Jeff Manes: King is one prince of a father
June 15, 2012 3:14PM
Nicole King, 18, and her father, John King of Valparaiso, enjoy a recent White Sox baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. | Photo provided by Tom Hendryx
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:00AM
“Do it well, finish it properly and move on.”
— Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder, Special Olympics
John King is a left-handed Chicago White Sox fan who had a great-grandmother who was full-blooded Cherokee.
I already like him.
King, 48, has been married to Julie for 19 years; they have two daughters, Nicole, 18, and Kaci, 7. The Kings have lived in Valparaiso for 19 years.
King graduated from Merrillville High School and Purdue University. He works for ArcelorMittal in Burns Harbor as operations manager of the Tandem Mill and Roll Shop in the Finishing Division.
King enjoys hunting, fishing, playing softball and is on the parents’ booster board for Special Olympics in Porter County.
You have your own radio program called “Livin’ It Up.”
“Yes, Tuesday nights from 9 to 11 p.m. on WVLP in Valpo,” King said. “They rebroadcast it every Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.
“I play a lot of rock and country on the show, and also have a lot of guests. I recently had a lady who talked about breast cancer; she’s involved with the Avon Walk up in Chicago.”
“AC/DC, UFO, The Scorpions ... . I like a lot of the new stuff, too, like the Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. I play a lot of blues on the radio as well, like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Muddy Waters and Jonny Lang. I don’t have a playlist; I do whatever I want.”
Last year, you spearheaded a fundraiser for Special Olympics that also is named “Livin’ It Up.”
“Yes, my wife works for a company out of Nashville called New Line Country; she’s like a talent acquisition agent. We were thinking how we could give back to the Special Olympics; Julie came up with the idea of having a music festival and, from that, ‘Livin’ It Up’ was born.”
Did the initial “Livin’ It Up” event occur before your “Livin’ It Up” radio program began?
“Yes, that’s why I’m on the radio station. I got a little frustrated last year trying to market the festival. I contacted 15 radio stations without much luck. Finally, WVLP let me in.”
Tell me about the fundraiser.
“It’s held at Sunset Hill (Farm County Park) in Valparaiso. We ended up making about $6,000. This will be the second year and it’s just snowballing.”
How much does it cost per year to put on Special Olympics in Porter County?
“About $60,000. You have to pay for buses, custodians, rooms ... .”
This year’s “Livin’ It Up” fundraiser?
“It will take place June 30. We’ll start out with a car show that the Special Olympic athletes will judge. We’ll also have a craft show, food vendors, a beer garden and seven great local bands. Hoosier Highway will be our headliner.
“We’ll also have a 5K run and will end the festivities with a huge fireworks show. It’s only $10 per car to get in.”
Clearly, you’re “all in” regarding Special Olympics.
“Jeff, it’s a great thing — all volunteer. There are people who have been doing it a lot longer than I have; they’re my heroes.”
Your eldest daughter?
“Nicole is special needs; she has epilepsy. She got involved in Special Olympics about 10 years ago. I started coaching basketball, softball and track. It really helped her out because she didn’t like to talk to people.”
What are Nicole’s favorite sports?
“Swimming and golf. She just started cheerleading, and she really loves that.
“When you mention Special Olympics everyone thinks sports; it’s not all sports. We do dances; most of these kids never get to go to a prom. We have trips to Indiana Beach. I can’t say enough about what the program has done for my daughter.”
John, like you, I have daughters; one of them is named Nicole. I think about that sometimes, a young couple about to bring a baby into the world. You pray that everything will be all right. I can only imagine.
“At eight months, Nicole started having seizures. She has what is called status epilepticus; we have to drug-induce her out of them. We’ve taken her to the Cleveland Clinic for extensive testing to see if we could do some kind of brain surgery, but she had severe scarring in her brain, so we can’t do anything.
“I’ll tell you what, I don’t sleep well. Most of the time, Nicole has seizures at night. When she was little, my wife and I took turns sleeping with her. Neither one of us sleep well; it’s tough. She’s a great kid.”
Does Nicole have grand mal seizures?
“The worst kind of grand mal seizures you can have. They told us she’d never be able to read or write, but she can read at a third-grade level and she can write a little bit; she’s getting better. She’s very quiet, but she is in choir and loves to sing.
“Nicole won’t get a diploma; she’ll get a certificate. We’re hoping to get her a job through Opportunity Enterprises. She’s such a good kid.”
And, Nicole King has a special dad.