Why Regular Joe’s (Jay’s)/Jane’s Need to Fight for Inclusion

One of the most common questions I have received since I took on my new role as Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Winston-Salem is: do you have a child with Down syndrome? When I say “no,” I’m then asked if I have a relative. It isn’t common for a regular Joe (Jay in my case) to leave their successful career in another field to take on a role of fighting for individuals with developmental disabilities and their rights to be included in society.

Inclusion means that all people, regardless of their gender, race, abilities, and disabilities have the right to be appreciated as valuable members of their communities.

Parents and family members of individuals with Down syndrome know way better than I ever will know what it’s like to raise a child with Down syndrome. We know they will fight for inclusion with all of their hearts. Politicians and the media will help with the fight for inclusion if it is timely and helps their cause. I don’t think our society will truly be inclusive until we have Regular Joe’s and Jane’s start to actively engage themselves in making our communities more inclusive for all.

Fighting for inclusion as a regular Joe/Jane doesn’t mean that you have to take a job at a non-profit like I did. Get involved with a local organization as a volunteer or a donor. If you are a parent, teach your kids to play with people of all abilities from a young age. If you are an employer, hire an individual with developmental disabilities to your staff.

Pictures of individuals with Down syndrome as models for big organizations are great and really help the cause. Yet, we need to strive for a world where these pictures aren’t just viral, they are common.

Until the day that it is frequent for regular Joe’s/Jane’s to be involved in supporting and fighting for individuals with developmental disabilities, our world will not truly be inclusive. I strive for the day when this regular Jay is no longer asked if I work for a Down syndrome organization because I have a family member with Down syndrome. In an inclusive society it shouldn’t matter.




My Field of Dreams: My Wife

With our ten-year anniversary just around the bend, I have decided to tell the story of when I knew Katie Formisani was the one. Some might feel they found the one on a romantic date, or when their significant other did something so caring that they knew they couldn’t live without them. I found out Katie was the one in a cornfield in Iowa.

To really understand this story, I have to back up to May 5, 1989, the day of the worst tornado in the history of Winston-Salem. I had just turned nine, and my parents took me to see the movie, Field of Dreams, at the Hanes Mall movie theater. It was just a normal cloudy evening when we went into the theater.

About one hour into the movie, or around the time that Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) was at Fenway Park with Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), the movie blacked out. A couple seconds later, an usher hurried into the theater and shouted that there was just a tornado in Clemmons and “it is headed our way!”

Luckily for us, the movie theater is about as safe of a place as you can possibly be in during a tornado (no windows, concrete). We stayed in the theater for about an hour, until they came in and said it cleared up outside.

On our drive home down Stratford Road, there were some downed trees and the power seemed to be out most places but we couldn’t imagine what it would be like at home. It wasn’t until we got to our alley in the back of our 1228 Glade Street house that we really saw the damage. The alley was blocked by fallen trees, so my dad had to park the car and we climbed over fallen limbs to get to our backyard. When we arrived, the tornadoes devastation hit home literally as a gigantic pine tree from next door had fallen on the back of our house.

We were able to get inside through the front door, and luckily our beagle, Abby, was okay. A large limb had also flown through my bedroom window and scattered glass all over my twin-sized bed. My family was able to fix all of the destruction and no permanent damage was done.

In 1989, we didn’t have Netflix or Amazon Prime, we just had Blockbuster. Back then, it took a long time for a movie to get from the movie theater to VHS, so I was unable to see the second half of the movie for another year. The father-son baseball movie is still one of my favorite movies until this day.

Fast forward seventeen years to when I was 26-years-old. I had been dating Katie Formisani, who I met working with children with autism, for about 8 months when I asked her to drive across the country with me.

The previous Christmas my parents gave me some money to take a trip. I had driven across the middle part of the United States when I was eighteen, and looked forward to traveling to some more states as I attempted to get to all fifty (I am stuck at forty-two plus Puerto Rico).

I decided to drive across the northern part of the country to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I planned out a two week trip that would include several stops, including Yellowstone, the Badlands, the Grand Tetons, and Chicago. I got up the nerve to ask Katie to go along, and surprisingly she said yes.

