Father Figures: Dedicated

“My wife and I grew up together close since single digits. Dated in the late teens, and went our separate ways.

We stayed in touch and even though we didn’t always see eye to eye, we still talked. Years later we reconnected through friends, and at the time she’d just had a son. He was 5 weeks old and the other half (to be polite) wasn’t around. We stayed together and I raised him as my own.

Our son grew and has become a wonderful caring person and a great son. When he was 8, my wife was pregnant with our second son. Even though my wife took excellent care of herself and the baby, God felt he was too good for this world and took him too heaven at 31 weeks. Our angel baby is and will always be loved. We grew stronger as a family and we worked hard to push through our hard times.

She became pregnant again and worked until the day before her delivery, when she had a c-section. She gave me another handsome, and chubby, baby boy. My wife is a tough girl who had two rough pregnancies and smiled the whole time.

I give everything I have to her and all my boys. Even though We continue to struggle with what ifs, we remain dedicated to our family and our future.”

– Jason Houdek

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here

Hell Yeah, a Short Documentary About Chris Farley Just Dropped

Chris Farley Short Documentary
(YouTube/Hats Off Entertainment)

During times like these, we could all use a momentary distraction every now and again.

It’s not always easy to laugh when the world is on fire, and the past week, not to mention the past few months, have been downright harrowing, and that’s even without a parallel universe springing upon us. 2020 is wild.

Normally, we might run to the movie theater to get a break, or watch sports, but neither of those things are back from the COVID-19 quarantine break they’ve been on. But we do have the internet, and on the internet, there are countless TV shows, movies, YouTube clips, and more to keep us occupied and entertained when we need to step back from real life.

Having a laugh is one of the best ways to not only escape reality for a minute but to boost your mood. And over the past thirty years, few entertainers have been as funny or provided as many belly laughs, like Chris Farley.

The comedian’s career exploded on Saturday Night Live with sketches like the Chippendales try-out, Matt Foley, Motivational speaker, Gap girls, and more. Unfortunately, he died prematurely, a tragic loss that impacted many, especially his close friends and SNL colleagues Adam Sandler, David Spade, and more. A few years ago, Adam Sandler performed a touching tribute song on his comedy special, and now there’s a mini-documentary about the late comedian on YouTube.

Created by Joe Ramoni, who previously made a similar mini-doc about John Candy, the doc runs about 20 minutes and uses a variety of clips from Farley’s movie and television projects.

Check it out, and try not to laugh!

Impromptu Minneapolis School Food Drive Brings 29,000 Bags of Food

School Food Drive

The city of Minneapolis has been at the forefront of protests surrounding racial inequality and police brutality. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody sparked the protests there and around the nation. And the protests have had some unintended effects, including causing many stores to temporarily shutter to prevent damage and looting. This has left some communities without the grocery stores they depend on.

When one middle school in the city realized their community had suddenly become a food desert, they partnered with a non-profit to quickly organize a food drive. They hoped to receive around 500 bags of food to help feed the hungry in their community. They ended up receiving more than 29,000.

Residents of the city came out in droves after posts about the food-drive went viral. Cars lined up for blocks, temporarily causing a traffic jam of people who wanted to give back and help their community.

“The thankfulness was palpable,” Rob Williams, the director of the nonprofit, The Sheridan Story, told Good Morning America. “This area became a food desert in 24 hours with no warning, and people really needed this food immediately. There were tears all around.”

The principal of the school said the donations were ‘incredible’ and covered the parking lot, the field, and the entire surrounding area. She said they came from people who wanted to do something tangible to help.

They were left with a surplus of food that is now being donated at other points throughout the city to help feed the hungry.

“This all happened organically through other Minnesota families and locals who care about them as people,” Williams said. “That is what a community is supposed to be, you rally around each other with your time, food or whatever is needed, and get it to those who need help.”

Father Figures: Tough Love

“I met Edward when I was two years old. He was a young man with no children of his own and he took on the responsibility of taking care of my mother and raising me as his stepson.

I remember him having a couple jobs at one time in order to give us the best life that he could. He was determined to care for my mother and myself with unconditional love.

As I grew into my teens, I would test that love, on numerous occasions. I was a handful but Edward didn’t give up on me. He would ground me and lay down rules but I always had a tough time listening. As any stubborn teen would, I soon developed bitterness towards him and his strictness.

I moved out as soon as I could.

Once I entered the real world, I understood what he was trying to prepare me for. All the lectures about cars, bills, taxes, responsibilities, and even children; they all stuck to me. As I went through my own challenges, I realized I knew what to do, that he had given me more than just rules and tough love. He had given me the lessons, experiences, and confidence to get through what he had already been though: life.

I learned that I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if he had chosen a different life. So I called him and apologized, and told him I appreciated every single lesson, lecture, and punishment he felt I needed.

I am now a father of three and pray that I can be as patient and loving as he is. He is my hero and I am eternally grateful for him.

