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A Dad's Gift to His Children with Down Syndrome: An Ice Cream Truck?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 9, 2024 3:01 am

A Dad's Gift to His Children with Down Syndrome: An Ice Cream Truck?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 9, 2024 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Joel Wegener and his wife are blessed with 10 children, 2 of which were diagnosed with Down Syndrome. In his quest to find a fun way to teach them life skills, Joel happened upon the idea of running an ice cream truck. Here he is to tell the rest of the story.

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That's and live the Chumba life. And we're back with our American stories. And up next, Robbie brings us the story of Joel Wegener, an educator and fundraiser who lives in Cincinnati with a beautiful story of facing the unexpected challenges life throws our way.

Here's Joel. So I grew up in Southeast Kansas, went to college there and became a teacher, taught in Kansas for a few years. Then I moved to Cincinnati right after I was married for one year. Then we moved from Cincinnati to the St. Louis area and took a teaching position there. We stayed there about 16 years. Many of our 10 children were born in St. Louis area, and we still have friends back there. And one of my daughters is also living back in that area.

Then in 2002, we moved to Cincinnati. I started a fundraising business and was also doing some teaching at a local Christian school. Now, while I was in education, and then also now that I'm doing the fundraising business, most of my time was filled up during the school year. And I had time during the summers to do other activities and try to make a little extra money to support my family. I've done a lot of different things in the summers. One of the most interesting things that I have done before the ice cream truck was I ran a fireworks business in Missouri, a tent along Highway 61.

My children helped me do that. And we have a lot of stories, a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, and on a good year, made some pretty good money doing that. I sold that business several years ago. So over the last few years, I've been looking for something else to occupy my time. Last summer, I saw an ice cream truck here locally, and that planted a little seed in my mind of something that I might want to do in the future.

So I put it in the back of my mind until January of this year, and then started doing some research and trying to find out if it was a viable business option. I joined a couple of Facebook groups and was able to find an ice cream truck in Columbus, Indiana. And because I wasn't real sure this was going to make a go of it, and some of my older children were not all that supportive, and that they thought it was maybe another one of my crazy ideas, I went low budget, but I found that an ice cream truck owned by some people that have a special needs daughter. And they'd used it to help raise money for her therapy, as well as give her something to do. And so we went over and met them.

They actually also have a storefront where they sell hot dogs and other things and employ special needs individuals. So it was really a neat connection there once we went over there and really felt that it was the right thing to do, that God was directing us to that particular ice cream truck. So we purchased it. It needed some repairs.

It needed some cleaning. We started doing that and working on that, and working on that along with my other responsibilities with the fundraising business. And on April 15th, I set that as the deadline, not for taxes this year, but the deadline to hit the streets with my ice cream truck.

So I found a local wholesaler, went through all the licensing and all that. And Mary Kate, my 21 year old Down syndrome daughter and I went out on April 15th for about an hour and we sold $74 worth of ice cream. And I said, we're on our way. And just to back up a little bit about our family, we do have 10 children. Back in 2000, the year 2000, of course, the world was shaking in their boots about Y2K, that maybe all the computers were going to crash and all that on January 1st. Well, we survived that. During that time, my wife was pregnant. And in March 19, 2000, my daughter Mary Kate was born and we did not know beforehand, but soon found out that she had Down syndrome.

She also had some other health issues, was in the hospital for about 10 days. And that was a very pivotal time in our lives. And we were so fortunate to have such support from our family and friends and church.

But it was a change. We did not expect that. And we were not fully prepared for the journey that God had chosen to place us on. But we worked through that, we worked together and we just counted Mary Kate a blessing like all the rest, a blessing from God. So we went through that and then we had another child, which was a son, about a year later. And he was normal, I guess. I haven't decided if any of our kids are totally normal, but he was considered normal.

And then we moved to Cincinnati. Then when she delivered here in Cincinnati, our next child, it was Josh. And he also had Down syndrome. And had some health issues, heart issues, had to have open heart surgery at four months.