We packed up a tiny 2002 green Volkswagen Jetta and set out across America. After two nights in South Bend and Chicago, we headed to our next destination, Fargo, ND. The trip was already slated to be nine hours. I really tested our relationship when I asked Katie if she minded taking a little detour to a tiny town called Dyersville, Iowa to see a cornfield. The detour just happened to be one and a half hours one way for a total of three additional hours to our already long trip that day.

Katie could have easily said, “no way! Why would I want to go that far to go to a tiny farm town in the middle of Iowa?” But she didn’t and readily agreed. She knew driving to see the cornfield where my favorite movie was filmed was very important to me.


We got to the field, and I made Katie pitch me several baseballs as I attempted to homer into the corn that Shoeless Joe Jackson and the White Sox would disappear into as they headed back to heaven.

Standing on that remote cornfield in Dyersville, Iowa, I found out that Katie was the one for me. We continued on the trip and had a fantastic time. She me when I said I could fend off bears with my baseball bat in Yellowstone. She followed me off the hiking trails back into unchartered land in the Badlands.


We were married a little over a year later and we now have two terrific children and a great life together. On October 11th, we will reach our ten-year anniversary. Each day, I learn more and more that I was right when I figured out Katie was the one on that cornfield.

In Field of Dreams, there is a very emotional father-son scene capped with my favorite lines from a movie:

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
This movie has a special place in my heart as I survived a tornado watching it as a boy and I found where my dreams came true (and continue to come true to this day) as a man.
Archie Graham in Field of Dreams: “We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days’. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”

Why Going to Work for PDSSN IS So Important To Me

As a collegiate soccer coach, I was always much more comfortable sneaking up on teams as the unknown. It was important that our team always went out on the field and had more heart and a stronger work ethic than our opponents. If the team left the field achieving those two goals, I was a happy coach and felt like I did my job. We might not have been the most technically talented team but we were still going to wear our hearts on our sleeves and in a lot more cases than not, we were successful.

Over the past two years, the soccer student-athletes at Salem College were on the NCAA quinnDIII collegiate soccer map. Our little women’s college wasn’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. The team had become respected throughout the South and everybody knew it would be very hard to beat us. This was culminated this past season, as we went toe to toe with the 2015 national champions.

Since we were on the map, I needed to find some new avenues to spread awareness. That is how the man van was born. I was able to go out in the city I love, Winston-Salem, and try my hardest to spread awareness and raise funds for organizations throughout our city. Whether it was for a dog that needed a home, a hungry family, senior citizens, or the homeless, I was going to do whatever I could (with the help of many through my social media platforms) to help out those with needs.

During my man van project a hunger grew in me and I began to realize this was something that I wanted to do all the time. I also started to connect with an organization, Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network (PDSSN), who I fell in love with. I knew that PDSSN had a hunger to grow and get their name out in the local community to help support all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The mission of PDSSN is to ensure these individuals in the Piedmont are valued, included, and given the opportunities to pursue the fulfilling lives that they deserve. Their aim is to enrich the lives of individuals with Down syndrome so they can reach their full potential. These individuals have heart-warming stories to share.

When I met with the board, I knew this was the organization I wanted to go to battle for. It felt like a perfect fit. Their goals fell in-line with a lot of what I had done through my man van project, and together it seemed like we could build on the past work PDSSN had pdssn full color - FDE000 Yellow - 0D539F Blue - Favoritedone by providing more support and information to families throughout the Piedmont. Luckily, the board felt the same way and hired me as their second Executive Director.

With my experience fighting for the unknown at Salem and spreading awareness with the man van, I look forward to embarking on this new adventure. We have several lofty goals that the members, the board, and I won’t be able to achieve on our own. I love Winston-Salemites because they go to battle for a good cause. I look forward to spreading the PDSSN’s story so Winston-Salemites can fall in love with the organization like I did and help me fight for PDSSN.

Read More About PDSSN By Clicking Here

Ryan Odom: Famous Winston-Salemites

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.

Ryan Odom quickly became a household name across the country this March as he led the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) to the biggest upsetryan3 in NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament history. The Retrievers became the first sixteenth seed to defeat a number one seed when they upset the University of Virginia 74-54 on March 15th in Charlotte.


The victory quickly placed Odom on the map nationally as one of the top basketball coaches in the country. Though his national prominence happened rapidly, Odom comes from a well-known basketball family and a lot of his basketball background came from his time growing up in Winston.

ryan4Odom first moved to Winston in 1976 when his father, Dave Odom, was an assistant for Wake Forest. After attending pre-school at First Christian, his family moved to Greenville, NC and then Charlottesville, VA while his dad was an assistant at East Carolina and Virginia. In 1989, the Odom’s moved back to Winston for his dad to become the head coach for the Demon Deacons.

