063 – Kelly Moynihan, special father of Nicki who has Down Syndrome with some great advice.
Meet Kelly Moynihan, a retired oil industry veteran and a father of three, including Nicki who has Down Syndrome. Kelly has some sage advice for fathers of kids with special needs and he’s our guest on this Dad to Dad podcast.
Dad to Dad 63 – Kelly Moynihan, special father of Nicki who has Down Syndrome with some great advice.
Kelly Moynihan: The other thing about having a mentally disabled individual in your family, you know, they bring you down to earth every now and then our daughter enjoys the simple things in life. So to watch her have an ice cream Cohen and see how much she enjoys that, or ride a horse or to finish a puzzle. And to see her, her joy and being successful in doing that, you know, those quite minor things that she enjoys so much really bring you down to that basic level of satisfaction and enjoyment.
Tom Couch: That’s Kelly Moynihan, a retired oil industry veteran, and a father of three, including Nikki who has down syndrome. Kelly has some Sage advice for fathers of kids with special needs. And he’s our guest on this dad to dad podcast. 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. There’s 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.
Tom Couch: So let’s listen now as David Hirsch talks to special father Kelly Moynihan.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend Kelly Moynihan of Alberta, Canada, and Naples, Florida, a father of three, and a retired oil industry, veteran Kelly, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview with the Special Fathers Network.
Kelly Moynihan: Last my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me to do this. You
David Hirsch: and your wife, Kathy had been married for almost 40 years and are the proud parents of three children, Jackie 34, Sandy 28 and Nicki 32, who has down syndrome. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Kelly Moynihan: I come from a family of five. I have a twin brother. We’re the oldest in our family. Then I have a younger brother and I have two sisters and all of us, but my oldest sister. Live in Western Canada and Alberta. My one sister lives in, in the Toronto Ontario area area. We are a, a family of the oil and gas industry.
My father worked for the ExxonMobil affiliate in Canada called Imperial oil. And until we were 12 years old, we lived in the Prairie province of Saskatchewan. So flat land. So above North Dakota, if you want a reference for America, So I consider myself a flat Lander, but when we were 12, we moved when I was 12.
So in 1968, we moved to Toronto or I finished my grammar school and went to high school. And then in 1975, I began my undergraduate degree in chemistry at the university of Waterloo. I graduated from there in 1979. I did my PhD at the university of Calgary in Western Canada. Beginning in 1979 and finishing in 1983 and in 1979, Kathy and I got married after I finished my PhD.
We went to Oxford England for a year where I was a postdoctoral fellow. And then I began my professional career with a Imperial loyal and then ExxonMobil. And I was with them for 33 years before I retired. Wow.
David Hirsch: It seems to be a, just like flew by. Yes.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes, it did. Most of my career, I was in the environmental and then the, in the environmental and social responsibility part of the business.
So although I did begin as a, as a research chemist with the company.
David Hirsch: So going back to your family, The one with the five siblings, including your twin brother. Um, you’d mentioned that your dad was in the oil business and it sounds like you sort of followed in his footsteps.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes. Yeah. So we’re very nepotistic.
We have several family members that worked for the company, including my sister who also had a 30 plus year career in human relations with the company, although Ali, Canada, and also her husband was a, a company guy too. So yes, there’s been many of us.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, I guess oil is big up in Canada, down in the Gulf of Mexico and I guess a lot of different places around North America for that matter.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes. Um, and in my position, when I went down to Houston and in the 22 years, I was there, I was, had the good fortune to travel around the world to 25 countries to do work on behalf of ExxonMobil, even though I was always stationed in Houston, Texas. So,
David Hirsch: so just to be clear, You moved, you and Cathy moved from Canada down to Houston, Texas.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes, sir. Which was current related. Yes. And it wasn’t a wonderful experience for our family of is great for my career. My wife Kathy’s career, who was a, a research nurse, I clinical research coordinator in the hemophilia area. So she had a great career in, uh, in Houston and also our kids, including my daughter, Nikki had wonderful, uh, education in the Houston school system.
David Hirsch: So, uh, going back to, um, growing up, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Kelly Moynihan: My dad was excellent and continues to be excellent. He’s still around. He’s 86 years old. Now he plays about 150 rounds of golf a year, a half of them in Collingwood, Ontario, North of Toronto, and half of them in Naples, Florida.