I love you, Dad, with all my heart.”

– Jonathan Montano

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

‘Let’s walk’: Sheriff Joins Peaceful Protest in Sign of Solidarity

Sheriff Marches With Protesters

The country is in a tough spot right now. The coronavirus has everyone on edge, and just as things seem to potentially be slowing down, a long-simmering firestorm exploded over the weekend.

After George Floyd, a fellow dad who deserved the same treatment the most privileged among us are privy to, was unjustly killed by an overzealous (at best) policeman, an outraged, fed-uo population took to the streets. They’re out there protesting not only Floyd’s murder, but the countless similar incidents in which people of color have been mistreated, taken advantage of, marginalized, and destroyed.

The scenes of unrest taking place all over the country are unpleasant to watch, but not unprecedented, and certainly not unwarranted. Unfortunately, protests that were meant to remain peaceful turned violent thanks to bad actors on both sides, including an aggressive and intimidating police force that too often seems to strike first, especially when it comes to conflict in black and underprivileged communities.

Not all policemen, of course. Some, maybe even most, seem to understand that what’s needed now is empathy, understanding, unity, compassion, and collaboration.

One police force in Flint, Michigan is leading the way with a heartening example of how we should all be responding to the justified outrage of our most marginalized people.

Faced with a mob of protesters, Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson decided to listen. He took off the intimidating riot gear police are wearing, stood up in front of his community, and told them, “We wanna be with y’all, for real. I took my helmet off, I laid the batons down. I wanna make this a parade and not a protest!”

Those who were marching in anger responded with cheers and chants of ‘walk with us!’ as the sheriff embraced his community, recognized their valid complaints, and marched alongside them.

It gives you chills just watching. And makes you wonder how different this weekend might have gone if more policemen empathized with their communities the way Sheriff Swanson does. We’re all in this together.

Watch the video:

Balloon Artist with Autism Makes Sculptures to Honor Essential Workers

Balloon Artist with Autism Makes Sculptures to Honor Essential Workers
(Facebook/Ausome Balloon Creator)

Essential workers have been the glue holding society together since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. People around the world have been looking for ways to thank essential workers for their service, whether that means offering them free shoes, or creating a collection of action figures in their honor.

Eddie Lin, a 22-year-old from New Jersey, came up with an idea to thank essential workers that is bursting with creativity. Eddie was diagnosed with Autism at 3 years old, and with the support of his loving parents, learned to do many things that we take for granted. Eddie has a great relationship with his mom, who is usually his caretaker, and his two siblings. But Eddie and his dad, James, share a very special bond.

“Shaving with real blades and white bubbles is their special bonding time,” Eddie’s mom, Jenny Lin, explained. “When Eddie went to prom, he said, ‘ONLY Daddy helps me with the suit and tie and my hair. NOT Mommy’”.

At a young age, Eddie developed a fascination with balloons. At first, he used Youtube videos to teach himself how to turn them into sculptures. Because of the loving support of his parents, Eddie was able to take his passion for creating balloon art to the next level. Eddie’s family comes from Taiwan, and his dad’s side of the family is still there. In 2014, Eddie went on two very special trips to Taiwan – one with his mom, and one with his dad. Not only did he get to visit family, but Eddie’s parents enrolled him in professional balloon classes to improve his unique skill set.

Eddie and James
Eddie Lin and his Dad James prepare for Eddie’s first official gig in 2014 (SUPPLIED)

Eddie (aka the “Ausome Balloon Creator”) has always loved superheroes, but his love of heroes expands way beyond the ones we see in movies – Eddie wanted to honor the heroes we encounter every day. The idea first emerged when a friend’s mom, a grocery store manager, expressed that she was very stressed at work. In typical Eddie fashion, he decided to cheer her up – his way.

Eddie also made a balloon sculpture for his mailman,


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Some of you might have read that our balloon postal worker made it into the hands of an actual postal worker! Meet Maganbhai Patel! Being a postal worker is actually a family affair. His kids also work for the post office and gave the now famous balloon postal worker to their father. Maganbhai is 79 years old and has worked for the post office in Plainfield for 32 years! He’s going to retire this year. In early April he contracted COVID-19. Fortunately he was able to make a full recovery and got clearance to go back to work. We’re so glad we could be any part of his journey with the postal service. And to top it all off, it’s his 52 wedding anniversary today! Congrats to the whole family and thank you for your service as essential workers!

A post shared by Ausome Balloon Creator (@ausomeballooncreator) on

And medical workers.

Eddie’s mom told CNN, “In his head, people who go above and beyond, those are heroes.”

We think you’re a hero too, Eddie. Thank you for making the world a little brighter.

“No Drama Llama” Joins Peaceful Protest in Portland

There’s a famous quote from Mr. Rogers about times of tragedy and crisis.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers said, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Sometimes, they’re not even people.

