Archive for September, 2016

easy-peasyDid you know that the saying “Easy Peasy” comes from the phrase “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy?” It was coined in the 1950s in a commercial for a Sqezy, a British detergent brand which was sold in a squeeze bottle and had a lemon scent.  It simply means it is something easy to do.  No effort.  Simple.  When your wife asks you to take out the garbage tonight just say, “No problem, Easy Peasy!”  If your husband asks for a five minute back rub say, “Sure!  Easy Peasy.”  If your teenage son ask you if he can take six friends on a road trip to Vegas say, “NO!”  (I hope you didn’t think I was going to say, “Sure, Easy Peasy!”)

Can I ask you to do something that I believe is Easy Peasy? It won’t cost you any money.  It will take less than 30 seconds.  You don’t have to pour ice cold water on your head.  You can even do it in your pajamas.  Would you please “Like” David’s Refuge on Facebook?  All you have to do is simply click the Like Button on our Facebook page.  In fact, click the following link:


 It will take you directly to our page and you can Like us!  Easy Peasy!

Some of you may be asking why I should Like David’s Refuge’s Facebook page. Here are a few reasons:

  1. It give us permission to develop a better relationship with you by sharing stories, upcoming events, and how we are accomplishing our mission.
  2. It is a great way for you to identify with us and our mission. Your friends and family will see you liked us and want to know more.
  3. It is an Easy Peasy way to help us communicate with others how David’s Refuge is truly making a difference.

To be honest, there are some selfish benefits of you liking our page. A 2011 Georgetown study showed that those who participate with nonprofits via social media are:

  • Twice as likely to volunteer compared to people who don’t promote causes on social media
  • Twice as likely to participate in fundraising events and walks
  • Three times more likely to ask others to donate

As of today we have 1,828 Likes. If you haven’t liked us, would you consider doing it?  If you have liked us, would you be bold and share this blog on your Facebook page and ask your friends to consider Liking us?   Honestly, it’s Easy Peasy!  Lets see if we can hit 2,000 Likes by the end of the week.



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do-you-like-meI was a very shy boy growing up especially around girls.  One word or a question from a member of the opposite sex and my ears would begin to glow red, my tongue would grow thick, and my heart would begin to beat so hard I was sure anyone within ten feet of me could hear it.  I would try to answer to the best of my ability but something like “I good like you tomorrow is nice” would come out of my mouth.  I was even afraid to use the famous “Do you like me?” note with the convenient yes, no or maybe check off answers.  Thankfully I found the nerve thirty two years ago to ask Brenda to marry me and she checked off the yes box in the note I sent her!

I now realize my shyness was a symptom of me not believing in myself.  Having a poor self image and unable or unwilling to see my strengths stopped me from stepping out of my comfort zone, from believing other people would like me, and from daring to be bold.  Thankfully this is no longer true for me.  Today I believe in myself and in the incredible unique way God created Warren Pfohl to be.  He doesn’t make junk and he doesn’t make mistakes.  This belief gave me the courage to quit my job and go to seminary thirty years ago.  This gave me the courage to move my family to Poland for six years.  This gave me the courage to become a pastor.  This gave me the courage to believe I could care for David when we got his diagnosis.  And finally it gave me the courage to step out in faith to start David’s Refuge five years ago with Brenda.

I hope today as you read my blog you will also choose to believe that God doesn’t make junk and he doesn’t make mistakes and that He loves you.  This is what I know to be true about you today:

  1. You are unique and a masterpiece!
  2. You are liked, in fact you are loved!  David’s Refuge loves you, Brenda and I love you, and even more importantly, God loves you!
  3. You are not alone!
  4. You are filled with potential and greatness!  Believe in who you were created to be!
  5. Your greatness is already being displayed to the world in the care and love you have for your children!

I have conveniently filled out the following form for you:




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This past Saturday we held our third annual Taste of David’s Refuge.  It was an elegant, extravagant, food and fun filled evening celebrating the legacy of David’s life and the impact of David’s Refuge in our community.  Our Executive Director, Kate Houck, wanted to invite someone special to be the key note speaker.  She wanted someone who was passionate for David’s Refuge, someone who had “skin in the game”, someone who could clearly and enthusiastically communicate the importance of our mission to Care for the Caregiver, someone who had lived the life of a caregiver, someone who knew David, and someone who had poured their life into others who also were caregivers of children with special needs or wrestling with a life threatening disease.  She searched from New York to California and only one candidate met these rigorous expectations: David’s mom and cofounder of David’s Refuge, my beautiful wife, Brenda Pfohl.

Brenda did such a wonderful job sharing our story and thanking our Board of Directors, our volunteers, and our financial supporters.  The following is the message she shared.  I hope you enjoy it!

Doing Things We Can’t;
That’s How We Get To Do Them

Thank you Kate!  I am so honored to have this opportunity to stand here and look out at all of you who have made David’s Refuge available to so many parents.Looking at where we are now, it’s hard to believe that 5 years ago, David’s Refuge didn’t exist.

Warren and I, along with our boys, walked the painful journey of Batten Disease. We watched helplessly as David was diagnosed at 8 years old with this horrible, untreatable disease, then helped him adjust as he slowly lost all his abilities. In spite of his incapacities, David pressed on to do just about everything (and more) than most people do in their entire lifetimes.  He had this as his motto:

I keep doing things I can’t; that how I get to do them.

A few years after David passed, we felt a desire to use our story to help other families still on the journey.  With God’s help and the inspiration of this incredible boy who believed in doing the impossible, a dream was born: to create a place of refuge to care for parents still on that journey of caring for their children with life threatening conditions or special needs.

Never having started or run a business, we wondered how were we ever going to do this? It seemed impossible.  David’s motto cheered us on: “just keep doing what you can’t; that’s how you’ll do it.”

