I see a sign that says a place called hope 10 miles place called hope. I pull into a place called hope. It’s unlimited visibility, a place of unlimited possibilities, a place of potential, a place of faith, not a place of fear. And I went through this, this, this season of maybe it was six months, maybe nine months.
I don’t recall exactly where I was kind of wallow. And then it’s in this apathy because we would get kind of negative report after negative report. And the little boy that we were looking for progression was making very little progress. It wasn’t, you know, he wasn’t eating with his mouth. He couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk.
And, but by the grace of God, I went to a place called home. And that place called home is a place of power and it’s a place of possibilities. And so instead of being in this place of, I’ll say loneliness and fear, go to a place, open possibilities. And that was a significant event that happened in my life personally.
And I kind of credit the grace of God because I wasn’t, I didn’t flip any switch and I didn’t read any particular book, but it was very tangible, very real. And though my circumstances didn’t change my attitude and perspective on life. Did. And probably because of that is why we’re on this podcast today, because I probably wouldn’t be here doing this.
And who knows may not even be married. Wouldn’t have, if I wouldn’t have left that place called Appetit to a place called
David Hirsch: hope and well, that’s a remarkable story. The visual images that go along with being on the road and pulling over and sort of seeing where you’re at. And then being able to somehow see beyond that and get to a different place from apathy to hope is sort of like a paradigm shift.
And it’s something that not everybody can make that shift. And I don’t know if there is a way to help somebody get from point a to point B like you did, but we’re thrilled to have you as part of the special fathers network. I’m just relating your story, I think is something that many men, no doubt will be able to relate to and remind people that, you know, if you are stuck, right, if you feel like you, aren’t where you want to be or should be that there’s some alternatives and it’s gonna take a little something different for everybody to get from being in that dark, lonely.
Place to be able to see some lights and to have a better experience. There are a lot of twists and turns along the road, and I’m just thrilled that you are able to find your way somehow some way, even though it sounds like it was a pretty gloomy period of time, a six or nine month period of time, you had mentioned that there were some other challenges that was a huge one being accused of child abuse.
And somehow moving past that, was there something else that comes to mind to him that you and Marie found
Tim Kuck: challenging? Well, it’s, uh, it was a very difficult season for our marriage because are the focus was on caring for a son. And so it was, um, put a lot of stress on our marriage and we, we found ourselves, he had a total of seven surgeries and the surgeries were always.
A point of surrender because we knew that they could, could die in the surgery that was challenging. And then unexpectedly on November 13, 2001, he died of a cardiac arrest and we didn’t even know that he had a heart condition or a concern there, but he was diagnosed as having a cardiac arrest. And he went from earth to heaven without our permission.
And that rocked our world. And we went through a season of, we knew that we were called, it was at that time that we felt like we’re stewards of that life that God has given us. And we’re stewards of the circumstances that we had lived for four and a half years, and we need to apply it to life. And that we’re really in the classroom.
We were in the classroom. Kind of with God being taught and now we need to apply it to life. We just didn’t know how so we knew that at the time it was at that time that we remember the prayer of that nurse, that his purpose would be fulfilled. And there’s a quote by a philosopher, a paraphrase quote that says we live life forward, but we understand life backwards.
We live life forward, but we understand life backwards, Soren, Kierkegaard. And that’s how we felt. We began to understand that this wasn’t the end. It was really the beginning and that we need to apply what we’ve learned to life and that we needed to pull alongside other families. When I told the folks at Regal boats that while our son was alive, that I, that I feel like I have these five F’s.
I have faith. Friends, family finances and flexibility, and we’re barely making it. We’re barely making it. I’ve got these five F’s and we’re barely making it. What about people that have two apps or three apps? How are they making? And, um, so we felt that after our son’s death, that we need to try to pull onside families that might have two F’s or three F’s.
And that’s when we started Nathaniel. Oh, wow.
David Hirsch: Well, I’d like to talk about that a little bit. Um, but I want to just go backwards one or two steps. I’m wondering what impact Nathaniel’s situation has had on the girls, Brianna and Ashley, as well as your extended family.
Tim Kuck: That’s a really good question. Our, our girls were young at the time, actually six and eight when our son died, but they were impacted with his life and with his death.
With his life, our, our world evolved around caring for assigned and anything we did. He was the first thing we needed to consider in how we were going to handle what we were going to do. And so that required a lot of focus and attention, attention towards him and at times not attention towards them. So it was influence there.
