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Joshua's Dream Walk

Developmentally disabled teen plans monthlong trek with dad in effort to raise funds to build counseling center for kids.

A 17-year-old developmentally disabled boy and his counselor father will embark on a monthlong walk this summer to raise funds to build a center designed to help special needs children and their family members.

Josh Kimble and his dad, T. James Kimble, of Radcliff, Kentucky, plan to trek 320 miles from Hodgenville, Kentucky, to Springfield, Illinois, starting July 1. The trip from Abraham Lincoln's birthplace to burial site is expected to take 32 days.

Josh, born with Down syndrome, has communication limitations, but he persisted with the idea of the dream walk to support those with disabilities.

T.J. is calling the venture "Dream Walk II." He and Josh embarked on an eight-day, 98-mile fundraising walk in 2013 from their Radcliff home to the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort. The diminutive yet energetic Josh relentlessly insisted that his dad make that walk after the teen watched Little Red Wagon , a 2012 documentary about a young boy's transcontinental walk that raised awareness about homelessness.

Dad and son are looking for sponsors willing to donate toward the vision of creating the Joshua Java House and Community Life Dream Center.

"We want to build a place where every person - no matter the disability or trauma level - can come and feel included, be befriended, and experience empowerment," T.J. says. "Josh wants to show that people with disabilities have meaningful contributions to share."

T. J. envisions the center providing everything from behavioral intervention for strong-willed children to employment opportunities for the developmentally disabled. One unusual feature for the specialty café would be a multisensory room that enables a child to feel safe outside a parent's presence. The Kimbles need $300,000 to make their dream a reality. So far they have raised $2,400.

Couples who have a disabled child have a higher divorce rate than married partners overall. The marriage of T.J. and Liz, his wife of 21 years, has survived some rocky points as they raised Josh, his older brother Thomas, and younger brother Micah. T.J. credits a young Josh with helping him overcome suicidal depression.

"Our strong Christian faith has a lot to do with us staying together," says Liz, who is a board member of the Council of Development Disabilities based in Louisville. "We communicate with each other as much as we can and work as a team. In prayer I ask God to help me deal with this, because I don't know how on my own."

"A lot of dads go into denial mode in accepting the child's disability," T.J. says. "Moms frequently are thrust into poverty real fast as they are left to navigate a complicated path on their own."

The Kimbles conduct workshops in which they train parents and professionals how to respond to out-of-control behaviors of a disabled child. For the past eight years they have done behavior interventions. Kimble's faith-based pastoral clinical counseling practice is based at Lifeline Assembly of God in Radcliff.

Lifeline AG Pastor Joshua B. Nagel, who has known the Kimbles for five years, has seen how the counseling has benefited congregants, many of whom are employed at nearby Fort Knox.

"Their vision fits a vision the church has to support families," Nagel says. "Dr. T.J. is counseling married couples and helping families in the military. He has a great heart for people."

In addition to saving marriages, the Kimbles believe their center will help families with a disabled child feel welcome in a Christian environment. They say the vast majority of parents with a disabled child don't attend worship services.

"Most churches aren't disability friendly," says T.J., who is a licensed AG minister. "A lot of pastors and churchgoers feel uncomfortable around people with special needs."

Few churches are equipped to offer programs for special needs kids. Church staff and volunteers typically don't know how to handle an occasional yelling or jumping outburst from a developmentally disabled child. Even fewer dads or moms are willing to venture into an environment where they may have to spend much of a service concerned about how others will react to their child.

Kimble anticipates Joshua Java House and Community Life Dream Center to be a welcoming place for the unchurched.

"Families facing disabilities need a place to interact in community settings that provide accommodations and experiences that build their faith," T.J. says.

One dream walk supporter is Jose A. Maldonado, Royal Rangers commander at Lifeline AG. Via social media, he is challenging other outposts to help raise funds. Maldonado has known Josh for a decade, and says the youth does extra work required to be proficient in Royal Rangers.  

"A lot of things come harder to Josh, especially communicating and reading and writing," Maldonado says. "But he has a heart for God. When he gets something in his head, there's no stopping him. He loves a physical challenge and he is single-minded for a cause."

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and March 21 is Trisomy 21 Day. Trisomy 21 is better known as Down syndrome, an abnormality caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21.  

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.