While his dad was building Wake into a national powerhouse, Odom was making a name for himself as a guard for the R.J. Reynolds Demons. He played three years for Coach Howard West, before heading to Hampden Sydney where he served as a team captain and finished his career as the NCAA DIII program’s all-time three-point leader.

Odom spent time as an assistant at UNC-Charlotte, Virginia Tech, American, UNC-Asheville, and Furman from 1997-2015. In 2015, he was hired for his first head coaching ryan5job at Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, after being an interim head coach at UNCC the previous season. Odom led Lenoir-Rhyne to the NCAA DII Regional Finals for the first time ever.

He was hired at UMBC the following year (2016) and quickly turned the program around. The team won the 2018 America East Conference championship, which earned them a NCAA Tournament automatic bid and the chance for their historic win over UVA. Odom was quickly awarded by UMBC when ryan7he agreed in principle to contract amendments. The Retrievers and Odom were also honored in Annapolis by the Governor of Maryland.

Odom and his wife, Lucia, have two kids, Connor (16) and Owen (11). You can read a remarkable story about the family’s and Connor’s battle and success dealing with OCD by clicking here. His parents recently moved back to Winston, after Dave retired from coaching, and they live in Buena Vista.
Below Odom answers questions about his time in Winston-Salem:

Winston-Salem Questions

Where did you live in Winston?
I lived right off Country Club on Fairfax. I still consider Winston and Charlottesville home.


Who were some of your favorite teachers?
I loved both principals at RJR, Mr. Deaton and Mr. Elrod. I got a little bit of both worlds with those two. I had a great coach in Howard West, and a great mentor in my assistant coach, Mike Muse. Mrs. Deal was another favorite teacher of mine.

ryan9What are some of your favorite restaurants in Winston?
The Halfway House at Forsyth Country Club. I loved to go to the Soda Shop at Reynolda Village for a hot dog and orangeade. The Village Tavern was another favorite and BLL Rotisserie is a favorite of my parents.

Would you ever consider moving back to Winston? 
Yes, definitely. I love Winston. It has always been great to my family. It is a great spot.

Where is your favorite place to go in the NC mountains?
I loved Asheville when I coached there. My wife went to school at Appalachian State. We still love to go to Boone and to Blowing Rock.

What about your favorite NC beaches?
Our family goes to Emerald Isle. We also love spending time at Wrightsville and Figure Eight.

If you could get one right now, which would you choose: Krispy Kreme doughnut, Moravian sugar cake, or Bojangles biscuit?
I would get in trouble if I didn’t say a Krispy Kreme doughnut. I have a friend from up North that swears by Dunkin Doughnuts. We definitely take the title on that one though.

Did you ever go to Ziggy’s? If so, what was your favorite band to see there?
Absolutely. I used to love seeing Jackopierce there. My friend, John Kenneth Moser, and I used to go there to see them. It actually was named after a former Wake Forest ryan10basketball player, John ‘Ziggy’ Ziglinski.

What was your favorite game at Wake Forest when your dad was the coach?
It was when we beat Duke at the Joel. Duke and Grant Hill tried to run the same long pass play they ran against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, but it didn’t work. I think it was the first signature win for my dad at Wake.

Tim Grandinetti-Local Winston-Salem Difference Maker

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem residents that have moved on to do significant things outside of the Twin Cities, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 

Chef Tim Grandinetti is not only one of the best chefs in Winston-Salem, he is also one of the nicest guys in town. For the past ten years, he has made some of the best meals you can find in the Dash at Spring House Restaurant Kitchen & Bar and at Quanto Basta: Italian Eatery & Wine Bar.

Both of his Winston-Salem restaurants are located near each other in the heart of Downtown Winston-Salem, and he also recently opened Quanto Basta West in Bermuda Run, NC. The New York transplant has been a key part of the Winston culinary scene for the past decade.

