By Peggy & Chris Klug, Chan’s Mom & Dad
It takes people like us to make Hammer a special place.
In 1993, we adopted a beautiful baby boy from Korea through Children’s Home Society. This was back in the day when the babies were brought over to us, when we could walk to the airport gates and greet them. On that sunny May morning, from the jetway came a dozen babies, including Chan, 5 1⁄2 months, who was the best-looking baby of the bunch with his wide smile and eyes that locked in with ours.
We were thrilled to have him join our family. Our daughter Tracy, four at the time, was so excited to take care of a real-life baby.
But… pretty quickly we realized Chan was not progressing like a typical infant in his development.
We sought answers from specialists and eventually we were told he had severe developmental delays. Following numerous tests, the diagnosis was oxygen deprivation at birth. Chan also began having seizures, sometimes multiple seizures in a single day.
There was a period of mourning of course, thoughts of what could have been and a shifting of expectations. Peg’s mom was really supportive, she told us (more than once!) that we were the perfect parents, the perfect family, for Chan. She was confident in our abilities and we really leaned into her faith that yes, we could handle this. This beautiful baby, our Chan, The Chan Man, is who he is and forever will be.
So, you know, you just do what you need to do.
Chan had lots of interventions, including speech therapy, but eventually it was determined he was never going to be able to talk. That was hard to hear, of course. But Chan does communicate well without words. If you take the time to get to know Chan, you can tell what he’s feeling through his eyes, gestures and his emotions. He builds unspoken connections with everyone he meets.
Through it all, and to this very day, Chan always has a smile on his face. He has great social skills, he can remember faces from throughout his life and he loves to be with others. He is a people pleaser. There’s nothing we want more than for him to be happy.
Chan went to Hopkins Public Schools, where he had great teachers, and was a big part of the school community. In fact, one of the teachers who shared a special bond with Chan, asked him to be in her wedding, complete with a full tux. When we are out in public, it’s clear he knows more people than we do! Once you meet him, you remember him and his smile, and more remarkably, he remembers you.
Tracy, our daughter and her friends always accepted Chan and were very, very kind to him. Chan loves pretty girls, and he loves to be in the mix with activities. He loves to watch and just be there. He lives in the moment, something we have learned from him. Chan is pure innocence with a smile.
From the outside looking in, I’m sure our life looked a bit overwhelming, but from the inside we see many blessings that come with having a child with special needs. We’ve met amazing people, had so many unique opportunities and Chan has enriched our lives, and the lives of everyone he meets.
We are better people with Chan in our lives.
As Chan was growing up, we were very involved with the disability community and our employers were great in giving us the flexibility to care for Chan as we both worked full time. Chris coached a basketball team through Reach for Resources and started volunteering with Hammer, becoming a one-on-one volunteer with Bruce, a man served by Hammer who had no local family. We kept thinking, what would we want Chan’s life to be like when we are gone; we would want him to be surrounded by people who love him, who engage with him in the things he loves. So that’s what we started with Bruce, and continue 10 plus years later. The relationships you build are priceless.
When Tracy was a teenager, she started asking, “What’s going to happen with Chan when you’re too old to care for him, when you’re gone?” And we told her, “You don’t need to worry about that. We will make sure that Chan always has good care and a home.” So that was always in the back of our mind, what will be next for Chan. As you do, when we were out and about in this special community, we would ask people where they were looking, where they wanted to live, where they lived. Hammer always, always rose to the top.
When Chan finished his school programs, he started at the PRI day program, which he loves. And he was eventually able to get a VNS implant which totally stopped his seizures. Chan is remarkably healthy today. When we started looking into various residential homes for Chan, Hammer was our #1 choice.
But, it wasn’t a quick process to get into Hammer. It was a wait to get in, because there are not many openings. And it is not simply a matter of waiting your turn. When an opening arises, it may or may not be an appropriate fit. We visited three different Hammer homes over two years, until finally, finally, there was a “good fit” opening at the Kentucky group home in Plymouth, Minnesota. We fell in love with the home – it’s an open floor plan, there are six people in the home so there’s lots of activity. The staff team is strong, quietly doing the work caring for individuals with high needs. Chan’s room is right off the living room, so he’s totally in the mix, and he loves it. Davie, the house manager, even went out and purchased a special recliner for him that is “Chan’s Chair!”
Of course, it wasn’t easy moving him in and letting him go. That transition the first night was hard.
It was tearful and stressful for us. But it was humbling, because Chan, at 26 years old, was ready and excited to start this new adventure, and he was fine. Chan’s group home is a special place. In addition to theday-to-day responsibility of providing loving care for six unique individuals with special needs, they celebrate all the holidays, all the birthdays, and all the special achievements. Chan needs constant personal contact, and he thrives on people – and routine. Every night the house eats family style at a big table, it’s a warm social event and a favorite time for Chan. At our home he is a picky eater, but he loves all the healthy food at Hammer. Kudos to the cooks!
Home to Chan is his Hammer home.
With the pandemic we have had to rely more than ever on Hammer caregivers to care for our son. If you’re familiar with Hammer I don’t need to tell you what it takes to keep it all running smoothly. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and well…. you know it has been a challenge.
When Covid hit a year ago, all outside activities for Chan stopped: no day program at PRI, no Thursday night bowling or running to Costco for his beloved pizza with mom and dad. And for someone, like Chan, who thrives on activity, this has been hard. He can’t talk on the phone, or do Zoom or Facetime, so his care, all day, every day, has been up to the Kentucky Home caregivers. Although Chan lives in the moment, Hammer is often two or three steps ahead, looking forward to improve the lives of those served. As parents, that’s something we notice and appreciate.
It hasn’t been easy this past year for any of us. But it has been especially difficult for our children at Hammer who don’t always understand the bigger picture of the crisis that’s going on around them. And, of course, it’s been a challenge for the caregivers at Hammer, who care for our Hammer family members 24/7, and also their own family members.
With our professional backgrounds in human resources and finances, we know first-hand the necessity of fundraising in the equation of providing a safe and secure environment for Chan. Our friends and family have really stepped up, donating cash gifts, and pre-Covid, tickets to Gopher hockey games.
We’re proud of our association with Hammer and proud to be donors too.
We have chosen to give to Hammer’s Area of Greatest Need Fund, a fund that can be used as needed. Your gift today is a way for you to stand with Chan and everyone at Hammer when and how they need you the most.
Chan, his housemates and his caregivers have had the opportunity to receive the vaccine through Hammer. We really look forward to once again visiting the house, getting hugs from everyone and talking with the staff. We hope Chan can return to his day program and community activities he so enjoys. Hope is on the horizon. More and more people are getting vaccinated and warmer weather is just around the corner.
Your gift now will help Chan and everyone at Hammer through the pandemic, and after.
We hope that you share our passion for Hammer, and that you will consider what your role can be in making Hammer a wonderful place. Your support impacts the lives of so many. As parents, we sleep well at night knowing Chan has even more people who love him, and that his Hammer family, and you, will always take care of him.
Peggy and Chris Klug, Chan’s Mom and Dad
P.S. We hope you will show your support for Hammer. Your caring kindness is a big part of what makes Hammer a special place. This is your time to stand with Chan. Your gift today provides hope for tomorrow. Thank you.
For more information and to donate visit hammer.org/chan-man