An Arizona father searching for support as he raises a son with disabilities discovers he’s not alone. Ray Morris created a nonprofit group that offers monthly meetings, workshops and online help for fathers to ask questions, share experiences and learn from each other.
Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of Arizona giving and leading, producer Christina Estes introduces us to an Arizona father who discovered he's not alone as he faces special challenges.
It's 4-O'clock on Thursday afternoon.
Here we go.
And Zachary Morris is calling it a day.
Good job. How was the program today?
After spending eight hours at an adult day program, Zachary is ready to relax. That means the shoes, socks, and shirt come off and the TV comes on.
I don't know how you describe Zach. He is just -- I want to say perfect. Because he just wants to love. He wants to be loved.
Ray Morris's oldest son is 26. Cognitively he is about two years old. Zachary was born with hemimegalencephaly, a rare condition where one half of the brain is larger than the other.
Zach came home. I went into, I call it survival mode. I -- I took care of everything at home that needed to be done. I was the man, do what men do.
That left ray's wife Kelly to handle Zach's therapy and doctor's appointments.
After about three, five years, we were drifted apart. Because she is focused on him. I'm doing my thing over here, and I didn't know how to deal with my emotions.
He couldn't help me. He tried. He couldn't make my pain go away. I couldn't make his pain go away.
I had struggles dealing with my emotions. Allowing myself to grieve. Allowing myself to love again. Allowing Zachary to love me and loving Zachary because I didn't know is he going to have seizures. Is he going to die? Is he -- what's going to happen?
When ray began searching for ways to help himself and his marriage, he found resources for mothers, but nothing for fathers like him. So Ray formed a Nonprofit support group, called dads for special kids.
What are you thinking about Zachary?
I have a little model slogan that I live by, or try to live by. I'm the right dad for Zachary. He's the right son for me.
You are getting big, aren't you?
Greg Burgas believes the same thing about his daughter, Mia.
You already said hi. I know it is a camera.
For seven months, Greg and his wife experienced the joys of being first-time parents. Then a flatbed truck rear ended their car, spinning it so violently that Mia strapped into a baby seat suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The most difficult thing is emotionally, psychologically, is that she is never -- probably not going to live on her own ever. That is difficult just realizing that she will probably be a lot like her sister in understanding that she is never going to be able to do that sort of thing and it gets to you.
Are you happy now?
It is one of the feelings Greg can share with other dads when they get together each month.
Are you a big girl?
You're not a big girl? I think it has made me a better father and made me more aware of other people's problems.
Some of the kids are much worse off than Mia. I'm just -- I'm very thankful that she is as kind of engaged in the world as she is.
Back at the Morris house. Zach has moved upstairs to watch videos in his bedroom. It is a favorite spot for both his parents.
First thing in the morning, when he is awake and he doesn't have all of his seizure meds in him yet and so he's just happy. Rolling around on his bed. Pretending he can't get out of bed. I can't get up. He'll say that. Can't get up. That's the best. The best.
And I go in his room and he sits up and I lay on the foot of his bed sideways and he turns and looks at me and takes his head and leans right on my shoulder here and drives his head into my shoulder just back and forth. And he rolls and he just rests his head on my shoulder. I'm like, if that is not love, what is?
It took ray Morris years to reach this point. He hopes dads for special kids will help others get there sooner.
Ted Simons: Dads for special kids holds monthly meetings across the valley, along with special events and workshops. You can learn more at dads4specialkids.org.