Below you can find answers to some of Chef Grandinetti’s favorite things about his new “hometown,” Winston-Salem:

Winston-Salem Questions:

How long have you lived in Winston-Salem?
tim4I’m incredibly proud to say that Winston-Salem is my HOME!
Born and raised in Hudson, NY; and in 2008 I moved to Winston-Salem from St. Louis with my wife, Heidi and two adorable kids.  I was an Executive Chef with Marriott International Hotels, previously working in Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, MO; I had accepted a Regional Chef position with Marriott – with culinary responsibilities in Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and Macon, GA.

What has changed in Winston since you moved here?
So much…!  The evolution I have witnessed in W-S over the last 10 years has been INCREDIBLE.  Visit Winston-Salem and Winston-Salem Downtown Partnership have done an amazing job of sharing our story with locals and attracting new visitors.  The positive energy in Winston-Salem is one of the things I love most. The community support we’ve received in bringing back an abandoned former mansion to create Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar over 6 years ago; and following it with the opening of Quanto Basta three years ago is proof that this city is ready to embrace its position as a culinary destination AND the city of Arts & Innovation.

What are some of your favorite things happening in Winston today?tim1Winston-Salem is the perfect combination of Southern history and lore; a fresh, young, spirited university vibe; a multitude of artistic endeavors; and business with cutting-edge innovation.  It has such an iconic feel and it’s not only growing, but becoming more exciting all the time.  The city and its people provide daily inspiration for our hospitality efforts at our restaurants.

Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
Both Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar and Quanto Basta: Italian Eatery & Wine Bar are located in Downtown W-S.  In saying that, I’m grateful to consider Downtown as “My Neighborhood,” & I look forward to the many adventures that lie ahead!

What are some of your favorite Winston-Salem (that you don’t work at) restaurants of all time?
Foothills Brewing – my mug number is 83!
Pit Master Mark Little – Bibb’s Downtown; amazingly delicious!
Triad Community Kitchen – Chef Jeff Bacon is a W-S celebrity Chef with character and integrity that I truly admire.
Meridian Restaurant – Chef Mark Grohman & I have been friends for years, and I couldn’t be prouder of his culinary accomplishments.
There are also several “new culinary destinations” in the W-S culinary scene, and as soon as I can escape from our busy kitchens, I plan to explore them!

What is your favorite nickname of our minor league baseball team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?
tim2Warthogs is definitely my favorite nickname!  I have enjoyed many ballgames at Ernie Shore Field.  However, we are now Dash fans; and absolutely LOVE the new stadium!  I am a HUGE baseball fan and really enjoy having such great baseball in Winston-Salem.

Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Thruway!  The shopping center consists of many locally owned/operated businesses, which is FANTASTIC!  One of my favorite shops, Southern Home & Kitchen, has just about anything one could want in terms of home and kitchen goods, and we collaborate on monthly cooking classes! Be sure to check out their class schedule at Shopsohonc.com.

Where is your favorite day trip outside of Winston?
Hanging Rock State Park – the hiking, the waterfalls, the vistas – it has it all!  And, so very close to Winston-Salem.

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
tim7Holden Beach – it’s very family-oriented and quiet.  Although, Wrightsville Beach seems to be calling to me…

Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
I LOVE the mountains!  Stone Mountain, in Roaring Gap, is one of my favorites to explore/hike.

Could you ever imagine leaving Winston and if so, where would you go?
I absolutely LOVE the energy and bustle of Downtown.  I really can’t imagine leaving Winston-Salem – however my family and I are always thrilled to break away from time to time and “unplug” at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia.


Man Van Hikes From Hanging Rock To Pilot Mountain

On April 21st and 22nd, I will hike from Hanging Rock to Pilot Mountain, NC (36 miles) in 24 hours (one day) to give back to six Winston-Salem charities. I will raise money for UNchain Winston, City with Dwellings, Hope of Winston-Salem, Yadkin Riverkeeper, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Moji Coffee and More.

Follow my training progression and the hike on my Facebook page here: Jay Callahan Facebook or @manvanwsnc on Instagram.

I have created a donation page. The goal is to raise $600 to be equally donated to the six charities before April 21st. You can click this link for the donation page:

I have cut the hike into six sections (approx. 6 miles), in hopes that I will have different people/groups join me along the way. The hike will begin on April 21st at 11:00 am, ending 24 miles later at 7:00 pm. We will pick back up at 7:00 am on April 22nd with the final 12 miles. Below you will find more information about the hike schedule and each charity.

