Empowering Communities

Proud Dad Making A Difference for His Son

April 26, 2016

Donning a red ComEd t-shirt, shorts emblazoned with the U.S. flag, a pink ComEd hardhat, and a big smile, Joe Svachula ran across the sand at North Avenue Beach the first Sunday in March and jumped into the 36-degree waters of Lake Michigan. He hadn’t lost a bet, nor was he acting on a dare. He was doing something he has done for the past four years: supporting his teenage son, Danny, and others like him, who has Down syndrome.

Svachula, a father of four and ComEd’s vice president of Engineering and Smart Grid, joined 545 other ComEd employees, family members and friends in support of the 16th annual Polar Plunge, which benefits Special Olympics Chicago. This year Svachula and the rest of the team, better known as the “ComEd Coolers,” raised $175,000 – the largest contribution of any participating team on Lake Michigan’s shore that morning.

“I’m honored and humbled to work with colleagues who truly care about others and making a difference in our communities,” said Svachula. “The money raised through the Polar Plunge will give young people like my son Danny a chance to enjoy life, learn, grow and rise to their full potential.”

Svachula beams with pride when describing his busy life with wife, Diane, and four children. His son Danny, 19, is a happy young man who enjoys school, karate, singing, bowling and hanging out with his friends. But Svachula recognizes that Danny has had to face challenges and battle some unfair stereotypes that many people have assigned to persons with developmental disabilities.

“We’re all different,” said Svachula. “Difference is relative. I think people are surprised when they get to know my son that it’s very often him who does the teaching.”

Danny is the life and soul of the family. “I feel so proud of Danny and lucky to have him. He’s taught me about equality and opportunity, and how to put the simple things back into focus. He has shown us what is important in life.”

Svachula and his family are grateful for the many opportunities their son has had through organizations such as Special Olympics, and he’s determined to help create opportunities for others. Svachula serves on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Chicago. In this capacity, he works to raise funds and contribute to the awareness of Special Olympics Chicago and its various programs. And each year, Svachula does more than just spread awareness – he jumps right in.