For a while, Josh Taylor convinced himself he was living his dream. He had moved from Australia to Arizona in 2001 to take a job designing golf courses with his childhood hero, Minnesota native Tom Lehmann. Work was good, and yet, in the back of his mind, there was always this feeling he should be doing something else with his life.
There was a sense, Taylor said, that he was meant to do something to help kids and families. Something that made a bigger impact than carving out fairways and greens.
By 2006, Taylor had decided to get out of golf course design, a move he describes as “insane,” considering the work he’d put in to get where he was. In February of that year he mentioned his feelings to Lehman on a drive from Tucson to Scottsdale. Lehman, it turns out, is the national chairperson for an organization called HopeKids that provides events and other support for families with children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. The group was interested in expanding to Minnesota, Taylor’s wife had family in Lakeville and by July the couple was looking for houses in the area.
“I just felt like God was telling me to do it,” Taylor said of the move. “I got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore.”
Taylor settled in Farmington as the executive director of the new Minnesota chapter of HopeKids. In 2010 he became president of the national organization.
It didn’t take long for him to realize he’d made the right choice.
HopeKids provides a wide range of activities for the families of kids with life-threatening conditions. Kids might get a chance to work out with members of the Minnesota Gopher football team or take in a Minnesota Wild game.
The activities give the kids and their siblings something fun to do. Their parents discover a network of parents who, even if their kids don’t have the same condition, understand the challenges they are going through.
HopeKids also gets tickets for concerts and plays so parents can have date nights.
About 45 percent of the kids involved with HopeKids have cancer, but there is a wide range of illnesses. One girl in the Minnesota program has a condition nobody else in the country has.
“We still get applications for illnesses I’ve never heard of,” Taylor said. “I feel like I’ve got a degree in medicine.”
Taylor started from nothing when he came to Minnesota in 2006. There were 350 families involved in HopeKids’ first year here, and today the program serves 950 families in Minnesota and surrounding states. There are 20 families in Farmington and Rosemount who participate in HopeKids events. Families are referred by hospitals, by the Ronald McDonald House or by other organizations. A doctor has to confirm that the child’s condition is life threatening.
A few weeks after Taylor took his position with HopeKids his old employer got the kind of job he had dreamed for years of working on. But Taylor discovered he didn’t mind missing out. After years of ignoring that voice in the back of his head, he realized he was where he was supposed to be.
“I absolutely know without any questions that the program has an impact,” he said. “You’re doing something with your life. You’re making a difference.”
For more information about HopeKids, visit hopekids.org.