Click For Hike Map

April 21st Hiking Route:

Moji Coffee and More Segment 1-11:00 am leave time-(No Dogs)
Elevation Climb: (750 feet)- Distance: 5.5 miles (approx.)
Directions: 1790 Hanging Rock Rd., Danbury, NC 27016 (Address)
Take US-52 NNC-66 N and Moores Spring Rd to Hanging Rock Park Rd in Danbury Turn right onto Hanging Rock Park Rd (destination on the right)
Hike Start Point: at the edge of the Hanging Rock State Park Visitor
Center parking lot, at the wooden Hanging Rock overlook. Note:
The visitor center has water, restrooms, drinks, and a small museum
of the cultural and natural history of the park area.

Meeting Spot for Segment 1

Big Brothers Big Sisters Segment 2– 1:00 pm leave time (No Dogs)
Elevation Climb:(Minimal)-Distance: 6 miles (approx.)
Directions: 1287 Charlie Young Road, Walnut Cove, NC 27052 (Address)
Take 52 North. Take the exit toward Moore-RJR Drive, Take Moore Road towards Charlie Young Rd. in Quaker Gap. Meet at Tory’s Den Parking Area
Hike Start Point: .2 miles from Tory’s Den Parking Area. This is where the hike leaves Hanging Rock and begins on Sauratown Trail.

Meeting Spot Segment 2

City With Dwellings Segment 3- 3:00 pm leave time (No Dogs)
Elevation Climb: (500 feet)-Distance: 6.5 miles (approx.)
Directions: State Rd 1187, Thore Rd, Pinnacle, NC 27043 (Address)
Take US 52 North, Exit on Perch Rd. in Pinnacle (exit 129), Turn Right onto Perch Rd., turn left onto N Old 52 Rd., Turn right onto Coon Rd., Turn left onto Volunteer Rd., Turn right onto Brim’s Grove Road, Turn right onto NC-268 E, Turn Right onto Rockhouse Rd.
Hike Start Point: the corner of Rock House Rd. and Thore Rd.

Meeting Spot Segment 3

Hope of Winston-Salem Segment 4- 5:00 pm leave time (No Dogs)
Elevation Climb: (Minimal)-Distance: 6 miles (approx.)
Directions: West Prong Little Yadkin River, Yadkin, NC 27043 (Address)
Take 52 North, Take Exit 129 in Pinnacle to Perch Road, Right on Perch Rd., Left on Old N 52 Rd., Right onto Coon Rd., Turn left onto Volunteer Rd., Turn Right onto Brim’s Grove Rd. and go 0.2 miles to Brim’s Grove Parking Area.
Hike Start Point: Across the Street from Parking Area at the start of Sauratown Trail Section 12.

Meeting Spot Segment 4

April 22nd Hiking Route

Unchain Winston Segment 5– 7:00 am leave time
Elevation Climb: (500 ft.)- Distance: 5.5 miles (approx.)
Directions: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Rd, Pinnacle, NC 27043 (Address)
Take 52 North, Take Exit toward Pilot Mountain State Park, Turn left onto Pilot Knob Rd., Destination on the right.
Hike Start Point: Across the road from Pilot Mtn. State Park Office Parking Area, at the start of Grindstone Trail. Address might not be exact. Make sure to meet at start of Grindstone Trail.

Meeting Spot Segment 5

Yadkin Riverkeeper Segment 6– 9:00 am leave time-Final Segment
Elevation Climb: (minimal)- Distance: 6.5 miles (approx.) (Dogs Ok)
Directions: Section starts at Pinnacle Hotel Rd. Parking Area inside Pilot Mountain State Park at the horse-trailer parking.
Hike Start Point: the start of the Corridor Section of Pilot Mtn.

Meeting Spot Section 6

End of 36 miles: (Estimated time is by 11:00 am to end hike)
The hike ends at the Hauser Rd. Parking Area.
Address: 618 Hauser Rd., Pinnacle, NC 27043
Take 52 North and exit at 123 toward King. Turn left onto Main St., Continuing onto Doral Dr./King Tobaccoville Rd, Right on Spainhour Mill Rd, Turn left onto Hauser Rd. and another left to stay on Hauser Rd.