All over the country, protests are in support of justice for the murder of George Floyd. People of all stripes are coming together to make their voices heard and take a stand against racism and police brutality, and some of them are even bringing their animal friends.

Tuesday night, in Portland, Oregon, local celebrity Caesar, the ‘no drama’ llama, was one of them.

Owned by Larry McCool, from the Mystic Llama Farm, Caesar is well-known in Portland, and his presence at the protest was welcomed, cheered, and even used as an example.

The llama helped make Portland a good example of how to hold a peaceful protest.

Caesar even has his own Twitter account, where he responded to people who caught wind of his presence.

His twitter bio describes Caesar as a “Therapy/Charity #llamactivist protecting & promoting civil rights for all.”

Nice to see him putting his money where his mouth is!

Bus Drivers Give a Unique Congratulations to the Class of 2020

Bus Drivers Give a Unique Congratulations to the Class of 2020

This year’s graduates have not had it easy. Spending their final months of school away from friends, missing out on irreplaceable milestones like prom and graduation, honestly, it sucks. People around the world are trying to find safe and memorable ways to give graduating seniors some kind of silver lining. John Krasinski hosted a virtual graduation for seniors, which had the additional benefit of eliminating the fear of tripping on stage while accepting your diploma. This crafty dad built an entire graduation stage to give his daughter the graduation she dreamed of (well, close enough). Now, bus drivers for the Loveland City school district in Ohio have come up with their own creative way to celebrate their driven, hard-working seniors.

The incredible result was shared in a viral video, congratulating the 392 graduating seniors. It’s a simple idea, really – you can do it at home to celebrate your own graduate. All you need is a drone, seven drivers, 3 ½ hours, 22 school buses, and Lisa Moorhead to coordinate.

Moorehead has been driving buses for 23 years and has witnessed firsthand year after year the bustling excitement that surrounds high school graduation. Moorehead had taken these seniors to school every single day, through difficult times and incredible successes.

Moorehead told Today, “We didn’t have our last days with any of the kids in district,” she said. “We thought (school closing) was going to be three weeks, but it turned out to be the rest of the year. As bus drivers, we bond with our kids. We’re the first ones they see in the morning and the last ones before they go home.”

She knew she had to honor their hard work somehow. With a little help from her friends, Moorehead was able to give the Loveland City school district seniors an incredible surprise. The crew of dedicated drivers worked for hours to complete the tribute to the graduating class, aligning their buses to spell out an enormous “2020”. They weren’t sure they had done it correctly until the art teacher sent up a drone to check their work.

“To us down on the ground, it looked like a maze,” Moorehead explained. “When Jim Barrett … took (the drone) up, there were tears and screams. We were so excited we’d done it.”

We see you, Loveland City school district bus drivers. Thank you for going extra mile for your students.

15 Impactful Moments From Peaceful Protests Across the Country

Peaceful Protests Moments

Many images in the news over the past several days have been ones of chaos, violence, and destruction. The grief and anger in response to the unjust killing of George Floyd is palpable. Floyd’s brother Rodney spoke to CBS news, and shared a powerful message with protesters on behalf of his brother. Rodney stated, “I’m asking for peace the same way my brother would ask us to if he could see the situation, if he was here. Peace. Peaceful protests. It is the best option we have to bring justice.”

So this is for you, Floyd—a collection of powerful, peaceful moments from protests across the country.

There was this enormous gathering in Chicago, with residents marching side by side.

Protesters in Augusta, Georgia held signs and embraced.

Long Beach residents sat peacefully in protest of Floyd’s murder.

In El Paso, Texas, protesters held signs with messages like “All lives don’t matter until black lives matter.”

San Diego protesters ask for justice.

Harlem protesters marched for eight peaceful miles.

Brooklyn streets were filled with nonviolent protesters.

David Holt, mayor of Oklahoma City, joined protesters. Perhaps more importantly, he listened.

A diverse group of Sioux Falls, South Dakota protesters unite, powerfully and peacefully.

These LA protesters are even practicing social distancing.

Protesters in Floyd’s home state protest his death peacefully, as he would have wanted.

Elmira, New York protesters carry signs, side by side.

Downtown Indianapolis protesters link arms as they face police officers.

Baltimore protesters take a knee and raise a fist for George Floyd.

And finally, this protester in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ending a long day of peacefully protesting by giving water to the police. He states, “I’m not mad at you.”

Father Figures: Blessed

“Being a dad is the best job in the world.

I’m a firefighter and am exposed to the harsh reality of the real world through death, sickness, and other unfortunate situations. Being able to hug my kids and wife allows me to humble myself through any hard times we may go through, because I am blessed that we are a healthy family with a roof over our heads.

The real world isn’t known to many, nor is it an absolute to those living in it. As long as I can make a difference and teach my children that they are blessed and therefore owe it to society to be a better person and help others, I can sleep at night.

Being a dad is truly the best job in the world.”

– Johnny Gray III

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.