Every parent wants the same thing for their children — the opportunity to be happy and succeed. My son Adam was born with Spina bifada, a developmental disorder of the spine, and my wife and I feared we wouldn’t be able to give our son that opportunity and that he might not have the future he deserves. Today, he’s a Paralympic gold medalist. 

Adam’s birth came with the uncertainty that many parents of special needs children feel. In our case, the doctors prepared us for the worst: Adam may never walk, he might be cognitively disabled, he might not survive. The future I’d imagined for my son was in doubt, and in that moment, as a parent, I felt powerless. But, when we knew he would make it, we promised to do everything in our power to help him not just survive, but thrive. 

It wasn’t easy. Between treatment, equipment, therapy and surgeries, my wife and I worried how we would pay for it all. By the time Adam was just three years old, he’d had 10 surgeries. Costs were accumulating, and we simply didn’t have the assets. I didn’t have equity in my home. Tampering with our 401(k) could jeopardize our retirement. We needed a plan, so I turned to our insurance agent Tom Waring.

Whole life to the rescue

I’ve known Tom since we were in high school, and he became my agent soon after I started working as an assistant supermarket manager, before I met my wife Sandy. I had moved home to Buffalo, N.Y., where Tom had gotten a job as an agent selling life insurance for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). He said he wanted to talk to me about my financial future, so we ended up meeting for a slice of pizza. 

At that point, I was a 21-year-old kid who hadn’t given life insurance a moment’s thought. Still, I had a clear vision for my future, and I knew I would eventually start a family. Tom understood that while I wasn’t an ideal candidate for traditional term life insurance, the flexibility of a whole life policy could help protect my family while building up a cash value that I could access if needed. He made my decision easy. I purchased a whole life policy from Tom.

See also: Insuring Parents of Special Needs Children: What You Need to Know

The value of that decision was made clear years later as we faced piles of bills for Adam’s medical care. Tom showed us that the cash value of our whole life policies could provide financial relief in the near term (although accessing cash values would reduce the life insurance benefit). I had a check within two days.

Over the years, our whole life policies helped us cover necessary medical expenses and finance new and rewarding experiences for Adam, especially his love of ice hockey.

An Olympic achievement

Adam PageFrom a young age, Adam always wanted to play sports, and his disability has never discouraged him competing. He’s tried everything — swimming, skiing, baseball, karate — but hockey was his first love. Standup hockey obviously wasn’t an option, so we registered him for a local sled hockey team.

Since that moment, Adam has dedicated his life to the sport, showing an extraordinary work ethic. Our whole life policy helped us fund travel, equipment and ice time that enabled Adam to pursue his dream — and achieve incredible things.

At age 15, Adam became the youngest player to represent his country on the U.S. National Sled Hockey team. In 2010, he and his teammates brought home the gold medal from the Paralympic Games in Vancouver. Watching Adam win the gold was one of my proudest moments as a father.    

Today, Adam keeps moving forward and dreaming about even bigger things for his future. While he and his teammates train to defend their title in the 2014 games, Adam is earning his college degree in sports management. He understands that, on the ice or off, in order to succeed you have to work hard and prepare for the unexpected. In fact, working with our friend Tom Waring, Adam recently purchased his own whole life policy. 

Nothing can prepare you for the challenges of being a parent. When Sandy and I purchased whole life insurance, we had no idea our policies would one day play such a pivotal role in helping our son accomplish his dreams. We were simply planning for our future. But that’s what raising Adam has taught us — with foresight and resolve, there isn’t any challenge that can’t be overcome or any dream that can’t come true.

 

For more on whole life, see:

New York Life Post First Half ’12 Gains in Whole Life, LTCI

Whole Life Insurance: The Financial Foundation Asian Americans Are Seeking?

Whole life insurance: More important today than five decades ago