But has more or less fully recovered from that, a little heart murmur. So we've been blessed with two Down syndrome. It's been a journey. And I've told people, I'm sure my wife and I are better people because of this journey that God has placed us on with Mary and Josh. So when Mary was born, you know, every parent, when a child is born, wants to say, mom's fine, baby's fine, everything's normal. You know, that's what you want to say. That's what people want to hear.

And so when it isn't, what do you say and how do you handle that? And how do you still accept it and have joy in having a new baby in your life, even though it's not the baby that you would have ordered? You know, if you had, if there was a catalog to order babies, nobody would flip back to the Down syndrome section or whatever else, fill in the blank.

Nobody would go back to that section of the catalog or online, go to that, you know, click on that tab. Now I have a high degree of respect for people that are willing to adopt special needs kids from other nations and all that. That's just incredible. That process of accepting that child as yours and as a blessing from God and for others to see it that way as well. And so that, you know, that takes a process, you know, and we had, I worked at a school near St. Louis and the faculty and staff were so supportive of us during that time, church and just family, friends.

And I remember my aunt and uncle sent me a book. I think it's entitled Sometimes Miracles Hide. And so we had people that just came alongside us and helped us in that, in that journey. And we all know it, sometimes miracles do hide.

Ten kids, two Down syndrome children, my wife and I are better people because of the journey with Mary, Kate, and Josh. The story of Joel Wegener continues here on Our American Stories. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA.

He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare. You can play for free anytime, anywhere. And each day brings a new chance to collect daily bonuses.

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Visit slash Concert Week to learn more and plan your summer with Sean Paul, Sum 41, 30 Seconds to Mars, oh and two-door Cinema Club. And we're back with our American stories and the story of Joel Wegener and special neat treats. An ice cream truck Joel bought to run with his two adult children with Down syndrome. When we last heard from Joel, he was discussing the difficulties that often come with raising children with special needs but also the community that rallied around him and his wife during those hard times.

