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Monday, November 16, 2009

It All Started With A Party

I've been away from my blog for awhile and I missed communicating to my handful of supporters.

Sadly, I was distracted by the sudden death of my friend Ken Jasch.

Some of my readers will know him some not. If I have I not met Ken you might not be reading this blog. A big statement, but true.

When I graduated from college I really had no specific direction. The services that were being offered to me at the time came with incomplete instructions.

I had a great girlfriend, Donna, lots of potential, but no direction. Then I went to a party.

The MDA Summer camp always had a beach party. Then a party after the party. Well one year Ken had a party after the party after the party. This is when my life came into clear focus and my direction was set.

I had been friends with Ken, but did not really know him. His party was at his apartment that he lived in alone. I had never known that Ken, a disabled man, was living on his own and engaged at the time I believe. This blew my mind. The apartment was very cool just North of Downtown Chicago. His life was "normal".

I remember telling Donna, "This is what I want."

Later I talked to Ken and found out he was an instructor for a ProgramAble that taught the disabled to be computer programmers for businesses. Nine months in the classroom and a 3 month paid internship. The program would help arrange transportation and, if possible, teach me to drive a real car.

The reason I give credit for my career is that same program he was working for was offered to me once before but under the name, El Valor. Nothing more then a name that sounded like a bull fighting school. I'm not that into bull fighting, so I passed on the program.

Ken informed me that El Valor was the parent of ProgramAble. Ken told me to buy a tie and take the test. He would take care of the rest.

I bought a tie, took the test, and Ken got me connected to transportation to and from class. I did the 9 months training, interned at Waste Management for 3 months and was hired for eight years after that.

I was a computer programmer.

That foundation had allowed me to be employed for 14 years, private consultant for seven years, married for 19 years, a father for six years, to buy three cars, two homes, 6 trips to Walt Disney World, one trip to California, one cruise and one moderately popular blog.

It all started with a party.

Thank You Ken, thank you.

6 comments:

Cousin Linda said...

It just goes to show you . You never know who or what is right around the corner for a life changing experience. Always be who you are, be great to everyone you meet, and never be afraid to just try.

bill said...

not only is it great that ken was able to have a "normal" life, but he was able to show you that it was possible for you too.

sometimes we only need to know what is possible.

Mark Ploch said...

All very true. Now, if I can find a billionaire with a disability who made his/her fortune while blogging I will have it made in the shade.

Julie Fouts-Smith said...

Mark,
I was at that same party, it is weird to think that we may have both had an experience out of the same party. My experience was a little different than yours. I was in awe as you were with how cool Ken's apartment was and how he had made this wonderful life for himself. Also how much he fought for rights for people with disabilities. He was super cool. r What changed my life was to see that one person with total dependence on others had overcome all of the hurdles that life threw his way. I still think that in that moment back on a very hot hot day (I remember the heat)that I for the first time didn't see that mans wheelchair. I saw the man. I never did form a huge bond with Ken but I do think in some small way that that party made me look at others in a very level playing field kind of way. Since then I can honestly say that I know that a disability is what you make of it. We all have them. I too wanted what Ken had. A cool apartment on the North side, a confidence that no matter what it can be done.

Mark Ploch said...

Julie,

That's a great perspective. Thanks for sharing.

Amy said...

Oh my gosh, I remember that party, the apartment, and the fact that ALL disabilities disappeared completely that night! I think Danny Martin best summed it up at the memorial: "He (Ken) was the most able-bodied disabled person I've ever met." I doubt anyone can or will deny that...