When Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis in December 2009, many questioned whether Weis and his wife Maura would pack up their Hannah and Friends charity and depart Michiana.
Charlie and Maura said at the time, Hannah and Friends was going no where. They've lived up to their word. Three and half years later, the Hannah and Friends Neighborhood is stronger than ever.
This weekend, the inspiration behind the charity--Charlie and Maura's daughter Hannah--- moved into a home in the living community just beyond South Bend Clay High School on Hollyhock Road in St. Joseph County. Hannah will have three roommates in her house. In total, there are now 12 adults living on the property in three different homes.
Hannah, now 18, suffers from Global Developmental Delays. Hannah and Friends was created to improve the quality of life for children and adults with special needs.
Maura moved Hannah into her new home on Saturday, making sure that the room looked almost identical to Hannah's old room at her old house so that Hannah would feel right at home. Charlie arrived from Kansas, where here is now the head coach for the Jayhawks, Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, Charlie was doing what every good dad does. He was helping his daughter. As Hannah watched Barney and Sesame Street on an old VHS deck in her room, Charlie sat on the bed putting together a fan--the same model as the one Hannah had in her old room.
Charlie is the first to admit he's not the most handy man, but hey--this is what dad's do for their kids.
"I come here and I'm just Hannah's dad," Weis explained. "I'm not Charlie Weis. I'm not Coach Weis. I'm Hannah's Dad."
Charlie credits his wife Maura for all she's done to assist Hannah for the last 18 years. While Charlie was off coaching in the NFL, at Notre Dame and now at Kansas, Maura was the primary care taker for Hannah.
"Hannah seems as happy as can be--I think Maura is taking it much tougher than Hannah is," Charlie says with a chuckle.
Charlie says its both exciting and traumatic to know that Hannah will now be living separate from the family on her own, but with the assistance of some great people at Hannah and Friends.
'"It's exciting because it sets up the rest of her life but the day you actually cut that cord--it's a rough emotional day," Charlie says.
Weis is right though. It definitely appears Hannah is feeling right at home enjoying her time watching her TV shows.
Meanwhile, Hannah and Friends continues to grow.
On Monday, the Farm opens up day programs for anyone with special needs. Dirt is being moved and construction will soon begin on a half a million dollar activity center that will be huge for those programs when the Michiana weather isn't the most pleasant. It's something the Weis family wants the whole community to be able to enjoy.
"Just come and see what's going on here," Charlie says. "We really want the community to see that not only are we here to stay but this is just a wonderful place. Its just a surreal place to be around and I think everyone that comes here walks away with that feeling."
Charlie is thankful for the community involvement that already exists. Hannah and Friends is hosting its first 5K Run and One Mile Walk on the property on June 29th. Weis says the idea was brought to them by two John Adams high school sophomores who are on the track team.
"Michaela Lewis and Aubrey Curl came to us and asked if they could have a run here for people with different abilities," Weis explained. "They came and mapped the whole route out. It was their idea and that's what it's all about when you get the community involvement and have everyone realize that you can work together to have people with different abilities have a better quality of life. I think that's a great thing."
Back in Hannah's room, Charlie was still working away at fixing that fan. At that moment, it didn't matter how many Super Bowls he won as an offensive coordinator with the Patriots and it certainly didn't matter how well known he became as the in-your-face coach at Notre Dame.
This was just about a dad helping out his daughter. After Charlie twisted in the final screw, he plugged the fan in. And the you could feel the breeze come through.
"OK! I'm pretty happy," a giggling Weis said, proud of his work.
Then came a kiss from Hannah.
There's no reward for a dad better than that.