Every now, and then, uh, he, uh, does manage to, uh, come close to shooting his age, depending, depending on how many mulligans he would take or how many gimmes we would be. But he’s a pretty good golfer still. And it’s surprising. Surprisingly, he still works part time. He works for a company called the hair club for men and women, which is a, you know, it does hair transplants and various things.
And he’s a project coordinator for them. So he helps to establish new facilities and upgrade their facilities. So it’s interesting that he’s continued to work during this time.
David Hirsch: That is very interesting out of curiosity, being somebody who’s follicly challenged. Um, I’m wondering. I’m wondering if he is a customer of the organization
Kelly Moynihan: now?
Absolutely. No, absolutely not. He has as much hair as I do, and he’s 86 years old, so, so we inherited hair retention gene. So, uh, as people always said from the hair club people, he would be an excellent, um, um, Resource from an advertising point of view. So if it was only true, he had to have their services, but he has not.
David Hirsch: thank you for sharing. I hope that doesn’t embarrass your dad. So I do remember in a prior conversation that, uh, your mom passed away at a very early age.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes. My mum passed away from cancer when she was 56 years old and four years after that, my father they’re married his present wife Mark, and they’ve had a wonderful marriage approach as long as when my, my father, my mother.
Yeah, we’re, we’re married for. So, uh, uh, my dad has been blessed to have two wonderful women in his life and, and we have really enjoyed having Mark as part of our family. So it’s really worked out well for all of us.
David Hirsch: That’s wonderful. So I’m wondering, um, sort of what the idea of advice, is there any important lesson or lessons that you learned from your dad?
Kelly Moynihan: Yeah, my dad he’s given me a lot of lessons. One is, um, the importance of faith in your life. The importance of being, having a high ethical standard for working hard and for leading a life of a moderate, I would say moderation as my father always used to say, never lose control. And so I think those are very good goal buys in the life realm to, uh, you know, dedicate yourself, work hard, strive for excellence and to make a valuable contribution.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, what I’m important role model that is for any person, you know, the importance of faith, uh, having ethics, a strong work ethic and, uh, you know, that life of moderation, which is,
Kelly Moynihan: uh,
David Hirsch: The way I interpret that is that, uh, you’re, you’re not going to be extreme, right. With, uh, anything that happens in your life, whether it’s your emotions or your consumption of things.
And, you know, it’s like striking a balance, having a good balance in your life.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes. Yes.
David Hirsch: I’m wondering what role, if any, did your grant campus play on your dad’s side and then on your mom’s side?
Kelly Moynihan: I had two very wonderful grandfathers. My mother’s grandfather, there was a character. He was always, um, very fun to be with.
Uh, he would, uh, uh, you know, give us enough rope when we were with him to have a lot of fun. I remember fondly going fishing with him many times and he would always catch the fish and I never would. And I used to ask him, grandpa, how come you catch all the fish? And you said, it’s all in the way you hold your mouth.
And so I would look over it to him and while he was holding his mouth and I would kind of contort my mouth the way he did. Um, but I was still never very successful compared to him. So he was a really wonderful guy. He took us many places. He told us lots of great stories. He was a world war one. Veteran injured in the, in the war.
So he always told us about his war stories and his recuperation time. And, uh, so that was very interesting. My, my grandfather on my father’s side was also a world war one veteran. He was in the Royal Marines in the UK and, uh, he immigrated to Canada in the 1920s with my grandmother and my aunts. And settled it in Regina, Saskatchewan in the Prairie province of Saskatchewan.
And, uh, he maintained a, a military with the Canadian reserves, but he had a whole bunch of jobs with the government, including as a health inspector. So he was very interesting because he was a self-taught man. He taught himself. Physics and calculus and electronics. I remember him building radio sets from, just from parts and laying them out on a board and showing us all how to power radio works.
He was a really a self-taught scholar. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s quite impressive that somebody would have that level of knowledge and ingenuity. Right. That’s not something that everybody has.
Kelly Moynihan: No, he was a, and I think as he said, his time in the Royal Marines, set him up for life from us, a success point of view from a health point of view, he lived until he was in his late nineties.
