The Hall of Fame? Really?


Dear Ms. Kelly,

I have to confess that I spent a considerable amount of time trying to write "my story," as it pertains to my Bishop Ready High School Hall of Fame nomination. Like many, I have a difficult time with this type of notoriety as I just consider what I do…well, what I do. With that said, what follows is just a summary, rather than some dressed-up version. I don't know how to do that.

I have 3 daughters. That’s not what I say when folks ask because it’s awkward and uncomfortable for them sometimes. Running The MJB Foundation is my way of keeping alive the legacy of my daughter Meghan Joy. This isn’t the life’s work I would have guessed for myself, but it is a mission I embrace, a position I am proud to hold. I’m Meghan Joy’s Daddy, but I’m also very proud of Kailey and Delaney. Being there for all of my children, in whatever capacity, is my biggest priority.

Coming out of Bishop Ready I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life except that it would be better if it didn't involve math. Naturally then, I became a theatre major at The Ohio State University. I thought that was it, the career for me. I even came back and directed a couple of plays at Ready. At the end of the academic year I realized that I wasn't ready for college in the traditional sense. I auditioned and was accepted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, but having spent more than $600 in less than 2 days there, and not having received a scholarship I decided instead to continue to work at the library, a job I'd had since my senior year of high school. 

In 1988, I met the woman who would later become my wife. I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew that I wanted to be the best husband and father I could possibly be. I think childhood and adolescence is absolutely the hardest thing any of us will have to deal with in our lives (save for extraordinary circumstances), and I knew I wanted to make it as easy as I possibly could for my children.

In 1993, our twin daughters Kailey and Meghan Joy were born. We were not expecting twins, and there were many complications. The whole story is here. 
http://www.mjbfoundation.org/about-the-mjb-foundation/the-story-of-meghan-joy/

In May of 1994, we were devastated by the death of Meghan Joy. In an attempt to find some peace, some reason, my wife and I began to reach out to friends and family who told us that Meghan had inspired them, that she had a profound effect on their lives and many others. To continue her memory and preserve her legacy we started holding a golf tournament every year as we, and many of our friends, were avid golfers. Each year for 9 years we had the golf outing and a big party dubbed "The MJB" to celebrate Meghan's life. We settled into a pattern, and daughter Delaney joined us in 1996.

In 2004, our 10th year, we wanted to do something big. In talking to a friend I realized that we could do more with the story of Meghan, that we should use her inspiration to help other children. Children who, like Meghan faced more than their fair share of challenges. Cerebral palsy, autism and a whole host of other diagnoses affect the daily lives of so many children, and the resources for helping them are few and far between. So began The MJB Foundation.

We held our first Golf for Joy, the 10th annual family golf tournament and party remembering Meghan's inspiration in June of 2004. We raised a little over $1,800. We gained our 501(c) 3 status in 2005. We never looked back. In 2010 we added a bowling event and, to date, we have raised more than $40,000 for children with challenges in Central Ohio. From our Mission Statement: By sponsoring recreational and educational activities, donating physical goods and services, and making monetary contributions we hope to bring Joy to these children. 

When we started The MJB Foundation it was easy to identify a need that wasn’t being met. Simply put, some children just don’t have access, or enough access, as the case may be. When Meghan was born in 1993 we had excellent insurance, everything was paid for. If we needed equipment or some adaptive device for Meghan, no matter the cost, it was covered. In 2004 this type of insurance for anyone was nothing more than a faded memory, and the situation has not improved today. 

Even the children with the most challenges are often left at the bottom of some bureaucratic list with not enough funding to obtain the resources they need to just be kids, to experience the Joy that should be childhood. 

The MJB Foundation wants to be there to fill those gaps, to find those children who aren’t experiencing that Joy and help them with the resources they need. Whether that is an adaptive tricycle, some kind of therapy, a special tray or just an adaptive piece of furniture; we work with organizations like FCBDD to identify children in need, provide the needed funding and send them a gift of Joy from The MJB Foundation. 

Our next event is coming up in November as we are presenting Ohio Idols for Independence – Helping Kids with Cerebral Palsy Find Their Voice in conjunction with Ohio Idol, and CP Parent Columbus, a Family Resource Group for Cerebral Palsy. Attendance is expected to exceed 1,500 and the event should raise more than any other we have held to date. 

So does that make me a Hall of Fame inductee? I don't know. Even when I eventually graduated from college in 2001 I wasn't sure what I wanted to be when I grow up, but I have found that I really like to work with kids, and I really like to work with non-profits, particularly organizations that benefit folks who get missed. My community is very important to me... with a lot of emphasis on family. I’m also currently the treasurer for the Westland Band Boosters. (I had some spare time I needed to fill.)

I told my girls that they didn't come with an instruction manual and that we were going to figure out the best way to do things together. As my children have grown I have stressed to them, and to their friends and other youth I have worked with, the importance of finding a way to enjoy their childhood. 

I coached my girls’ sports teams when they played, and I have been fortunate to be a "second Dad" to many of their friends. I still have kids today whose eyes light up as they greet me with an embrace. Many of them call me "Poppa Chow." That's enough of a reward for me.

1 comments:

Cat Fithian said...

Jim, you bring tears to my eyes every time you talk about your life. You inspire me. Thank you for sharing this. I think you SHOULD be in a hall of fame, and Annette, also.