Board Member Spotlight: Brian Mall

“People with disabilities are human beings just like the rest of us and not a diagnosis.”

 

Brian, welcome to the Open Options Board of Directors! Why did you initially become interested in joining us?

My first son was born at 26 weeks. During his stay at Children’s Mercy NICU, he fought to stay alive. After 4+ months, he won the fight and we got to take him home. By his first birthday, we knew that something wasn’t normal and he was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. With the help of so many incredible people and great organizations, my son is reaching his full potential. As a dad, one of my biggest fears is the unknown of how his disability will impact his adulthood. There are numerous organizations focused on babies and kids but I was in search of an organization that also helped adults.  This is what drew me to Open Options.  After researching Open Options for several months, I reached out to Vincent for an introductory meeting. Within minutes of the initial meeting, I could sense Open Options’ passion and drive to serve those with disabilities.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Lenexa, Kansas and attended the University of Kansas where I obtained my degree in Accounting and Business Administration.  I married my college sweetheart, Chrysi, and we now live in Overland Park.  I have two young sons, Conrad, 8, and Hutson, 4, who light up my world and keep me on the go.  I am a CPA with BKD, LLP and spend most of my time helping my clients.  In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends.

What excites you most about the mission of Open Options?

I believe that all of us are a child of God and as such we are obligated to help those in need. Open Options mission is to support people to realize their full potential. By being on the board, I get to hear about all the great that Open Options does for those individuals that they serve. By contributing to Open Options, I feel like I’m playing a role in helping some individuals live out God’s plan and help them reach their full potential. I’m hopeful that someone will help my son one day should he need it.

What do you wish other people knew about developmental and intellectual disabilities?

Oh wow, there are so many things but I would start with that these individuals have dreams and ambitions too. People with disabilities are human beings just like the rest of us and not a diagnosis.  They have the same feelings and emotions that the rest of the world does and want the same things. They just need some assistance to reach their full potential.

I’ve seen my 8 year-old son fight to dress himself but not be able to do so yet. I’ve seen my son pull on kids clothes to attempt to slow them down and try to get them to play with him on the floor. I’ve seen him play soccer/baseball and get so disappointed that he is not able to do it without assistance.  He is the most loving and kind-hearted boy that I’ve met. I pray everyone would take the time to visit with individuals with disabilities and see how special they truly are and recognize that we take so much for granted in life.

How rewarding is it to know someone with a disability?

Your perspective completely changes. As a parent of a child with a disability, seeing what most would consider minor successes of your child is overwhelmingly rewarding.  For example, I remember watching my wife hold him for the first time which was several weeks after being born and tears welled up in my eyes. I remember when Conrad took his first steps at five years of age and I wanted to shout it from the rooftops as I was so proud of him.  He has taught me to not take the “little” things for granted.  We have been so blessed by the experience.