So again, he was all, he also advocated a life of hard work and moderation. So.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, it sounds like you’ve had some excellent role models, both your grandpa’s, your dad. I’m sort of curious to know if there’s any other, what I’d call father figures, any other men that, uh, played an influential role as you were growing up, or maybe as a young adult yourself?
Kelly Moynihan: I had all of my uncles on both sides of the family were all really good fellows and I enjoyed spending time with them. And I think I learned many good things from them. I had many excellent teachers, both in. In grade school and in high school and in college professors that were also, I would think excellent role models from a male point of view.
So, so I’ve been blessed in that respect, um, to have had all these excellent role models, including coaches, I would say playing hockey and football and other sports. Yeah. You know, I, I, I think all of those experiences that helped to shape me into the, into the man that I am right now.
David Hirsch: Outstanding. So, uh, you mentioned you went to school, university of Waterloo chemistry, university of Calgary PhD.
You did a post doc fellowship at Oxford. I’m wondering, um, how is it that you met Kathy along the way?
Kelly Moynihan: Ashley? I met Cathy in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada in July, 1978. So 41 years ago, she was working in Banff, Alberta, and I was, I had a job where I traveled all over Western Canada. And we met in, in Lake Louise.
So quite interesting that these two people at those time, living in Ontario and going to Ontario colleges would meet 3000 miles away. And in Alberta and the mountains. And we hit it off and we dated for a few weeks in Banff. I was able to arrange my time to be there when she was there. And then when we went back to finish our senior year, her college and my college were about 25 miles apart.
The chemistry departments at the grad level were joined. And so there was a mini bus that used to go back and forth between the two colleges. And so I was able to hit your rides with them back and forth to visit. And Cathy would do the same. So our senior year, it was like both of us going to two colleges.
And, uh, when we were finished, we decided to get married and the rest is history.
David Hirsch: Literally the rest is history. So let’s switch gears and talk about special needs first on a personal level. And then beyond. So before Nikki was born, did you or Kathy have any connections to the special needs community?
Kelly Moynihan: I would say, no, not, not personally, although a year or two before Nikki was born, my cousin had a daughter with down syndrome.
So that was the first connection from a familial point of view that I had with any, with any disabled people. But, you know, we were living far away from her, so we just heard the news and, and learned about it through, uh, through our family connections, but that would be about it.
David Hirsch: Okay. Um, so I’m wondering, um, What was it like when you first learned about Nikki’s diagnosis, what was going on then?
Kelly Moynihan: Well, it was very interesting. I was actually the one who diagnosed her in the delivery room, even, probably before the medical professionals. And then when she was born and came out, uh, I looked at her and I knew immediately that she had down syndrome. And I said to Kathy, I said, it looks like we have a special Olympian.
I still remember. So yeah, it was, it was very shocking, devastating, whatever, though, all those words, all those emotions were. It took us a while to process what was going on. Fortunately, uh, Nikki did not have any of the health problems that some people with down syndrome has. So she did not have any health issues or any other issues as a, as an infant.
So that was a blessing for us that we didn’t have to deal with those type of emergency situations. At that time, it was trying to get our mind around. All of a sudden not having the, the baby that we had been planning for, but for four, this new challenge in our life. And if
David Hirsch: I got the birth order, right.
Jackie was the oldest. She would have been a couple years old at the time. Yes. So you already had your hands full?
Kelly Moynihan: We did. We did.
David Hirsch: Yes. And, um, I’m wondering what meaningful advice did you get early on as it relates to having a child with downs and what to
Kelly Moynihan: expect? We were told at the beginning because we didn’t have any health issues.
Just treat her like any other baby first and foremost, she’s a baby. So just treat her as a baby and look after her as a baby and welcome her into your family. Just like you were, would any other child? I think that was excellent advice.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, um, I imagine that, uh, there was probably some uncertainty, right?
Yeah. There’s a vague familiarity. Like you said, early on about what is down syndrome since she had not been exposed to that,
Kelly Moynihan: you know, straight up
David Hirsch: and that there’s a learning curve that, uh, everybody traveled along and a, it’s not a straight line.
