"You never know how far reaching something you think, say or do today, will impact the lives of millions tomorrow." B.J. Palmer
Children...the essence and purpose of life. With them, life continues; without them it ends. When a child is born, parents oftentimes realize a love that only through the experience of bringing a child into this world one can begin to fathom. A love so powerful, a question of trading your existence for theirs is unquestioned. For most, there's nothing a parent wouldn't do in support of nurturing, raising, guiding and sacrificing for the wellbeing of their offspring. Every parent reading this blog today knows intimately what I'm sharing. The question begs, would you be willing to extend that unconditional love to the son or daughter of a child from another mother?
Regardless your response, consider a perspective that I'm certain 95% of all reading this wouldn't have even contemplated. Why? Because you're not among the 5% of families in the United States that have children with whom the 95% take for granted as 'normal'. You know, simple things like breathing, eating, seeing, hearing, crawling, walking, and talking. For the 5%, the love's not questioned, it just includes challenges that accompanies children with disabilities. Adding that to the equation, does your answer remain the same?
This past Saturday, May 14, 2022, I was honored to share in a celebration of a father and his son who is the epitome of the love I'm referencing. The father, Joseph (Joe) Herr, was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the death of his son, Logan James Herr . On August 24, 1997, Joe's son Logan was born with cerebral palsy. He and his family were now among the 5% of households in the United States and 10% worldwide that have children with disabilities. Only four (4) short years after his birth on February 22, 2002, Logan died with complications from pneumonia. The devastating pain of losing his son has been channelled into unconditionally loving hundreds of children from other mother's and their families with the same devotion he poured into his own.
As a celebrated and accomplished athlete as a High School and University of Wisconsin-Madison wrestler, Joe had never experienced the physical, mental, and emotional challenges those like his son knew as their 'normal'. He learned quickly that though a parent’s love is unyielding, so much more is needed to care for children with disabilities. The physical things we often take for granted like seeing, hearing, walking, and eating without challenge; are the type of dreams that children like Logan would cherish feeling even once.
In college Joe majored in construction management. Serving his apprenticeship as a carpenter for Tri-North Builders, Inc. he transferred his unparalleled work ethic as a wrestler into his professional construction career. As a result he quickly ascended the ranks to Senior Project Manager in which he was responsible for all phases of the construction process. Combining a love and expertise of building and an intimate knowledge of the physical demands required to take care of Logan, he took the heartbreak of his son's loss and committed his life's work to supporting families just like his. The result was the formation of Logan's Heart and Smiles which over the past 20 years has provided over 200 families with safer, accessible environments to support the needs of their children. These modifications include ramps, fences, beds, showers and anything that can ease the burden of navigating daily life. In his own words, "getting a child in and out of their home should not be a luxury".
Without the generous financial support of donors whose gifts provide the funding needed to purchase materials used in constructing required modifications and the skilled laborers who volunteer their time to build them; none of this would be possible. Led by Joe, LHS builds structures that allow children with disabilities and their families to experience lives that most could otherwise only dream of. Up until this past year, he has single handedly built or participated in building all but a few of the 200+ structures. Though his body's now failed him and he's no longer able to physically do this work, his indomitable spirit and heart of gold grows stronger daily.
Though celebrating the 20th year of transforming devastation into inspiration, LHS has only scratched the surface of the burgeoning need these families require. Witnessing the hundreds of people in attendance, the joy and laughter of the children and their families he's helped, and the family of people that have extended their love to those in need as if their own was simply breathtaking. In the words of B.J. Palmer, "you never know how far reaching something you think, say, or do today, will impact the lives of millions tomorrow".
What can one man or woman do to impact the world? Despite our challenges, do our best to be our best. If you ever wonder if you're doing your best, ask those whom you've impacted and listen as you can't see the picture when you're in the frame. For you Joe, it's easy...you can feel it in the hearts and see it in the smiles of all whom you've touched. Especially Logan.