They might’ve feel cheated on, uh, on occasion of getting the attention of particularly their mom. So they might’ve felt like he was always in competition though. They loved him dearly and express that love. There was the reality of that. And then at the time of his death, he was in my wife’s arms. I was actually traveling.
I was at a church in Southern Illinois at a missions conference. I hardly ever traveled. But my wife was up with my son all night. He was sick again with respiratory concerns and he died in my wife’s arms. And my oldest daughter was there when they were the PMTs were trying to resuscitate my son. And that impacted my oldest daughter to the point that she’s a, a, a counselor today.
I has her master’s in counseling and is working with specifically children that have experienced trauma. That is her focus on working just with children and teenagers with experienced trauma. So I would say in both my daughters that influenced them in my oldest daughter, I can put my finger specifically on how it affected her.
And in hindsight, we should have. Acquired counseling for our family after our son’s death. And we didn’t do that. And I would recommend counseling to help kind of unpack what had transpired so that you can be the healthiest you can be as you walk through the grieving process, both as an adult and for kids.
David Hirsch: will thank you for sharing. It sounds like a traumatic experience. Picture that I have in my mind, a Murray there, you’re out of the picture, just temporarily traveling and having this all come down and how challenging it must’ve been as the mom with your son and your arms and your oldest daughter, you know, sort of at your side drama and the trauma of it all.
And, um, it’s just heartbreaking, you know, when I stop and think about it and, um, It, it just seems overwhelming. I don’t know what else to say other than wow. Uh, your family has been through a lot and I guess the blessing, one of the blessings is instead of just internalizing that experience and moving on, you know, focusing on your two daughters and making the most of the situation and investing in them, you know, you felt a different colleague, even Marie did.
To, uh, establish, uh, this organization called Nathaniel’s hope and his memory. And it wasn’t long thereafter, right? It was in 2001 that he passed and up. I remember it was the following year that you created the organization. What, what was it that transpired or what was it that led to that decision?
Tim Kuck: Well, we had, we had already established a five Oh one C3 cause we had a short term missions organization called teams commission for Christ.
And so we added to that outreach and ministry. And Nathaniel’s hope we did that on June 6th, our son’s birthday of 2002 with the goal and the objective to pull onside families who have kids with special needs. And we didn’t exactly know how to do it then exactly what that meant. But, uh, what has evolved is we knew because of our own experience with our own church, that churches just weren’t equipped to help families that had kids with special needs.
We said we want to help churches. And so we, um, we, we have something called buddy break. That is a program that trains churches, how to provide respite for families that have kids with special needs, which allows them to walk over the threshold of a church. Many of them have never been to church or don’t go to church.
They don’t have a church and, um, love on these kids, which then loves on the families. And then the families kind of through evolution become. Many times involved with that church. We’re doing that now in 25 States, and we’re thankful to do that. And then we hold a celebration here in Orlando, a festival actually it’s called make them smile.
We do it the first Saturday of June, and it will be our 17th year celebrating kids and families with special needs. We hold a festival in downtown Orlando. And we invite the community to come this year, we’ll have close to 40,000 people and 3000 kids with special needs will be in attendance. And it’s a festival celebrating life and it’s a festival celebrating kids with special needs.
And so it is their day. We have theme parks in Orlando that participate, and it’s a, it’s a big party on their behalf. You have a birthday, uh, where we send cards to kids with special needs. And then we have a hall of hope where we remember those kids that might’ve gone before us. We’re, we’re thankful to be able to, to serve this community in these different
David Hirsch: ways.
So, um, I’m wondering, I think you mentioned that there’s 25 States. I’m wondering how many churches is that represent him?
Tim Kuck: It’s probably well, over 225 churches have I believe been trained. And there’s a large portion of that two 25 that are executing or in the process of executing the buddy break program.
Aren’t we have a goal that by 1159, 2020, that we have a thousand churches that have been trained. We actually have a church that we’re working with in South Africa. Puerto Rico and we’ve got some other international churches we hope to be, um, to work in with also. So our, but our goal is to cheer on these churches, who we feel like have the calling in the mission to care for the least of these, to embrace these families and, and pull alongside them and, and, uh, express the love of Christ to these families.
As they’re walking through some pretty, pretty hard stuff on occasion. Well,
David Hirsch: if I understood what you were saying, if you’re at 225 churches today, the goal of getting to a thousand, you want to quadruple the number of churches that are in one way or another involved with the program and that’s within the next year and three quarters.
That’s a, what I think of as a Beehag, it’s a big, hairy, audacious goal. And one of the thoughts that comes to mind, my grandmother used to say this. From your lips to God’s ears. I’m hoping that that’s the situation.