Kelly Moynihan: It’s not a straight line. And we knew that, you know, this was not what we had, that would be different than we needed to, to figure out how we were going to deal with this, this challenge.
So fortunately in Calgary at that time, there was a young. Parent run organization for families with an individual with down syndrome in their family called ups and downs. And so we made a connection with them relatively soon after Nikki was born and, and began to, to get into the down syndrome community in Calgary and find the supports that we needed and the advice and direction.
So that was a big, big help for us.
David Hirsch: One of those types of experiences, Kelly, where. You didn’t know that the organization existed in there, all these people that were sort of connected either directly or indirectly
Kelly Moynihan: to the, uh, yes, it was. And, uh, but they were very welcoming and very supportive and nonjudgmental and, uh, you know, it was, it was really a wonderful thing.
And as it turns out, one of the people that I met first off was another person who worked for my company. And he had a son a couple years older than Nikki. So this fellow and I became friends and, and, you know, he was a. A mentor or a guide for me early on as well regarding the challenges and the opportunities that we had in front of us.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I suspect that it takes some of the mystery out of it, right? When you can talk to other parents, especially if their child is a little bit older than yours, so that you can sort of draft behind their experiences the way I think about it as living vicariously through some of the situations, maybe they didn’t get right with the benefit of hindsight and then trying to emulate the good decisions they made.
So you can just, you know, make it a little bit smoother, ride.
Kelly Moynihan: Absolutely. That was really important too, to not reinvent the wheel to, uh, you know, move forward from people’s, um, failures or frustrations and to also amplify their successes. And so that, that was very helpful to us. It helped us get some of the initial services that we were able to get for Nikki, like speech therapy and other therapies that she needed.
Uh, there was also a very good. A clinic at the Alberta children’s hospital in Calgary, uh, specializing in, in, uh, people with down syndrome. And so we made a connection with them as well. And that was very helpful from the, from the medical intervention and other therapies point of view. So between our, our connection with the ups and downs and the, uh, clinic that was at the Alberta children’s hospital, I think we were in pretty good hands.
We were very fortunate, you know, living in a large community to have access to those services
David Hirsch: better, to be. I guess in an urban or suburban community versus a, in a super rural community where access to those resources would be much more difficult.
Kelly Moynihan: Absolutely. And I, and I feel for the people who are, who live in more isolated situations, uh, when they’re faced with, uh, with this type of life challenge, um, it’s much more challenging, I think.
And you know, the technology now is, uh, It’s more helpful to be able to bridge those challenges that technology didn’t exist 30 years ago. So, uh, I hope that people who, who are more isolated, where they live, uh, with a person with a disability using technology, uh, is more helpful to them as they move forward.
David Hirsch: Yeah. There’s no question that the technology would help bridge the gap. So I’m wondering if there’s some important decisions looking back that you made as parents of a child with special
Kelly Moynihan: needs. Uh, again, I think we, we played on the treat, her like me, would your other kids. So we never left her out of anything.
We always involve her with, with everything we did, we took her everywhere. And I think that was important to her and to our family. That’s a, you know, she wasn’t treated as somebody special. She had the same expectations from a behavioral point of view as our other daughters did. And so that was, I think, very important for all of us to welcome her into our family, just as she was
David Hirsch: from an educational standpoint.
She gets mainstreamed along with all the other kids are where they’re special ed classes.
Kelly Moynihan: I would say it would be a combination of both the schools that she went to. She was mainstreamed into some allowed to say less academic subjects like art and music and PE and, and then the rest of her curriculum was modified and supported by a special ed professionals.
So, but you know, she, she learned how to read. She learned how to do math. She did have some academic success. We, you know, as I mentioned that the education system that she benefited from, particularly in the greater Houston area, in the community where we lived in, in Sugarland, Texas, the supports that she was able to avail herself of.
They were excellent and, and really set her up for the success that she’s having. Now, the other thing as she got older, 12 years old, or so when we started get involved with the special Olympics program, which by the way where we lived was, uh, was sponsored by this, the school board, the independent school district.
Oh, wow. That was really excellent. So the, uh, special. Olympics participants. They had the same beautiful uniforms and, and paid coaches. And EV just like everybody else who were doing basketball or football or, or whatever, they got letter jackets. When in high school, when they met the criteria, there are successors were celebrated in the, uh, in the athletic awards programs and all that.