Back to Joel. But it is an adjustment and then it's not just one time when they're born that you have to do that. You have to continually process it almost more so when they get older because when they're young even though they may have a disability they're still cute people still and you go through kind of the normal steps at a delayed rate but then at some point you know then you have to think about careers you've got to think about their long-term care their physical issues that they're going to have in as an adult and then you know we're facing now you know their desire to to get married and have children and how that all plays out you know for someone with a disability so those are all things they're not easy and I'm not complaining about that I'm just saying hey that's what life is but once you realize and make that firm commitment that for some reason that we will never fully understand God allowed ordained however you're you want to explain it to yourself or to others for us to have josh and marian in our lives and people can talk about unconditional love all they want until they've been around a down syndrome kid they probably haven't seen it and that's they're stubborn but they also they have a very very good unconditional love. You know we get so caught up and worried about all these things and sometimes it's just a reminder when all josh and mary want to know is what are we going to have for supper can we watch a video you know what are we going to do friday night as a family you know so they kind of keep us focused on the things that really matter as opposed to all these other little things that we're worried about. In the state of Ohio when they turn 22 they age out so mary kate will be 22 within this school year so she was unable to continue with the public education so that is a big challenge for all special needs parents is what is the next step after being in the public education she has often mentioned that she would love to work with her papa with the fundraising business i found a few little things periodically that she could do to help but nothing that i could really utilize her in a great way so as we developed this idea of the ice cream truck we started thinking this would be ideal to bring mary in and also josh in and let them be a part of it we were thinking about the name for the truck and the business and my wife had the the brilliant idea in my opinion somewhat of a play on words of special needs but it's special neat treats and so that's what we have named the truck when we first started we went to neighborhoods somewhat randomly fairly close to Loveland Ohio where we live here there was a local magazine that asked if they could feature us it is also an online magazine and so this magazine came out in july and right after that i started getting so much attention locally and some local tv stations to ask to do features and it just has exploded since then it's it's funny because you know when i first had this idea i thought well you know it'd be something you know if i wanted to go out fine if i want to stay home someday i'll see what happens but now it's just taken off and the response has been so unbelievably positive seems like almost every day that i go out to a neighborhood i meet families with special needs kids and just to be able to and just to be able to share with them they see mary kate and our josh working with me but just them seeing my kids in the in the truck working with me gives them hope and gives them some ideas probably my one of my all-time favorite stories that i really feel like was a turning point in my mind as far as what the purpose of special needs treats was all about thursday afternoon several weeks ago i went to a school they were doing a summer program for special needs kids and so they'd contacted me they had heard our story and they went with the low budget thing and i was fine with that there wasn't all that many kids so from a business standpoint it wasn't a real profitable afternoon but i wanted to do it and so i went out there they had the kids come out onto the parking lot of the school they got their treats everybody got their treats and mary and josh had something going on that day so i was by myself but i a little girl came back up to the truck i asked her name she said it was maddie she said thanks for coming she said you've made my day so i started chatting with her i showed her a picture of my kids and she shared with me her her disabilities and her diagnosis had several several things that she's been diagnosed with but she was very talkative we just had a short little visit there and without even pre-meditating or planning it i looked at her and i said maddie i just want you to know that god made you just like you are and he has a special plan for your life and i get emotional thinking about that moment because i was able to make her day i wasn't able to cure her autism her other disorders that i didn't cure those but for one day maddie had a good day and i had a real small part in it when i drove off i'm not generally a real emotional person but i get i got emotional i was wiping tears and uh and i i thought you know i made her day but she made something come into focus in my mind that had been somewhat building throughout the summer but at that point i was like you know what god has me doing this for some unknown reason but here's part of the reason being able one at a time to make their day to give them hope and courage and boy do we need some hope and courage during these days this happened uh even more recently i was up in daton ohio north of here i was at an event and they had a playground there for special needs kids and after it was all over i had mary and josh with me and i said i asked mary and josh hey do you want to go over and see the playground so they went over there and they played and i did a few things in my truck and then i walked over there and josh was on a piece of equipment and there was a little down syndrome girl that was more or less in his way and josh was waiting and the mom saw what was going on came rushing over there and said sorry and moved her little girl out of the way and i said no problem no problem and she looked at at josh and mary and then she looked at me and she said are you the ones that have been on the news with your ice cream truck and i said yeah that that's us and she goes i was just showing that article to my husband this morning or yesterday and so we chatted for a little bit she had this little down syndrome daughter named esther and then the mom came over to me and she told me she said she started getting choked up as she told me she goes i was telling god this morning i needed something to let me know that he was still there and he cared about our family she said we've been going through a lot and she needed a reminder from god that everything was going to be all right and she said this is it and i was like wow because it's not me it's a lot of work there's hot days my air conditioner went down i've had a lot of setbacks with the with the equipment this summer but i'm determined to push through it because i i see now that that there's some real purpose in in an old ice cream truck i never in my wildest dream thought yeah buy an ice cream truck and you can really make a difference in somebody's life but you know i think it's one of those things you you know you trust god and make the best decisions and then you just watch and see what happens and what a beautiful story and a special thanks to robbie for finding it for editing it and for producing it and a special thanks to joel wegener for sharing his story and for just loving his down syndrome kids and doing something special for them and himself and in the end his neighborhood and all those families with special needs kids and frankly just people seeing unconditional love at play and miracles at play i made her day he said about that young girl maddie but in the end she made his too and that's what we try and do here on this show is spread this kind of joy and possibility joel wegener's story mary and josh's story the wegener family story here on our american stories from bbc radio 4 britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip i thought in that moment oh my god we've summoned something from this board this is uncanny usa he says somebody's in the house and i screamed listen to uncanny usa wherever you get your bbc podcasts if you dare this is malcolm globwell from revisionist history ebay motors is here for the ride with some elbow grease fresh installs and a whole lot of love you transformed a 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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-09 04:29:50 / 2024-05-09 04:38:19 / 8

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