About the Charities

Moji Coffee and Morehttps://www.mojicoffee.org/
Moji isn’t your typical coffee shop; they are a pathway for acceptance and opportunity. Located in downtown WinMoji-Logo-from-PDF-300x130ston-Salem, North Carolina, they are a non-profit business made up of individuals with IDD who have joined together to provide meaningful, fulfilling employment to those who often get taken for granted.

big-brothers-big-sistersBig Brothers Big Sisters, Inc.: http://www.bbbsnc.org/
Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children realize their potential and build their futures. They nurture children and strengthen communities. And they couldn’t do any of it without you.


City With Dwellings: http://www.citywithdwellings.org/
CwD-Logo-Updated-and-Polished-01They are an ecumenical collaborative working to end homelessness by creating therapeutic and transformative community. Established 2013 in Winston-Salem, NC.

Hope of Winston-Salem: http://hopews.org/
logo1-hopeTheir mission is to use community-wide volunteer support to prepare and bring nutritious weekend meals to Forsyth County’s 40,000 children who are at risk for hunger.

UNchain Winstonhttps://www.forsythhumane.org/unchain-winston
IMG_4220UNchain Winston provides compassionate and non-judgmental assistance to improve the welfare of dogs living with unending “chaining” and neglect in the Winston-Salem area.

Yadkin Riverkeeper: http://www.yadkinriverkeeper.org/
YPDRK_Logo-ApprovedRD3-2colorThe Yadkin River is the principal hydrological artery of the central Carolina region. The river is threatened by industrial pollution and poor management. Yadkin Riverkeeper promotes, protects, and advocates for the river and the communities that depend on it.

The Birth of The Man Van

The physical birth of the man van happened in a factory somewhere near the Great Lakes. You would think since the man van is a Volkswagen that it was physically built in das Deutschland. Actually, the Volkswagen Routan is just a Chrysler Dodge with a VW logo on the front and back of the van instead of a ram or wings . Who knew? I didn’t manvan2until two months after we bought it on a whim.

Some could argue that the ideological birth of the man van happened at a restaurant with some friends. We ate, we had drinks, and we talked about Uber. I went home, signed up, and the rest was history.

I would argue that the birth of the man van happened circa 2005, seven years before the VW minivan was even manufactured. One reason that the man van’s charity of the month for this April, ABC of NC Child Development Center (websitmanvan1abcofnce), is so important to me is because there most likely would not be a Callahan Clan (at least in its current form) without ABC of NC.


At that point, my mid-twenties self, was a part-time head soccer coach at Salem College manvan3(Go Spirits), and I needed another job. I spent my first two years out of college as an autistic assistant at Jefferson Elementary, while I was coaching soccer at local high schools. With my autistic classroom experience, I found out about this new school that offered autistic tutoring near my Ardmore condo that would fit perfectly with my soccer schedule.

Luckily Selene Johnson, who is still the Executive Director, hired me. I had been working a couple weeks when a tutor walked in one day who had been on vacation my first couple weeks. The minute she laid eyes on me she fell head over heels, and would not leave me alone (just kidding, more like the other way around).

We dated the next several months while we both worked at ABC of NC together. Eventually, I got a full-time job and Katie went to nursing school, but without ABC of NC we would have most likely never started dating. FINAL ubberingthroughwinston V1We were married a couple years later and started our family a couple years after that in 2010. So, in my mind, without ABC of NC, there would be no family, and hence there would never be a need for a minivan. `

I’m very lucky that I got that job at ABC of NC for obvious reason: a great wife and great kids, and this new man-VANing hobby I have. Winston-Salem is lucky to have a great organization like ABC of NC helping children and young adults on the autism spectrum reach their full potential.

Letters from Dad: Happy 4th to my 4X4

Dear Hudson-

Today is your fourth birthday big guy. It’s hard to believe that four years ago you were born on a day where there was a surprise April snow shower. Besides being born on April 4th (04/04), you are also a 4X4 for how tough of a kid you are. You could run full speed ahead into a brick wall and not cry. On the other hand, you do need to work on not crying when you are told no, but that will come with time.

This past year, you got to go to Disney World, learned how to swim, broke your nose, started school at the Downtown School, and were a genuine joy to be around.

You had a great past year and my favorite parts of the past year are my times with you and our whole family. Here are several reasons why you are my best bud in the entire world and some lessons for you for the year ahead:

You love to give thumbs up. Every time you look my way and give me a big smile and a big thumbs up, it gives me great joy.


