Brad Cohen’s Brad Cohen Tourette Syndrome Foundation recently applied for and received a small grant from Kars4Kids. We were happy to give him a hand with the good work he’s doing, advocating for those who have Tourette Syndrome (TS), so they can achieve both personal and professional success. Brad’s foundation is using the grant toward the 2015 Tourette Syndrome Conference to be held June 6. It’s a good time to hold a TS conference because we’re currently right smack dab in the middle of Tourette Syndrome Awareness month (May 15-June 16).
Tourette syndrome is not easy to live with. The childhood onset of TS brings with it motor and verbal tics. It isn’t something that goes away with time. The person with Tourette’s lives with the syndrome for a lifetime.
TS can make it difficult to take in a movie at the theater, since constant or even intermittent verbal tics might disturb the other movie-goers. TS can make it difficult for young people to be accepted by their peers. TS can make it difficult to develop loving relationships and if you were able to imagine all that, now imagine what it was like for Brad to try to find someone to hire him as a teacher, his lifelong aspiration.
Who was going to hire a guy with tics to teach children? It didn’t seem to matter that Brad was MEANT to be a teacher—that he had incredible teaching skills and a willingness to work hard. School after school turned him down.
But Brad didn’t give up. He was made of sterner stuff. Brad’s positive attitude helped him get ahead in spite of TS symptoms. And he achieved his dream.
So now you know why someone made a movie about the guy. He’s INSPIRING.
On a personal level, I knew about Brad a long time ago. To me, the guy was a hero. I saw a documentary about him long before I was a glimmer in Kars4Kids’ eyes. I watched that documentary with my husband and we were both BLOWN AWAY by Brad’s courage and felt as proud of him as if we were his parents when we heard he had achieved his professional goal of becoming a teacher.
Now fast forward to a few months ago. A Facebook friend shared a scene from the movie based on Brad’s life—Front of the Class—and I remembered the documentary I’d seen and the whole Brad Cohen story.
Hmmm, thought I. That would make a GREAT blog.
And so, I wrote up this blog piece: Boy With Tourette Syndrome Makes A Movie, Makes Good and included a youtube video of the entire movie. It was a decent piece, but after I published it something nagged at me.
I can do better than this, I thought. What I should really do is interview the guy. I knew that I should have done so to begin with instead of that post with the clip. But I wussed out.
Full disclosure: I’m kind of shy. Not to mention, that to me, Brad was this big deal celebrity.
Still, I knew I wasn’t doing right by my readers, so I took a deep breath or two or three and then googled Brad like crazy.
I found his website, and bingo, there was his contact info. I thought to myself, “Can I really reach out to BRAD COHEN?
THE. FAMOUS. Brad Cohen????”
I hesitated, my cursor hovering over the details I’d uncovered. And just as my cursor hovered, so too, the evil inclination hovered just over my shoulder as I stared at the computer screen, putting doubt in my mind.
Did I really need to interview Brad Cohen? After all, I’d ALREADY written about him. I devoted an entire blog piece to his story. What would be the point?
Then, happily, my good inclination kicked in bringing good sense along for the ride: I knew I’d be cheating my readers, cheating MYSELF, if I didn’t at least TRY to get an interview with Brad. I’d taken the coward’s way out with that earlier blog piece. I could do more than that for my readers, for ME. It was time to break down the barriers.
Long story short, I wrote to Brad and in a very short time span, heard back from Brad himself, as opposed to his social media guy (does he even have a social media guy?). Brad agreed to let me interview him which was SO COOL I found myself jumping up and down and screaming YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Now being that I’m this sort of solitary introvert of a writer, I had no one with whom I could share this news which I was fairly BURSTING to share (have I used enough uppercase letters and bolding to convince you that I was, um, excited?). No one that is, except for my 14 year-old son Asher.
I told him, HE GOT EXCITED, TOO! So I knew I’d definitely gone outside of my comfort zone, done something completely daring and insane, in contacting Brad.
Cue the blogger linkbait headline: You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next.
Rather than keep you all in suspense, I’ll tell you straight out: I got this fabulous blog piece out of the deal.
But no. That’s not all.
What happened is this: just as I had googled Brad Cohen, after I wrote him, he ended up googling this blog and the Kars4Kids website. Brad happened on the webpage that talks about our small grants program, for like-minded nonprofits. So—what the heck—just as I dared to reach out to Brad to ask for an interview, he dared reach out to me (after all, his whole life has been based on the premise that there is no such thing as “can’t”) to ask about the small grants program: would he qualify?
The truth is I had no idea, so I passed on the request to my manager, who in turn let me know that in fact, Brad’s foundation was probably an excellent candidate for a small grant. Soon enough, Brad’s application was reviewed and he received a Kars4Kids grant of $2000.
Whoa! I could not believe it. I had been so shy about reaching out to Brad. So shy that I almost didn’t. And look what had come out of that small moment of daring! Only because I took a deep breath and sent out that note to Brad, did he end up receiving this grant.
But of course, it’s not about BRAD receiving something, so much as the people he helps by breaking down the barriers between those who suffer with Tourette’s syndrome and the rest of the world. Because of Brad’s work, people with TS have more hope than ever before that they can live meaningful lives, have meaningful professions and relationships, too. The small grant Brad’s foundation received from Kars4Kids, helped him organize the 2015 Tourette Syndrome Conference, to be held June 6, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Can you guess the theme of this conference? It’s (ahem) “Breaking Down the Barriers”!
Isn’t it funny how stuff comes together sometimes?