Bill Koch

A single Lead Dad to his special needs son, Frankie, is our Lead Dad of the Week.

A senior marketing manager for Ameriprise in Minneapolis, Minn., Bill often spends weekends biking around the city with Frankie, 23, who is non-verbal and autistic. It’s just one of many sports they like to do together.

“He’s an avid athlete and we are so fortunate to be connected with organizations where we downhill ski, bike, and water ski with other special needs athletes. Frankie and I also love exploring bike trails and small towns here in the upper Midwest.”

Bill and his former partner adopted Frankie in 2000 when his health concerns were more severe. It wasn’t easy to adopt a baby back then as a gay couple, he said. Add to that serious health impairments that they had to handle. For one, Frankie had a tracheotomy tube, and Bill learned how to change it quickly. As a boy, Frankie underwent over two dozen surgeries. But over time his health stabilized, and the outdoors became a place of great enjoyment.

Bill said his hope for any father with a special needs child was for them to see the joy in what they can do. “You need to let them be themselves and not compare them to typical kids,” he said. “Frankie was 4 or 5 when he climbed a rope ladder for the first time. It was something a 3-year-old could do. These girls who were 7 said, I did that when I was 3. I felt so bad. But Frankie didn’t hear anything. You need to recognize their own achievements.”

Frankie goes to a day program while Bill works. They’re in a great place now. But Bill said he always makes sure to remember what matters most: “My job as a dad is to make sure I take time every day to pause, let him figure things out, and always appreciate him for exactly who he is.”

It is hard to think of better words to describe a Lead Dad’s role. Welcome, Bill, to The Company of Dads!