Our 2019 Knights of Columbus Council 13517 Family of the Year, the Hudaks, also incidentally overlaps with our Youth of the Year, Kevin Hudak. Jon (LeRoy), and Karen (Middletown), met while attending college at Ohio University. Jon would move to Akron to obtain his MBA from The University of Akron. Now, having been married for 22 years, it is a safe bet that neither knew what life would have in store for them, but to say they have risen to the occasion would be the understatement of a lifetime.
It was in 2004 that they welcomed their son, Kevin, into the family. Kevin was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy due to a brain-injury he had before birth that was caused by a stroke. They immediately developed a game plan relying heavily on traditional therapies, including medications, and it was during this period, while Kevin’s seizures were bad, that they felt they were not making the progress they were hoping for. Around this time, Karen’s parents discovered a book called “What to Do About Your Brain Injured Child” that would change the course of their lives. In September 2006, guided by this book, Jon and Karen attended a center in Philadelphia, and later Kevin would join them to be evaluated, and receive a customized intense, individualized program that would shift every six months. This program would last ten years, requiring them to return to Philadelphia to continually modify and adapt the overall approach. After ten years on the Philly program, the Hudaks changed course, in 2017 Kevin had three orthopedic surgeries in 13 months and is making wonderful progress in traditional therapy. After starting the program in Philly, Kevin has been medication-free and seizure-free since 2006.
As parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), and in need of help, they passed out flyers at an IHM picnic, searching for able bodies to assist. It was there they learned that it takes a village, and that village responded overwhelmingly. Led by his parents, and with the help of fellow parishioners, Kevin received therapy that eventually enabled him to crawl, stand, and walk. Karen mentions, “IHM provides for us and has always taken care of us”. While Kevin is non-verbal, he communicates by way of a Talker, a Speech Generating Device. He can greet and make simple requests, and occasionally surprises family with a “wow” moment, like the time he answered “vacation” for what he wanted for Christmas. Even among the physical, speech, and occupational therapies, and the applied behavioral analyses, Karen continues to home school him. Karen persists in finding resources to benefit Kevin, including the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program through the Ohio Department of Education. This enables Kevin to receive all his therapy that he is progressing so well. Kevin has taken a keen interest in art, and after contacting Kathleen Friess, IHM principal, he now attends weekly art classes at the school. In the past year, Kevin has learned to ride a trike bike, ride a scooter with left hand assistance, and can walk a one-mile trail. Kevin also enjoys music therapy and an amazing dance program at Akron Children’s Hospital, complete with recitals and bow ties. From time to time, Jon and Kevin have been seen at Cleveland Indians or Cavaliers games.
IHM continues to be a source of support for the Hudak family. Aside from participating in evening Church programs, Karen attends a Women’s Book Study, and participated in the Christ Life Series. In fact, throughout the 18-week series, the same women would sit together, and this eventually evolved into the “Wild Goose Sisters” meeting every Monday at Karen’s home. The name was chosen because Wild Goose means Holy Spirit in Celtic. Jon works for MidWest Health Services, a company aiding adults with disabilities. He also serves on the IHM Finance Council. The Hudaks continue their generosity towards the parish and various fundraisers, including helping with the first Parish Christmas party this year. Karen writes that “God continually reminds us to keep our faith and hope alive by always providing for us especially with the people he sends to help us along our way. We are grateful that so many IHM parishioners have been a part of Kevin’s journey”.
What Jon, Karen, and Kevin Hudak are symbols of strength, not only at Immaculate Heart of Mary, but throughout the community. Even after receiving such a difficult diagnosis, Kevin has overcome many challenges in his life. A regular attendee at masses, Kevin inspires all those around him and has certainly inspired the men of Knights Council 13517. Kevin’s parents illustrate a determination that will enable him to surpass any future challenges he may face. Karen also notes, “Kevin took his first steps three years to the day after being prayed on by Dr. Nemeh, and his wife Kathy, at the healing service offered at IHM on February 26, 2006. I feel this is a direct result of being prayed over. God providing the book that showed us the course to take with Kevin to achieve walking and all the hands and hearts and prayers from IHM that helped Kevin”.