A good look at our inspiration!
Our oldest son, Charlie, taking 2nd place at the Ohio Amateur Contest! Already better than his dad!
Stand Up For Downs Promo Video
How It All Started...
I grew up in Canton, OH and quickly asserted myself as the class clown...sometimes to the displeasure of my teachers and parents. I attended Miami University of Ohio then headed to Chicago to get my life started. In Chicago, I saw a production at the famed Second City Theatre and got hooked. I began studying there and doing stand-up comedy as much as I could - even did a few commercials, and believe it or not, appeared on OPRAH. I loved doing comedy, but realized after 3 years, it wasn't paying the bills, and I needed to give it up and find a "real job".
I met my wife, Ellen, got that real job, and had our first son, Charlie, all while living in downtown Chicago. In 2008, we made the big decision to move back to Ohio, and hopefully grow our family. We moved to Medina, OH which turned out to be a bit smaller than Chicago, but we quickly settled in, and realized, we were going to have another baby.
At the same time we moved to Medina, I decided to give stand-up comedy another shot. My goal was to do shows here and there as I traveled for my day job. I took 2nd place in an Ohio Amateur contest in 2009, then 2nd place in the Cleveland Comedy Fest in 2010, began producing shows in Canton, OH with national acts, and even began featuring in clubs. So the comedy career was unexpectedly taking off.
As I began my resurgence into comedy, Henry came into our lives in March of 2009. He was born with Down Syndrome. This news came to us shortly after his delivery, and needless to say, our lives were about to change in a big way. I'm sure my wife and I handled this news in the same way as many other parents learning of this for the first time - anxiety, questions, sadness, worry, and a host of other emotions. All of that turned very quickly as we got to know our litle Hennie and about the Down Syndrome community. We read so many articles and talked to countless parents and professionals about DS. We received amazing support from our local organization, The Up Side of Downs. Those initial emotions were now turning to excitement, joy, and hope.
As Henry grew older and my second stand-up career grew as well, I began to think about writing a show on raising a child with special needs. I was so overjoyed with my boys and how great they were turning out, I had to get my thoughts on paper. I was very active in The Up Side of Downs, and had started to develop some very particular ideas and thoughts about Down Syndrome and people with special needs. So I began writing the show in the early part of 2011, and worked with The Up Side of Downs to put it together as a fundraiser.
The show, We Need A Sign, was performed on October 22nd, 2011 at the Breen Center for Performing Arts in Cleveland. There were over 250 people in attendance, and the event raised money for the organization. The show was a success beyond all my expectations!
That show spawned a show called "How Bout...Just Treat Each Other Right" for younger audiences and a more universal show about managing the major obstacles in your life and turning them into a positive, called Minimize The Mountain. I never thought that I would one day become a funny corporate and motivational speaker, but since I've been doing these shows, I am realizing that it is the role I was born to play.
So that gets you all pretty up to date with me...
As for my boys and family, we are all doing great. My wife and I started a charity called Stand Up For Downs whose mission is to enhance the lives of those with DS through humor - www.standupfordowns.org. We produce comedy events and raise money for many of the amazing organizations working with the DS community. My wife is very involved in government advocacy programs for those with special needs. My son Charlie is still the best big brother one could ever hope for, and he's Henry's best speech and physical therapist. He's also trying his hand at comedy. You can check out some Charlie comedy to the left. And Henry, well, yeah, he just keeps being Henry - that same beautiful little boy that changed all of our lives in the best way possible.