So that was really a great thing as well.
David Hirsch: That’s wonderful. So, uh, not to focus on the negative, but I’m wondering if there’s some challenges, the biggest challenges that you and Kathy encountered along the way while you were either in Canada or once you got to the States.
Kelly Moynihan: I think the challenges were, you know, just to see that, you know, it was delayed compared to two, uh, people of her age.
You know, we, uh, I would say she functions now at trial, probably a five or six year old level. Okay. And so, you know, that’s kind of where she stopped. And so we had to, you know, of course intervene much more with her. We had to drive her everywhere. We had to be more involved with her activities. Which was really great because we met a lot of people that we would, I’ve never, I’ve met wonderful people, but for her.
So, you know, there’s, even though there’s a more, a demand on your time and your, and your talents, and in many cases are treasurer as well. Um, the benefits that you reap because of that have been very wonderful, as well. As I mentioned, we’ve met hundreds, maybe thousands of people because of her that we would never have matched.
Um, and, uh, you know, many, many, many of those people have, they’ve been wonderful, wonderful people and, uh, have helped not only her, but, but us as well. It’s just more time. That’s frustrating for us to see that you can’t do some things, uh, continues not to be able to do something. So, you know, we still are her taxi driver and, uh, and her organizer and, uh, and her caregivers.
And, but that’s how it is. There’s, there’s a lot of people with a lot of heavier crosses to bear than we, then we bear. Um, so we consider ourselves very fortunate.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, if I can paraphrase what you’ve said, uh, one of the challenges is the milestones that you’re reminded of periodically that she’s not reaching right along the way.
Yeah. One of the blessings, if I understood what you were saying is that you’ve met a lot of people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet and not just like ordinary people, but some extraordinary people who have. Met life’s challenges in a way that is exemplary. And, uh, you know, what a blessing it is. You wouldn’t have met these people if you weren’t part of that community.
And, um, I don’t think you can see that looking forward. You can only appreciate that looking backwards, right? You can not connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots, looking backwards.
Kelly Moynihan: Exactly. Exactly. The other thing about having a mentally disabled individual in your family is that, you know, they bring you down to earth every now and then.
So our daughter enjoys the simple things in life. So to watch her. Have an ice cream Cohen and see how much she enjoys that or to ride a horse or to finish a puzzle and to see her, her joy and being successful in doing that, you know, those quite minor things that she enjoys so much really bring you down to do that basic level of satisfaction and enjoyment.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, what’s important in life when it comes right down to it. So, uh, thank you for sharing. I’m sort of curious to know what a impact Nikki’s situations had on her sisters, as well as the rest of your family for that matter.
Kelly Moynihan: I think that having Nikki in our family has made our day, their daughters better women.
My one daughter is a mother. She has three children, a set of twins and a young guy. And I think that she and her husband are excellent parents. And I think part of it, that is because of Jackie’s association with her sister. And I think that, uh, our solder Sandy is the same. They’re more sympathetic.
They’re more empathetic. There I am. I think I’m a little bit, yeah, less judgmental than, than some people. And so I think all in all, it has been a positive experience and they’ve told us that before, um, as well as some of their friends, especially their high school friends who have personally told us, uh, we have really benefited from coming to know Nicki through our association with your daughters.
And again, the same thing it’s helped us appreciate. Uh, you know, the smaller things in life, the, the small accomplishments and the importance to celebrate them and to be accepting, uh, people with different abilities.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s interesting. I’m wondering if when Jackie and Sandy were growing up college age, they started dating.
If the guys we’re sort of a subjected to a litmus test of to see how they reacted to their sister. Was there any of that going on?
Kelly Moynihan: I don’t, I don’t know. Maybe it did happen. I do know that, uh, our, our daughters would not have ended up with, uh, the husbands that they have now, if they were not fully accepting of Nikki, um, that, you know, that was a goal of no-go situation.
So if they had had any aversion to people with disabilities and, you know, especially with people with mental disabilities, you know, that, that just wouldn’t have happened. So yeah. And I think both those young men are better men because of having, knowing Nikki and now having them, her as part of their family.
