It was a nice sunny day in May 2002 that I received a call from my wife to call this guy named Joe. I had recently started my new job in Indy and Jan was working on networking with families in the Indy area who also had children with Down syndrome. So when Jan told me I needed to call this guy named Joe I asked the obvious question.....WHY?
Well Joe was starting a support group for fathers of children with Down syndrome. There was not way I was calling Joe and I was not going to join a support group. I was fine with the fact that Nash was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome and I did not need a support group. My idea of a support group was people that met in the basement of a church, sat on metal folding chairs, drank coffee out of styrofoam cups and sat around feeling sorry for themselves. Not this guy, no way. But as most of us know we usually break down and do what our wives ask us to do because we all live by those famous words...." If Momma Ain't Happy, Nobody is Happy".
So I dialed the phone number and talked to Joe. I found out a small group of men were getting together that night in a social setting to discuss how we could help The Indiana Down Syndrome Foundation in reaching some of their goals. The truth be told some of the Mom's had told Joe to quit complaining and either do something to motivate the Dads or shut up.
Well off I went to the meeting....It was not at a church but at a place called Loon Lake Lodge here in Indy. There was no coffee but beer and pretty darn good food. The 8 of us that sat around a table that night did not have alot in common. Most of us had very different jobs and socialized in different circles and would probably never met except for the one thing we all did have in common. We each had a child with Down syndrome. We found that we all immediately had a bond that surprised us and three hours went by in almost an instant. We all talked about our families and our kids and the different ways and times we received the diagnosis. Many of those stories were different, but some were the same. We all agreed that we wanted to get together again next month and we would all try to invite another father that we knew to join us. We really had no idea where this was going.
We continued to meet and the group continued to grow. We finally named the group as it's known today......DADS! Which stands for Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome. We chose appreciate because none of us really love it or wished it our any of those things and in all honesty one thing many of us agree on is we hated it a bit in the beginning. But we all felt like we came to a point where we had learned to appreciate it. DADS decided to be the muscle behind IDSF and do the work behind the upcoming Buddy Walk in Indy. What a great success that day turned out to be.....we had created a display and a hat and a shirt with our new logo. It was awesome to watch other dads come up and get a hat or shirt or both and walk a little taller when they left. We had almost 100 men sign up to join the group that day.
Since those early days just a few short years ago DADS has grown into a small movement. DADS now has chapters around the country and our logo speeds around the NASCAR Busch Series on the number 43 car driven by brothers AJ and Aaron Fike. A group of DADS have spoken to other DADS and a few moms at the last 3 National Down Syndrome Society annual Conventions. We continue to grow.
Is a group like this for everyone? No it is not for everyone, some people participate a lot, some a little and some not at all....but the one thing I know is when I am with this group of men today most of the people I consider my best friends are there at the monthly DADS meetings. And some of my other best friends are at those meetings in VA, TX, GA, KY, WI and other places.
And Joe? Ya I consider Joe one of my very best friends and I have to get him to start a blog because no one can type a story like Joe.
Have a great evening.