You are an excellent brother. You look up to your big sister both literally and figuratively. You all do have the occasional fight, but for the most part you get along and really enjoy being with each other.

Keep thinking you are a superhero, because you already are one to me.


Keep being nice to all animals. This year you got to name a puppy for the Forsyth Animal Shelter and you named in McKinley. Then another puppy in the litter was named Hudson for you!


If you want to play sports that will make me happy. But if you decide it isn’t for you, I will be just as happy. As long as you are doing things you enjoy and that YOU want to do.


Keep wearing cowboy boots with shorts, and don’t care what anyone else thinks. Remember that for the rest of your life. You will be more happy if you go for it, and don’t worry about what other people might say.


Now that you are four, it is probably time to avoid going to the bathroom outside and making sure you wear underwear that fit and are on the right way.


Keep loving desserts as much as you do, but maybe try to like some healthy foods too!

Keep being a daredevil, but also remember you need to be safe.

Keep being close to your family. They will be there for you!

Most importantly keep being you! You are a great little man and I wouldn’t trade you and your sister for anything!


I can’t wait to see what this year is like for you. If it is anything like the past year, it will be another great year for us! If you ever want to go fishing or to a lighthouse, I will always want to go with you.



I Suffer from Panic Attacks and That’s Okay

I love my life. I have a great job, a great hobby, and most importantly a great family. There is one part of my life I used to hate. I suffer from panic attacks. Twenty years ago, ten years ago or even two years ago, I would have never said that to anyone. I think I could count on one hand how many people know that I have these attacks (until now). Panic attacks don’t define me, and they definitely don’t mean I am a weak person.

I’m not ashamed of this one small portion of me anymore. It’s a kink in my DNA, and while having a panic attack is a very scary place for a person to be, I’m now okay with this one tiny piece of my life.

This is definitely the hardest blog I have written to date, and also the hardest one I have shared. The panic attacks are not only scary for me but also for my loved ones, because I go to a different place and there isn’t anything that anyone can do to help me.

My attacks are something I have always wanted to write about and share, but it wasn’t until I saw a clip from the NBC show, “This Is Us” that I felt comfortable actually sharing them. You don’t see panic attacks portrayed frequently on television or movies and “This Is Us” did a great job of making this attack as realistic as possible. To see the whole scene: CLICK HERE.

During my attacks, I go to a different mental frame of mind. In the scene in the “This Is Us,” the actor suffering the attack needs comfort from someone, whereas I want to get outside and as far away from anyone else as possible. If I could push a magic button to send me to the middle of the woods a hundred miles from the closest civilization to get away from people and be outside, I would push it every time. I like to pace when I have the attacks, it seems to help ease them. When the attack is happening I am very embarrassed and don’t want anyone to see me in that state.

The earliest attack I remember was when I was sixteen and went on a class trip to Germany. For the first two days there I suffered multiple panic attacks and they continued throughout the ten-day trip. I’m not sure any of my classmates or instructors had any idea what was going on with me. I didn’t know at the time either. One day, I sat on a park bench near our charter bus for close to five hours while my group toured around Munich, scared out of my mind about what was continuing to happen to me. It was a scary situation to have these attacks start when I was thousands of miles from my home and family in an unknown land.

The attacks continued throughout college, and then I finally saw somebody about them. After trying several different ways to get better, I found what works for me about seven years ago. This doesn’t mean that I am cured by any means, but for now these methods have significantly aided in reducing the number of attacks I have so now they are very infrequent.

In some ways, I was scared to become a dad because of my attacks. A dad is supposed to be somebody who is strong at all times for their kids. Luckily for me, having kids has been part of my cure. While I still have the occasional attacks, the past six years, since my daughter was born, my number of attacks have significantly dropped. Another prevention is to stay as busy as possible. The busier I am, the less I think about my normal panic attack triggers.

Luckily, my wife is a nurse. She does a great job of trying to help me through the attacks, but she also knows to give me space until I can get over the attacks. Also, I’m usually able to feel an attack coming on or know the general reasons I get them, so I’m able to avoid putting myself in a bad situation during an attack.

My panic attacks probably won’t ever completely go away. They are something I will always live with, and I’m okay with that. I’m just one of over forty million people in the United States who deal with these attacks. People with anxiety issues shouldn’t have to hide them. If you see somebody not in their right frame of mind, don’t always judge that person off of that one encounter.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. -John Steinbeck