Image for Turning Obstacles into Joy and Hope for Kids

Amy O'Dell

Turning Obstacles into Joy and Hope for Kids

When medical experts wrote off her infant son, Amy refused to give up. Instead, she dedicated her life to helping him – and now has a school serving hundreds more.


When two very good friends of the show recommended that I interview this episode's guest, I knew her story must be special.

So I visited Amy O'Dell at the school she founded, Jacob's Ladder. The work she and her staff are doing blew me away.

Named for Amy's son, Jacob's Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center serves children with developmental disabilities.

Many of the challenges these children face are profound. Some had been given an almost zero percent chance of functioning in society.

But Amy refused to accept this bleak prognosis — not for these kids, and not for her own son.

Thirty years ago, Amy's son, Jacob, was diagnosed with pervasive developmental delay.

"I hate repeating these words, but: I was told that I should try again for another child," Amy recounts. "And I was told that I should not worry about educating him. I should focus on [helping him get] some general life skills. And he wasn't even a year and a half old."

Instead, Amy, who had worked in child psychiatric services, left her job to dedicate herself full-time to her son's development. She spent 8 hours or more per day helping Jacob. Then she founded a school to help other children in similar situations.

Jacob's Ladder provides a unique combination of intervention with "love in action" from caregivers. The method focuses on the brain's neuroplasticity. For clients, the school has been the difference between surviving and thriving.

In the decades since, Jacob's Ladder has helped more than 4,000 kids. And today, Jacob is a teacher at the school bearing his name.

Amy's story is an incredible example of what perseverance, dedication and love can accomplish.

You Can Help Others Doing Great Work

When I reflect on the way I learned of Amy and her work, it makes me think about how many of you - our listeners - might know of someone else who turned their personal tragedy into hope for others.

Or maybe you know someone who's faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge with honor and grace.

If so, my team at Crazy Good Turns and I want to hear from you.

Go to You can nominate a person or organization that matters to you on that page.

Selected causes will get the chance to be featured in an upcoming episode of our podcast. And they'll receive a $10,000 donation.

Crazy Good Turns just gave one of these donations to Jacob's Ladder. The organization you care about could receive one too.

So take a few minutes to nominate somebody at

But first, check out this conversation with Amy O'Dell. I think you'll hear exactly why other listeners nominated her and Jacob's Ladder. They are doing incredible work. Here's our interview.

  • What happened on the day Amy walked off her job to care for Jacob full-time (9:45)
  • How her work with Jacob started in the kitchen (17:29)
  • The first child Amy assisted other than her own son (22:37)
  • The first thing children with neurodevelopmental disorders need (26:11)
  • Jacob's life today (30:22)
  • A story showing why hard things are worth persevering through (33:34)
  • How Amy avoids becoming exhausted (42:28)
  • The valuable lesson Amy learned by giving up control (47:34)

FRANK BLAKE: So I want to start with a very general first question.

And as I was preparing for this interview, it struck me that you are someone who has probably been told many, many times in your life that your expectations are unreasonable - whether it's expectations for your son, starting a school, building a school, and on and on and on.

And yet you've persevered successfully.

And so my just general first question is what are the top three or five things in your life where people have told you, "Yeah, understand that's just not reasonable. Your expectations are out of bounds."

AMY O'DELL: Oh my gosh. You are very, very correct about that.

Frank, even in the pregnancy with my son Jacob, even before he entered this world, I was told not to have great expectation for him.

And so we didn't even get to see each other before I was told those words.

And then when he was born and that first year of life, I was also told, and I honestly even hate to repeat these words at times, but I was told that I should try again for another child.

And I was told that I should not worry about educating him, that I should focus on some general life skills, and he wasn't even a year and a half old.

So those are pretty profound and daunting words that I think became a bit of fire in my soul. Instead of an end to a story, it became a beginning to a story.

And then I think as I progressed with Jacob and kind of our life unfolded, him and my daughter Aubrey and I, you know, found ourselves as a family of a single mom and two children and needing to create stability and a foundation financially and things like that.

So to try to, I think when I first started speaking about the idea of having a place where other children and young adults could come for a healing process, and I really do believe it's a healing process, I can't tell you how many hundreds of times I was told that that was outside of the bounds of possibility and all the reasons it would've work.

