Jason is a self-described “extrovert to the max.” You can find him nearly every day at the Marian House Soup Kitchen (MHSK) in his electric wheelchair, chatting and joking with the staff and other guests in the dining room. When asked what his greatest struggle is in life, Jason firmly states, “I have no challenges.” Jason recalls when he was in high school and the first signs of Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) appeared in his life. “My mother cried for a week.” M.S. is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing victims of the disease to experience nervous system issues and often resulting in difficulties walking or moving arms and legs. Despite the slow progress of M.S. symptoms, Jason did well in school and even volunteered at MHSK before completing a B.S. in Computer Science and an M.B.A. in Business.
Shortly after completing his Master’s degree, Jason became wheel chair ridden. He struggled with depression as he had difficulty keeping steady jobs with the limitations caused by M.S. However, Jason never let M.S. hold back his confidence and compassion and eventually married his “angel,” Michelle. The couple has three daughters
When Catholic Charities met Jason and his family years ago, they faced many difficulties. They relied on Jason’s disability income. Meanwhile, Michelle worked hard to build a career in accounting while caring for their young daughters. To make ends meet, Jason turned to the MHSK and the Hanifen Center Poverty Reduction Services. He and his daughters would visit almost everyday for hot nutritious meals and the girls would get clothing from Life Support Services. The staff and volunteers even had birthday parties for the girls in the Family Dining Room – complete with cake and juice boxes.
For most people, Jason’s financial struggles and the challenges created by living with M.S. would have seemed unbearable. However, Jason’s positive attitude and enduring spirit has kept his family strong. “I am not M.S. I have M.S. but I’m way more than that,” he says.
Eventually, with the support of her family, Michelle was able to find a full-time accounting position and the family found financial relief. Jason continues to visit MHSK everyday – except Sunday, which is his Family Day. While his wife is at work and his children are in school, the MHSK has become a home away from home for Jason where he can enjoy nutritious meals as his disability prevents him from preparing them at home. He has also made many friends amongst the staff and the guests in the dining room and insists that he knows every resource for those in need and his wealth of knowledge with the friends he meets. He says, “It’s feeding the extrovert in me and my need to be compassionate with people.” Jason also works on a personal business – Computers for Physically and Mentally Challenged (CPMC). He passionately uses his knowledge of computer science to help others with disabilities repair and personalize their computers. Most importantly, Jason anticipates his daughters’ futures and looks forward to watching them grow up. He says, “I want to focus on my church, my kids, family life and my social life!”