Five years ago, my wife and I had a truly awful day. In the span of a few hours, we got thumped twice. In the morning, we learned that the baby she was pregnant with was short one organ and maybe more. In the afternoon, we learned that our struggling 2-year-old daughter had a rare chromosome disorder, Dup15q syndrome, and as the doctor put it, her mind probably wouldn’t develop beyond that of a small child.
Lying in bed that night we were shaken and lost. This was not the life or family we had planned. I remember feeling small and hollow, a powerless husband and father. Whether it was a futile attempt to comfort my wife or a way for me to make sense of it all, I told her that we were going to do something good with this. How, she asked. I had no idea. We were in tears.
Our journey has been far different than we expected. Over time, life’s colors got brighter, deeper and richer. Our highs are higher, our lows are lower and we’re often bowled over by little moments packed with beauty and meaning. It’s a good way to live.
Our daughter has serious challenges, autism among them, but she has grown into a sweet little girl who continues to defy limitations that others place on her. Our second was born with one kidney, but he has no serious medical issues. And we’ve since added another boy whose chromosomes and organs are all in order, but his ears stick out. Hey, nobody’s perfect.
Among the greatest lessons that we’ve learned on this adventure is that the challenges we face truly can become our greatest opportunities. This is where The Mighty began.
Over the last several months, I’ve bought a lot of drinks and dinners for friends and colleagues. I wanted to pick their brains. These are talented people I respect and trust who do amazing work for the likes of ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, Forbes, Esquire, MTV, Disney, Google and more.
We kicked around ideas that all came back to a central question: Could we build a media company that actually helps people?
I’m happy to say that we believe the answer is yes. To start, we’re launching TheMighty.com. I couldn’t think of a better person to lead this effort than Megan Griffo, who is taking the helm as editor. Megan walked away from a great gig at The Huffington Post leading its Good News vertical to build something special here. Of more than 400 writers, she was ranked #1 in viral traffic when she dropped me an email that read, “I’m in. Let me know where we go from here.” That takes guts. I encourage you to read her first story here because it says a lot about our site and even more about her: Why I Joined The Mighty.
Stories that inspire people – that can change the path of someone’s day, as my wife says – are a great start, but we are going after much more. Ultimately we want to improve the lives of people facing disease, disorder and disability. This is not a small ambition. It requires a unique business model and strong relationships with non-profits, advertisers, media companies, researchers, educators, advocates and most importantly, people like you. Without a community of people who care and share, we have nothing.
My conversations with colleagues have been energizing, to say the least. The central idea has struck a chord in nearly everyone. Their insights have been incredibly helpful, but what has really surprised me is that they’ve given much more than advice. They’ve asked to help build The Mighty.
Not long ago, I got a Skype message from one of those friends who put together a small team of people to create the website. It was something along the lines of, “here we go: themighty.com.” I clicked. It was just an ugly prototype with a couple sample stories – we hadn’t actually designed a site yet — but it was there, alive. It felt great, so great that I bounced off the couch and just started pacing. That’s when I saw the calendar on the refrigerator and realized the date. It was exactly five years to that awful day when we got my daughter’s diagnosis.
What a journey. From small and hollow and powerless to The Mighty. Join us. We’re going to do something good with this.
UPDATE: Less than one year later…