And frankly, in every step of the way, this is a 30-year journey at this point, but in every step of the way, it doesn't matter if I'm in a business meeting, a marketing meeting, my vision for the future from this point forward, I still hear the same words.

FRANK BLAKE: That's what I'm guessing. Even the many, many times you've proven people wrong, do you still hear that?

AMY O'DELL: I still hear the words. And something whispers in my soul, "We've been here before, Amy, do-pay no heed. Just keep looking forward."

Yeah. So there's been so many times. So many times.

FRANK BLAKE: So I hope over the course of this conversation we'll get a little bit of how you do persevere. What is it and what do you feel within yourself that allows you to do that?

But before getting to that, maybe just for our listeners' sake, give a little bit of the background of your son Jacob, and his development and your decisions to take him out of daycare and take this on yourself.

AMY O'DELL: Sure. So as I mentioned earlier, Jacob turned 30 years old this year.

When Jacob was born, my daughter Aubrey was about three and a half years old.

And I had a position at a hospital as director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Clayton, Georgia.

And I had had a high risk pregnancy. I knew that Jacob had challenges, but I, like so many parents, was quite naive to what that really meant for him for our lives, what was going to be needed for him.

But I was finding out day by day, you start to realize and your eyes become more open and you start to process the reality of the situation that you find yourself within.

And so I've referred to the daycare moment as the sidewalk moment, and it's forever etched in my memory. It is one of those real kind of epiphany turning points, if you will.

But I was hustling off to work to the hospital. I dropped Jacob off at this wonderful little daycare full of little kids, two, three years old, running around.

He was about 15, 16 months old at the time, best I can recollect.

And because he had a diagnosis of pervasive developmental delay, he had great complexities and he was not able to sit up unassisted when he was that age and wasn't really mobile.

And we had practiced really hard, Frank, on him just being able to, at home, I would get him to a sitted position and then sort of put up some buffers and scaffolding around him where it'd be pillows or whatever it would be.

And I'd be so proud that little Jacob could just sit there and hold a seated position, which is something he should have mastered many months before. But anyway, we were super proud that he was sitting up.

But the problem was if he turned his head or someone ran past him or he was surprised, or he just got a little bit off balance, he was going to topple over and then he had no way to get himself back up.

And so the sidewalk moment for me was as I left him and I was walking back to my car, I could see inside the window from the sidewalk and all the little kids were up running around exploring the toys, whatever, and he had toppled over and he couldn't get himself back up.

And he was crying. And that sounds like it could just be any occurrence on any day.

But for whatever reason, that moment there was what I would say was a complete conviction of the heart.

And those words matter to me a lot, Frank. And it sort of goes back to your first question.

A conviction of the heart is different than I think maybe this is what I should do, or maybe I should talk to so-and-so about this, or maybe I should, whatever. It was like, no, this is different.

And I look at the origin of the word heart, kardio, which is where we get cardiology from, which is a Greek word, kardio with a K.

And it explains the heart of knowledge, like this root of knowledge, which is a combination of your intellect, your emotion, and your will.

And so all I can tell you is in that moment, there was a collision of my intellect, my emotion, and my will that said, from this point forward, it's going to be different.

And in that moment, I went back inside, I picked Jacob up, walked to the car, drove to my work with him with me, walked into my CFO's office at the hospital with him on my hip.

I'll never forget it as long as I live.

And I said, "I'm so sorry, but I'm going to need to resign." And I told him why.

And I don't remember much about his words, but it's funny, I do remember his face.

I do remember the expression on his face and him just looking at me, but I remember it being the eyes of care, which I really love that memory. It was through the eyes of care.

And so I left, and I, from that point forward, started mapping out something in my mind about, didn't even know exactly what "we're going to do something different" meant at that moment.

I just knew we had started down a different course, and mercy did we ever.

FRANK BLAKE: I'm just so-it's such an amazing moment.

Afterwards, did you go, "Oh, whoa, what have I done," or did that conviction remain?

AMY O'DELL: No, the conviction completely remained.

And one of the things I would say about it, Frank, is that as a parent, from a parent perspective, and anyone who's had a child born with struggles, especially profound struggles, knows the depth of fear and uncertainty that goes with that, like you are powerless to help or change, or at least we feel like we are for a lot of that time, especially early on.