David Hirsch: That’s beautiful. Thank you. So I know that we’ve talked about some of the supporting organizations, um, Canada. It was the down syndrome organization, ups and downs. And you mentioned special Olympics. Um, were there any other organizations, either in Canada or the U S that, uh, Nikki’s benefited from,
Kelly Moynihan: uh, we were also affiliated in Canada with the Canadian down syndrome association, the national organization, which also happens to be calorie based.
So that was a very beneficial for us. And then in the U S in Texas, we are, our supports were primarily through special Olympics in the school system, but then when we moved and I retired to Naples, Florida, The storability foundation based in Naples, Florida as really been an unbelievably fantastic support to us, not only from a familial point of view, but also from a developmental and contributary point of view for our daughter, Nikki, uh, she, uh, participates in their Vanguard program called.
The trailblazer Academy, which is a day program for adults with mental challenges. It’s a combination of community service, life skills and employability enhancements and socialization. Um, so she goes every day from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. And, um, It has made a remarkable impact on her, uh, with regard to her, her personal satisfaction and her personal growth.
David Hirsch: So you’re not in Florida though. You’re around, you’re there, whatever number of six months of the year or something,
Kelly Moynihan: we spend about eight months in Florida because of the trailblazer Academy primarily, and then four months here and in the summer months just to get away from the heat of it. And also to be closer to our family.
Uh, we are in the process right now, and I think we’ve been successful in getting Nikia a part time volunteer position at a, um, at a senior center. Um, and so, you know, we’re, we’re always looking for opportunities to keep her busy and for her to have a meaning full contribution in the community. And so I think we’re going to be successful here in camera as well, which will make our time here for her a much more beneficial.
Outstanding, but again, our, our initiative. And again, that’s a challenge of, of many parents of people with disabilities is that you have to have the intestinal fortitude and the ambition and the sticktuitiveness. To make all this happen. It just doesn’t fall in your lap. I thinking you have to work at continuously and things change and you need to be flexible and you have successes and frustrations and failures and, and you just need to keep on going.
So, uh, you know, this is another example about, uh, you know, that we think we’ve had some success, but it’s, but it’s because of our efforts, the efforts of my wife and myself, nobody helped us do this. Yeah, well,
David Hirsch: it’s an important point that you’re making. What I’d like to do is drill down on the star building foundation.
Um, From what I know it’s located in Naples, Florida, it was founded in 1983 as the foundation for the development of the handicapped. It’s gone through a number of different name changes over the years. And my understanding of its mission is that it’s to transform the lives of individuals with disabilities, through social vocational ed educational connections, to the community while strengthening awareness and respect for the individual’s ability.
And that’s what you were saying earlier. That’s one of the things that Nikki has benefited from, by being involved in the trailblazer Academy. So let’s drill down a little bit though. I understand that there’s a trailblazer junior Academy.
Kelly Moynihan: Yeah. And it’s a new program and it’s for people in their late high school lives.
So yeah. People with disabilities typically can go to a high school, then some programs until they’re around 22 years old. And so the junior trailblazer Academy is for people, I would say between 18 and 22, who will and transition out of the school well system and the activities and supports that they have there.
So it’s to kind of ease them into the full blown trailblazer Academy.
David Hirsch: Okay, that’s wonderful. Cause I think that’s one of the bigger challenges that many families encounter, which is once the child is going to age out of the educational system with all the supports that are involved with these individual education plans, what’s going to happen then for summit drive, it is like falling off a cliff.
Right? You got all these resources, those, and then you’re on your own. So this sounds like it’s a transition type of program. The junior trailblazer program is like a transition program.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes. Yes. And, and, and your, your representation of the cliff is, is right. Yeah. On, you know, everybody is so willing to support and contribute and help until they’re 22.
And then, you know, sorry, we’ve done our best and, you know, kind of figure it out now. And so that’s where a organization like the storability foundation and the trailblazer Academy really has stepped in to fill that void. And so I think that’s a model. If it could be replicated more universally would be absolutely wonderful.
And it’s amazing that, um, when people get involved with the storability foundation and the trailblazer Academy businesses and whatever who provide. Uh, vocational opportunities for the participants. You know, they see that they make of a value adding contribution, and also they benefit because it’s at no cost to them.