Tim Kuck: Good technologies is allowing us to do these online trainings in ways we didn’t, weren’t able to use previously.
So, uh, we’re using technologies to the best of our ability to help equip these churches. And so, um, that’s allowing us to do some things that we haven’t done in the past.
David Hirsch: There’s a lot more leverage there. If you could do it online versus having to go face to face, trying to train or that type of thing.
So in addition to the buddy breaks and make them a smile, this annual festival that takes place in Orlando now on the 17th year, each, uh, first week of June and the VIP birthday club, the hall of hope, which is the remembrance for those that have passed. Is there anything else about Nathaniel’s hope you can share?
Tim Kuck: Well, coming up in 30 days, uh, we are, we’ve published a book. The name of the book is called hope lives. And it’s the story of our son from moon to heaven. And he’s telling the story as a little kid would talk, telling the story about his life, his health challenges, surgeries, his interpretation, kind of what’s going on in life from his view.
And our hope with this book is that it would bring encouragement to, uh, Families that have kids with special needs family members that may, you know, not exactly know what to do or how to do it. And then others that might be going through a trial in life. Our story did not end with the happy ending that we might have wanted at the time, but it’s a happy ending because one day there’s going to be a great reunion in heaven.
And it’s by the grace of God that, uh, we were able to take our son’s life and death and pull alongside and encourage others as they walked through their trials in life. And so though our son died a lot earlier than we would have liked him to. We were privileged to have him for four and a half years, and we know that one day there’ll be a grand reunion.
So there is a happy ending.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. Um, I’ll look forward to receiving a copy of that book and reading it myself and hopefully drawing a little bit more attention to it as well. So I’m thinking about advice, I’m wondering, what are some of the more important takeaways that come to mind when raising a child with differences or special needs?
Tim Kuck: I think, um, one of the things that is a reality is. Friends and those that love, you may not know what to do. They may not know how to help and may for sure. Fill ill-equipped to necessarily, uh, do what might need to be done. Therefore, some simple instruction would be very helpful to give them some guidance on.
In a practical, maybe gentle way so that they can pull alongside you because they’re like, I don’t know how to help. In our case, our son was very complex. Our pediatrician told us he was the most complex child he’d ever cared for. So I think providing some instruction there to invite them in, in a very practical, tangible way, which might be, Hey, why don’t you come over Friday night and bring pizza and just hang out with.
I think that’s enough, a very practical thing. I think, depending on the circumstances, it can be a long race. And I think that heed God’s grace to run that long race. You know, his grace is sufficient and he makes up the difference. He feels like, yeah, recognizing that each life is appointed. He knows, he knows my son by name.
Nathaniel Timothy Cook, which means treasured gift from God. He knew my son while he was in a Murray’s womb. So of his life is appointed. His life has meaning therefore his grace will see us through whatever we need. That’s true. Therefore, we can kind of embrace our circumstances and walk through the trial.
No, God is with us. And that he said he would never leave us nor forsake us. And we can rest. In his hands and his arms, knowing that he knows my son by me and he’ll see us through.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you for sharing. That’s very profound. I’m wondering why is it that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of this Special Fathers Network?
Tim Kuck: I would like to encourage others. I would like by the grace of God, I’d like my life and circumstances to be encouragement to others. I think particularly dads that have kids with special needs. Need to be encouraged. You know, there are a lot of single moms out there raising kids with special needs, but dads have a critical role.
I would, I would like to encourage dads, not to become weary and well doing that. God will, will meet them where they’re at and help see them through. Even if they’re in a place called apathy, they can move to a place called hope.
David Hirsch: So let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friends at Johnny and friends for putting us in contact with one another.
Tim. If somebody wants to get information on Nathaniel’s hope to volunteer, make a donation, get a copy of the book, hope libs, or just contact you. How would they go about doing that?
Tim Kuck: The best thing would be to go to our website, which is Nathaniel’s hope.org. And there is all of our information. There there’s an opportunity to a preorder book and all of our programs are listed there and contact information.
David Hirsch: Great.
Tim, thank you for taking the time in many insights. As a reminder, Tim is just one of the dads. Who’s agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation, your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
If you think the work that we’re doing is valuable. Please be sure to leave a five star review share podcasts with others and consider making a tax deductible donation so we can continue to offer this special father’s network for free to young dads, raising a child with special needs, Tim. Thanks again.
Tim Kuck: Thank you. It’s a privilege.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast produced by couch audio for 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.
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I’m Tom Couch. Thanks for listening to the dad to dad podcast.