When I graduated from college, I told myself I was done with school, homework, studying, tests and anything like it.
I don’t think I ever really enjoyed school until attending DeLand High School and getting involved in TV production. I knew I had found my calling and have been involved in the media ever since.
I went to Daytona State College and the University of Central Florida part-time while I worked at WESH-TV full-time and became a TV news producer. It was in 2000 when I moved to the emerging side of online journalism and morphed my writing style from broadcast to what we call print.
The media has always been a big part of my life, but when J.P. was born, I believe my eyes opened and saw the need for services and top-notch health care for children with disabilities.
I joined the Board of Directors for the Conductive Education Center of Orlando, where children with motor disabilities can get their therapies and education in a group setting. Each child is paired with an assistant for one-on-one instruction. I was amazed to see what the kids could learn and the difference it made in their degree of independence.
After several years there, I moved to the Family Advisory Council at Florida Hospital for Children. The emphasis on family-centered care is impressive and the voice that hospital administrators have given to the council shows how vital we are to them. We’ve been added to key hospital committees to make sure no policy is enacted without our input.
I guess I’ve come a long way from never wanting to be in a classroom again to moving into a dormitory for two weeks of instruction at Canine Companions for Independence.
But getting married to a wonderful wife and being blessed with a very special son have changed my perspective, and I’ve heard so many people say these dogs really change the lives of those who receive them.
While we know our dog will be able to perform simple tasks for J.P., like opening doors, picking up objects and even taking off his socks, I’m more interested in the process of bonding the dog with J.P. even though he won’t be the person giving the commands.
I know — I’m actually really interested in going back to school and finding this stuff out. I’ve come a long way.
I also can’t wait to see how J.P. reacts to the dog. He really smiled and seemed to enjoy the dog he saw at orientation, and I’m looking forward to meeting the other families from across the Southeast who will join us for our classes.
I know we’ll all have things in common, and I’ve heard many of the families stay in touch even after they’ve completed the training.
When people talk about the things they would put on their bucket list, I believe this is one of them, and it’s something many will never get to experience.
I hope I remember that over the next two weeks and take the time to really soak it all in, enjoying the experience and treasuring the chance to watch J.P. meet his first furry companion.
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Beautifully written Jeff and very touching. By sharing your life, with JP, you bless us all.
Slow down and enjoy it. A once in a lifetime experience. Wish I could be there with you!