So the businesses benefit from a high quality service at little or no cost to them. So, you know what, it’s a win, win situation. So if this message could be, you know, more universally understood and valued, you know, it’s good for everybody.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I remember. Learning a little bit more about the star building foundation and they offer a lot of different types of classes, art classes, computer classes, cooking classes, photography classes throws even an improv class.
Yes. Tell me something that
Kelly Moynihan: one of our local theater groups, the director has welcomed the star ability community and once a week to come to their facility and do improv. So, you know, as, as our daughter says, Pretending. So she said, we asked her, so what did you do today? Well, today we had to pretend to be a tree or had to pretend to be a bird or whatever.
So, um, it helps them from an expression point of view, a verbalization point of view, body awareness, point of view. So, uh, it’s been really wonderful. And then, uh, once a term, they have a. A show for lack of a better word when the parents or caregivers can come in and watch them perform. And it’s, it’s really great.
David Hirsch: Yeah, I imagine it’s, um, quite comical, uh, in a different way than you would if you were just going to like a regular standup or
Kelly Moynihan: yes. And you know, people with mental disabilities more often than not have much fewer inhibitions and we non-disabled people. And so to see people at totally uninhibited doing something is quite refreshing and funny at times, too.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, it’s amazing. I hope I’ll have a chance to see one of those shows. I, you had mentioned that this is something that Nikki does from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes.
David Hirsch: And just that time, those six hours are six hours. You and Kathy have more mobility and know that she’s in a safe place and learning and developing, and it’s not respite in the.
What it might be the traditional sense where,
Kelly Moynihan: you know, it’s for a day or a weekend or a week or longer
David Hirsch: from a respite standpoint. Are we on the same page?
Kelly Moynihan: Yeah, totally. If you’re, if you’re talking in that vein of respite, uh, it is absolutely wonderful. And, and because of that, that’s why we spend more time in Naples, Florida than we do here in Canada, because of those six hours every day that we have.
Allow Kathy and I to have somewhat of a normal retired life. So we play golf. I volunteer Kathy plays cards sometimes. Um, you know, it gives us time to go shopping or go for lunch in that respect, that six hours is really a wonderful time for us. So from a real bike point of view, we get 30 hours a week, which is in, which is pretty great.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. Anything else about the star building foundation that you’d like to share?
Kelly Moynihan: We are a growing organization, obviously we’ve, we’ve come across a great need in our community. It’s the same need in many other, most other communities. Our board is working hard to, uh, meet those needs as best as we can, and to grow our organization, to grow our capacity and capabilities.
We’re also very involved in, uh, awareness raising and acceptance building in the community. And I think we’re making very good progress in that area as well. So we participate every year. For example, in the Naples Santa Claus parade. I think our name, the star ability foundation is becoming more well known in the community with regard to our mandate and the value that we add.
And so, uh, you know, it’s, it’s really a, uh, a growing concern and we have a lot of people who are interested in supportive of what we do.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m wondering what role spirituality has played in yours and Kathy’s lives,
Kelly Moynihan: uh, hugely important. Um, we are people of faith, we’re Roman Catholics. And so we do go to, uh, to mass every week and Nikki joins us.
And Nikki is actually going to a mass every week is one of Nikki’s favorite things to do. She fully participates in the service. And I think people at all. See the joy and the, and the passion that she puts into worshiping. And I think that adds to their, their benefit as well. So, uh, it’s, uh, you know, difficult and challenging to be a, a parent of somebody with a disability.
And to have that support from a faith point of view, I think is, is really important. I don’t think we, we would have been as successful or had the life that we had have had been, not being people of faith.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s fabulous. I’m wondering what are the most important takeaways that come to mind regarding raising a child with special needs or differences?
Kelly Moynihan: Well, I think as I, as I said previously, I think that the most important thing is to treat your challenge child, as much as you can, like any other of your children to welcoming them into your family and treat them as much as you can, the same as your other children. I think that’s really important.
Another thing is don’t look too far into the future. Cause if you do that, you’re just going to tie yourself up in knots. So I think Nikki’s taught us to be more, you know, be more in the presence and worry about to the extent that you can, what you can control. And that’s what you need to spend your time on, to work on the things that you have control and on.
