TITLE: “Jacob’s Turn”
SPECIAL GUEST: Patricia Titus, Jacob’s Mother and Nick Ninton, co-founder of Jacob’s Turn
Patricia (Tricia)Titus and Nick Ninton share with Allen, Melody and our audience, a remarkable story about Tricia’s son, Jacob, with Downs Syndrome. This year old boy from the small rural community of Floyds Knobs, Indiana—just outside of Louisville—was playing T-ball in a place where, as his mother Patricia says, “life lessons are learned at church, home and on the baseball field.” Jacob’s “turn” at bat and on the field was a thrill for him, but more importantly, an event that transformed the hearts of everyone in his town.
Considering that hundreds of thousands of kids across the country join T-ball teams every year, this could almost be a simple and unremarkable story. Except for one thing—as Patricia later wrote: “My youngest son loves to bat, loves to run, loves to play catcher. Jacob also happens to have Down Syndrome.” Her article about Jacob’s experience—and the way the town came to embrace his triumph—would soon stop the busy, constantly on-the-go Nanton in his tracks, touch his heart and those of numerous high profile business people, and inspire him to executive produce the extraordinary documentary short film based on Patricia’s story, “Jacob’s Turn.”
Nanton is currently working with his extended network of marketing experts to create awareness of “Jacob’s Turn,” through a method of marketing that is usually applied to commercial ventures, but for the first time will be used to launch a charitable campaign—one which he will help benefit children not only with Down Syndrome but a wide variety of special needs. The goal of everyone with an emotional and financial investment in the film is to raise people’s awareness and generate charitable donations that will help these kids receive the assistance they need to lead the best lives they can. At its heart, however, “Jacob’s Turn” is designed to inspire—to let special needs children and their parents know that the unique challenges they face need not limit the potential to achieve dreams, even small ones that start out on a baseball field in a place like Floyds Knobs.
The “story” behind “Jacob’s Story” is a wonder in itself—and proves that sometimes, a chance meeting between total strangers can give rise to extraordinary opportunities, as if Providence itself is shining a light on the open door. Nanton’s whirlwind travel schedule finds him in many airport terminals, sometimes making conversations with random people while waiting to board. In April of 2009, he was on a layover at Midway Airport in Chicago when he noticed that the person next to him, Jim Titus, had a lovely photo on his laptop screen of a beaming Jacob in his baseball uniform. Nanton offered a compliment and Titus replied, “He’s an amazing blessing to us,” adding that his son had Down Syndrome.
The conversation continued with Nanton telling Titus, who works for UPS, about his unique career as “The Celebrity Lawyer” who promotes, markets and creates Celebrity Experts across such diversified fields as entertainment, health and fitness, law, medicine, personal development, finance, and real estate. Prior to becoming an attorney, he spent more than a decade immersed in the entertainment industry. As an award-winning songwriter and television producer, he has worked on projects and negotiated deals from large-scale events to reality television shows.
Titus told Nanton about his family’s involvement in the Down Syndrome Support Association of Southern Indiana, and asked if he might have any “celebrity items” to contribute to the silent auction that accompanies the organization’s annual Buddy Walk. A few email exchanges later, Nanton sent Titus autographed CDs by country stars Rascal Flatts and Bucky Covington. Four months later, Titus emailed Patricia’s poignant “Jacob’s Turn” story to Nanton. The beautifully penned article by a loving mother about her son touched the lawyer deeply. Among the soul-stirring turns of phrase were: “Jacob’s experience was a wonderful display of acceptance and patience and love. Love of baseball and love of a child.”
Jacob’s team, The Royals, made it to the championship game but came up a little short. Before they were given trophies for their second place finish, the officials asked Jim, Patricia and Jacob to come onto the field, where Jacob was given an autographed ball from the Louisville Bats by his coaches; they called it a “good attitude and hard work” award. Patricia stood there with her husband, held her son and cried.
As a parent, she wrote, “you put your children out there. You pray that people will be kind to them. You want them to accept them and you want them to belong. You sometimes dare to hope that someone might even notice what a great kid you have and appreciate him for who he is. It was a beautiful season. Jacob and his family were given a time we will always remember. It wasn’t a time that was centered around doctor visits or therapies or special teachers. It was time for Jacob to just be a kid, like everyone else, swinging for the fence.”
In sending his email, Jim Titus had no agenda beyond sharing his family’s personal story with a new friend. The overwhelming response Nanton received in turn from his partner J.W. Dicks and his father, Geoff, put his never-sleeping entrepreneurial mind in motion. He quickly wondered how, drawing upon his vast network of marketing experts, he could help the story go viral to help promote a charitable cause.
“I told the basic story to Bill Harrison, one of my favorite marketing gurus, over lunch at an event we were both attending,” he says, “and we immediately brainstormed about how we could leverage our marketing friends to support the making of a film version of Jacob’s story that could potentially reach millions of people. We came up with the idea of getting people to support the project, then thought about the ways our network of colleagues might participate in and apply their skills to a special project for charity. I wondered how we could maximize exposure for Jacob’s story and thereby create widespread awareness of special needs children everywhere. It was at that moment that it hit me: What if we employed the same process used to launch a product in the online world, a process in which many marketers band together, leveraging their own unique customer and client lists—often to the tune of hundreds of thousands and even millions of people—to support a charitable cause instead of the typical launch of a product? This way, we could ensure that the message gets widespread distribution and gains viral status over a period of time.”