So we began by converting our home into a 5-star B&B.  With the help of some amazing volunteers, we created a logo, a website, a marketing plan, an application process, developed a (non-program) program, pulled together a board of directors, and applied for our 501c3 status. We even learned to be Innkeepers!

We had no idea whether anyone would come.

The first year we hosted 43 retreats in our home and people just kept signing up. It was incredible to see moms and dads come, totally exhausted and weary and leave a few days later restored and renewed. It was working!

By the end of the year we felt exhausted from being Innkeepers, and overwhelmed by the need.  We thought, how are we ever going to keep doing this?  We prayed for help and remembered David’s words: “just keep on doing the things you can’t; that’s how you’ll get to do them.”

That’s when God brought us Rory Lawrence to help us with our guest relations; this took an enormous load off our shoulders.

We continued moving forward but quickly realized to meet the need, we had to grow.  So again we prayed and remembered David’s words: Keep doing the things you can’t, that’s how you get to do them.” That’s when we came up with the idea to host our guests in B&Bs and Inns. We soon began partnering with our first B&B, Mary’s Meadow. Since then we have grown to partnering with 17 B&Bs from Hamilton to Rochester.

We grew from 53 retreats in 2013 to over a 100 the next year. As the applications kept coming in we realized we couldn’t keep doing this alone. How will we be able to continue? Again: “I keep doing things I can’t; that how I get to do them.”

So the Board brought in Lis Fournier to help us develop a Strategic Plan. From there we set out to hire another staff person. God brought us Kate Houck, who initially served as our Development Director then more recently as our Executive Director.

In order to keep doing what we can’t, Kate has brought on Sarah Watson to our team as our Administrative Assistant and grown our Board and our team of consistent volunteers.

Our growth has continued, serving over 150 families this year with a projection of 250 in 2017!

Even though we have a great staff, the truth is David’s Refuge could not be where it is today without each one of you and our many many wonderful volunteers.  So Warren and I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for helping us “do the things we can’t” so together we can keep caring for the caregiver.

(Shhh…This Sunday is Brenda’s birthday.  If you have a minute would you please wish her a happy birthday and tell her how she has blessed you, your family, or someone you know!  I’m blessed to call her my best friend, wife, and fellow cofounder.  I love you Brenda.)


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The Man Behind The Mission

This Friday is The Taste of David’s Refuge.  Yes its a fund raising event but it is so much more.  It’s a celebration of success, of a life giving mission being accomplished with excellence, and of a  community that believes in and loves the moms and dads we serve.

But I really like to think of it as a celebration of David’s life.  He lived, he gave joy, he trusted God, he suffered, and he died.  BUT HIS STORY DIDN’T STOP!  Hundreds of families have been given a taste of hope, reminded they are not alone, and loved because of David.  He is the “The Man Behind The Mission.”

Today I want to give you a “taste” of David and how his life inspired us to start David’s Refuge.  While I am biased in that I am David’s dad I believe you will be inspired by his story.

The Man Behind the Mission

David’s Refuge was started by Warren and Brenda Pfohl as a way to live out their faith in a God who is still good and powerful and loving despite the fact that their son, David died from a horrible progressive untreatable disease. Warren often says it is a story of redemption.  The Urban Dictionary defines redemption as follows: “to make something acceptable or pleasant in spite of its negative qualities or aspects.”  David’s life, suffering, and death have become more than acceptable or pleasant, it has become a masterpiece.  It was their faith in Jesus and the sure and certain knowledge that David lives on, not only in heaven but in his own personal story of faith, which empowered the Pfohls to create David’s Refuge.


David’s faith was simple, love others as God had loved him. While many said David was able to love without judgment due to his blindness, it was really his passion to follow Jesus’ example of unconditional love.   If you open up David’s Fayetteville Manlius High School yearbook you will find the following words under his picture, “Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say, It is well with my soul.”  For weeks David’s parents had tried to help him choose a quote, but David was never satisfied and was unable to clearly communicate what he wanted.  The day finally came when his quote was due.  Donna Richards, his teacher of the visually impaired, tried desperately to understand what David was trying to communicate.  Unfortunately all he could come up with were three words:

River, Soul, Well

Donna called Warren and asked is this one of David’s favorite bible verses? Not knowing he encouraged her to google them and see if it helped. When she did, she found the words to the hymn, It Is Well with My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford.  She started reading the hymn to David.  When she got to the line, Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, It is well with my soul, he yelled, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s what I want!”

Warren and Brenda engraved these inspiring words on the top of David’s gravestone. They are a reminder to everyone who passes by that David’s story isn’t finished.  They remind us that God is still in control and that from the ashes of David’s struggle with life and death God could bring something good from his life.

At his funeral over 1,000 people joined their voices to sing David’s favorite hymns. No doubt there were many there who thought, “Are you serious!  All is well?  David is dead.  How can they say it is well?”   Warren and Brenda would say,

  • David is no longer burdened by the brokenness of this world and his disease
  • Warren and Brenda are certain David is in heaven based on his faith in Christ and that they will see him again
  • God was able to take even the death of their son and create something of beauty
  • David’s story of hope, faith, and love live on in David’s Refuge and the families we serve

Psalm 46:10 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” There is no doubt David is proud to know that his story and faith created a “Refuge” where parents can be refreshed, restored, and renewed as their journey through the trial, joys, and struggles of raising their children with special needs.




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Many of you have asked how Finn is doing.  If you are interested in following their journey and want updates please follow them on their new blog  at http://www.finnsfans.wordpress.com.  This is a great way to communicate with them.  Lets overwhelm them with the knowledge that they are loved by God and not alone.


PS: Please don’t expect Dan or BrandiLee to write back or respond to your comments.  They have enough on their hands already.

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