And don’t get all wound up about possibilities in the future, so that I think that’s, that’s very important. Take time to celebrate the little successes, the minor milestones, and don’t get too wound up about the ones that, uh, May not be forthcoming or may never happen. Just take it as it is to be people of the present and to be accepting.
And, uh, and, and also don’t get too high or too low, try and stay in the middle of trying to be moderate. And they’ll go back to my father to be a person of moderation. To try and keep an even keel as much as you can. Of course, you’re going to get frustrated. You’re going to get angry. You’re going to get disappointed and that’s all a normal and natural.
And I think, you know, you don’t want to shut out those situations, but you don’t want, you don’t want to have them dominate your life or dwell on them. In many cases, there’s nothing you can do about it anyways. So, uh, you know, worry about the things that you can worry about and, and, and have some impact or some influence and impact on the other things that are out of your hand, including the, the way that some people view your child or our family.
Uh, you know, you know, we’ve obviously had many of the stares and looks or, you know, why is she here all that’s, it’s their, it’s their loss, not our loss. So, uh, you know, just, just take it as it comes in and
David Hirsch: yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. One of the thoughts comes to mind is that you don’t want to pre-war your worries.
Exactly. Like you said, don’t look to future because you know, you don’t have any control of that example and too much time. Projecting or worrying about all the potential situations you’re robbing yourself. You’re robbing your family of, you know, the present. And it’s easy to talk about, but a little bit more challenging to implement, but, uh, words of wisdom.
Thank you again for sharing.
Kelly Moynihan: Okay.
David Hirsch: So I’m curious to know why is it that you have agreed to be a mentor father as part of the special fathers network?
Kelly Moynihan: Well, I think that, um, if, uh, if I can help at least one other fellow. Especially a new father. You know, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the end of the world.
There’s lots to be look forward to. You will and can be a happy person. You will have successes. You will have a normal family life. You can have a normal family life. And so if I can help somebody accept their situation and maybe even help them to celebrate it. If I could add that value even to one person.
That’s good for me.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Well, thank you again for being part of the network and let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, Ken Gillman of the star building foundation for helping connect us.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes, very good guy.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Kelly Moynihan: No, I look forward to, uh, having an ongoing.
The affiliation with the organization and hopefully there’s other opportunities where I can add value or support. And so they know anytime that I can do that, I, I, I’m a retired fellow now, so I have more time than other people. So maybe I can add some other value in some other capacity.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s fabulous.
And know you are. You know, helping us stretch the boundaries a little bit since you’re, I’m both a Canadian and American, right. You’re a dual citizen, so I’m happy to do it, you know, made it North of the border. If you will.
Kelly Moynihan: There we go. And you know, the problems where there are challenges or opportunities that are universal nationality really has nothing to do to do with the situation.
It is a human condition. Um, so, uh, you know, as a personally of the world, I think we all need to come together and do deal with the challenges at hand.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, well-spoken what I think about is that the, these issues,
Kelly Moynihan: no, no gender geographic or
David Hirsch: socioeconomic boundaries. And I think the it’s important for everybody to realize that those in the disabled community and the broader community.
So if somebody wants to get information on the star building foundation or to contact you, what would be the best way about going and doing that?
Kelly Moynihan: I would recommend that they go to our website, which is www.starability.org. And they can learn all about the organization, the trailblazer Academy, the junior trailblazer Academy, that the family social events that we have many times each year and our strategic objectives, um, as we go forward for the next five years, we have, uh, we’ve just completed a strategic planning initiative for our organization.
Again, I’m on the board of directors. So that’s been useful to help guide our activities as we’ve moved forward in the next five years. And so I could be reached through the star ability foundation as well. Excellent.
David Hirsch: So the website is tolerability.org.
Kelly Moynihan: Yes,
David Hirsch: Kelly, thank you for taking the time and many insights.
As a reminder, Kelly 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. There are a host of ways that you can support the Special Fathers Network. You can post a review on iTunes, share the podcast with friends as well as making a charitable donation to the 21st Century Dads Foundation. Kelly. Thanks again.
Kelly Moynihan: My pleasure. All the best.
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.
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.
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The dad to dad podcast is produced by couch audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks for listening.