RICHARD A. STEVENSONEthan Birch has had numerous problems and bumps in the road in his life, but he has learned how to turn these negatives into positives. Mr. Birch now is an author, motivational speaker, cancer survivor, songwriter and performer. He gave a very inspirational presentation a few weeks ago to our Wayne Township clients during our employment training class.

From time to time, I like to invite to our employment class outside speakers with whom clients can identify. This might include speakers who have been in prison, survived serious health problems or have been through any number of difficult situations and still have been able to turn their lives around. Speakers like Mr. Birch, who have been down and found their way back up, can help clients understand that they too can achieve their goals and become successful.

Mr. Birch began by speaking about being teased and bullied in high school because he was biracial. He talked to the clients about his issues with trying to fit in during his high school days and later after he joined the Army. While in the Army, his platoon was struck by an artillery shell and several members of the platoon were injured or killed.

Even though Mr. Birch was not physically injured in the attack, he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had to be treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital for psychiatric problems. This was a low point for him, so he decided to initiate some events for the patients on his ward. One of his events, a talent show, was very successful and helped him make “lemons into lemonade,” he said.

He entered college after being released from the Army, but started rebelling. He stopped attending class, ultimately got involved in criminal activity and ended up being sentenced to prison for armed robbery. Even though it doesn’t happen to many inmates, Mr. Birch said prison straightened him out. While in prison, he seized the opportunity to attend as many educational classes as he could.

After prison, Mr. Birch had trouble finding and keeping a job. He loved music and writing music and eventually was able to get a job in radio. From there his career took off. He didn’t like the lyrics of the music young people were listening to because he thought they were sending the wrong message.

So, he decided to write his own lyrics and with positive messages. His music became popular, especially his hiphop song titled, “Pull Your Pants Up.” He was invited to perform and give motivational speeches to young people and has been doing that ever since. But, his problems continued.

He and both of his children were diagnosed with cancer. There is nothing worse than watching your child going through cancer treatment, Mr. Birch said. His children now are cancer free, but he continues to fight cancer. “My life has been one bad spades hand after another,” yet Mr. Birch continues to have a positive attitude. When bad things happen, you have to “flip it” mentally and turn it into something positive. “You have an amazing brain,” Mr. Birch said. “If you set a goal for yourself and picture yourself there, you can achieve your goal.”

I want to wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween. Trick or Treat hours in Fort Wayne are from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, October 31. Places for safe Trick or Treating in Waynedale include the Fort Wayne Fire Station on Bluffton Road and the Southwest Fire Station on Old Trail Road. Avalon Missionary Church, 1500 Lower Huntington Road, will be having a Trunk or Treat event in the parking lot from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, October 28. Waynedale Community Improvement Team’s Trunk or Treat and free Fall Fest will be Saturday, October 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Southwest Conservation Club on Bluffton Road.

Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee