This is Brett. I’ve never met Brett, but I love him a lot. There are two main reasons I love Brett: 1. He was a little boy with Down Syndrome and it’s impossible for me to not love a child with a disability 2. It was because of his special needs that I met his mom, Nan, who is quite possibly the most passionate human being I have ever met.
One of my pastors from The Upper Room found out I was starting Uphold and said “You’ve gotta meet Nan! She… well she… well… she does… I guess everything for everyone with special needs. You just have to meet her.”
From a young age I’ve had a habit of adopting myself into families and Nan became one of my adoptive parents within 30 seconds of meeting her. Nan makes me seem calm. She’s in her 50’s and goes on mountain biking trips with her girlfriends, she and her husband Paul have a fully furnished apartment in their basement they give to young people to live in while they pursue careers in ministry and her picture is pasted in the dictionary next to the term “go-getter”. History tells us that all big movements for inclusion and acceptance of children with disabilities were always spearheaded by parents of the children who loved and saw value in their child and after meeting Nan I know that has to be true. The love and work she pours into making the world a better place for children with special needs makes me look like I just think these kiddos are “okay.” She is a force to be reckoned with.
Nan had two equally perfect children born to her. Drew lives in CO and Brett lives in heaven. Brett was born with Down Syndrome and exited this world way too soon by means of Leukemia at age 8. The moment I start to imagine the amount of pain that Nan had to endure through this process I begin to get nauseous. A tragedy so extreme, she easily could have become bitter and let it darken and dampen the rest of her life but instead she became the world’s biggest advocate for children with special needs. She went on to start Young Life here in MN for teens with special needs and eventually started Beyond Limits, a college for adults with disabilities. I recently spoke to her about our upcoming parent empowerment project with Uphold and she was more excited about it than I am, a fete I didn’t know possible.
She went on to tell me that when Brett died she wanted to advocate for parents. Through his passing she learned so much about resources and rights of parents and children with disabilities and she started local courses to educate everyone she knew who needed help. She had the passion because of her son, and through horrible circumstances, she now had the free time to lend her expertise to those who needed it.
When I think about the upcoming parent empowerment project with Uphold Global I get chills because I imagine a world filled with Nan’s. I want to live in a world filled with Nan’s. I want to live in a world with people who have learned to not only see beauty in disability but who can’t imagine a beautiful world without it. When I dream about what success looks like at the end of this project it’s not just a bunch of parents who know what causes their child’s disability, but parents who are now so enamored at the beauty in their child that they feel compelled to go help other parents and children. I see a movement of Nan’s, creating other little Nan’s within their communities. Woah.
Our parent empowerment course costs $10 per family per week for 9 weeks. This includes a meal for the entire family, support and community with other parents of children with special needs and a course that focuses on disability causes, communication techniques for children with special needs, occupational therapy at home, discipline and encouragement, additional services available to them, and how to educate others in their community who think their child is cursed.
Brett didn’t need Uphold Global to provide for his daily needs because he had a “Nan” in his life. Brett was so lucky to have a Nan. By watching the way that she loves others she’s not related to, I’m convinced he was one of the luckiest children in the world because while his life was way too short, he had the ORIGINAL Nan who did and would have done anything for him. That is what I want for each of the children we work with. I want to give them the world; I want to give them a Nan. The beautiful thing about our project is that there is no guess and check required to find a solution. We don’t need to cure diseases or create jobs for the entire world; the solution is simple: LOVE. Lots and lots of love. We can’t force love, but can educate, encourage and empower our parents with love to love and that is enough.
Please pray and consider donating to our parent empowerment project and providing children like Brett in Africa with incredible parents like Nan who will be their child’s best advocates.