Leadership Legacies: The Gayhardt Family

Vinny and VikiThe NH Leadership Series is over 30 years old and 1,000 graduates strong. After thirty years of many parents coming through Leadership we are now watching as their children who experience different abilities become graduates themselves. These Leadership Legacies have become more common over the last few years and we have chosen to highlight some of these amazing families. We chose to highlight the Gayhardts in this edition of our Leadership newsletter. Viki and Mike Gayhardt graduated from the NH Leadership Series in 1996 and 1997. Their son Vinny graduated from the series this past year as a member of the class of 2019.

How did it feel watching your son graduate from a program you have also attended?

Viki: It was very cool that Vin graduated Leadership. Quite surreal, in a way. I’d always hoped my kids would follow in my advocacy footsteps and be involved in the disability cause, but when my daughter wanted NOTHING to do with it, I’d sorta given up on any expectations that my kids would think and act in a way that would be helpful to others. When Deb and Jen Bertrand nominated Vin for Leadership, I wasn’t sure he would dig it, but was glad he took from it what was meaningful to him: Connections with others who didn’t see through him, but listened to him.

Mike and I offered our help and insight to Vin with any homework or content that he might not understand, but true to his character, he wanted us to have NOTHING to do with his experience. It was his and his alone. He didn’t share anything with us or offer any information. Vinny truly wants and exercises his independence from us, his parents. It’s a blessing and a curse!

We were so very pleased to hear all the lovely things about our son from other Leadership attendants and mentors! We know that Vin presents very appropriately at work with our customers and such, but it was lovely to hear of his meaningful contribution to his Leadership class. We are very proud of him and feel as if we have come full circle, in a way.

How does it feel to join your parents as a Leadership graduate?

Vinny: I think Leadership basically helped guide me to a future, seeing as my folks have done Leadership 23 years ago and it seemed to have changed them for the better. I learned that as an individual who has a mixed language disorder and Asperger’s, I need to accept who I am. I have been able to gain more confidence in me.