And so the feeling of fear and overwhelm was something I was living with on a day-to-day basis.

So I found that I was expending so much energy anyway in the fear, that when the conviction of the heart happened, it was like, take all the fire in me and all the energy in me that was being poured into the fear response and just pour it into a way forward.

And I remember that feeling a bit like a relief, to be honest, like even though our lives were uncertain and how are we going to support ourselves and all that felt uncertain, the uncertainty was much less damaging to my soul than living with constant fear.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow, that is amazing.

How in this process do you think to yourself, now I'm going to take this on board and I'm going to do it?

I mean, one way would be, okay, I'm taking my son out of daycare and I'm going to search around for another service, a better way to do this.

But your response was your personal responsibility, how you kept it on person?


I'll tell you this. I think this is such an interesting question because in reflection, I had served in a school system when I had graduated with my undergraduate degree, and I had served in a hospital setting, so healthcare, mental health setting, and then I had my own child.

And also, as part of that, Frank, I did what everybody does.

I went to every specialist known to man that I had been referred to, and I had a very difficult journey through all those appointments, the lack of cohesiveness, the lack of hope, the lack of direction.

I got a lot of papers, I got a lot of diagnoses, I got a lot of poor prognoses, but I didn't feel like I had anybody that had said, "Gosh, how do I sign up to walk alongside you in this process?"

And so I thought, my goodness, I'm pretty sure, pretty certain that my answer does not lie there because I've already put a lot of energy and emotional energy into that.

And I also think it's really interesting that in my life I had been given the opportunity to be in education in healthcare and see a massive disconnect between the two things, as if how we educate children has nothing to do with their neurobiology, their family structure, did they have food in the house?

Did a parent just pass away?

We separate those two things like they don't have a critical impact on each other, and they do.

And so that was really the impetus for everything that came after that was like, at that point, I was thinking, how do I look at this differently for my own child?

I mean, felt like I had a calling that was bigger than my own child in my own kitchen because that's where we did a lot of the work, in our kitchen up in Raven County.

So there was an inkling that there was a much bigger conversation, Frank, but in the moment it's like, okay, I keep using the word fire because it literally does feel like a fire inside my soul.

I don't know how else to describe it, but it felt like something just was needing to be birthed from that.

And so having experienced all the brokenness of the systems that we had, both in education and healthcare, there was nothing in me that felt called back to that for my solution, unfortunately.

It was more like, "Wow, there's got to be something different."

And this was not an overnight process by any means, Frank, but it was, so how do you even start looking at this differently?

How do you understand this boy that I've been given is amazing and wonderful, and he's delightful and the apple of my eye, so to speak. But also there were profound challenges.

And so, one of the things that remains a cornerstone of my work is, goodness, he probably was given 15 diagnoses.

PDD, they didn't talk about autism so much 30 years ago, but sensory processing disorder, and ADHD and apraxia of speech and apraxia of movement.

We had this list of things which can be so overwhelming. And that still happens for families today.

But one of the most important things for me was to realize over time, and this was months of time as I started to really do study and research, is that I didn't need to view Jacob as 15 broken pieces.

I needed to view him as one glorious little kid who had one issue.

And it was how the central nervous system was processing information, how it was organized, because that could show up in his vision, in his hearing, in his thinking, in his speech, in his movement.

It was one problem, one problem, central nervous system, not 15 different separate problems.

I tried to understand it so that whatever it was that Jacob was showing me on a day-to-day basis, I took that one thing, whether it was his feet were so sensitive that I couldn't put a sock on, to he'd been given a diagnosis of cortical visual impairment so I needed to work on the visual pathway, to why is it that he can't sit himself up?

It's because the motor neurons are not communicating the way that they need to be and communicating to the peripheral nervous system.

So you start breaking it down like piece by piece by piece by piece, which now we have over 1400 pieces that we've mapped out with such clarity and such strategy.

But it all started sitting in my kitchen on the kitchen floor just looking so deeply one thing after another.

But then the glorious thing, Frank, was that, wow, I believed it, but then I started implementing it, applying it, and executing it.

And then I started to see him transforming right before my eyes, just little tiny things day after day after day.

And because I saw the transformation happening and some things took much longer, some things started to happen relatively quickly, and it was a combination of doing less of what was holding him back because a disorganized system will do disorganized things and we see that a lot in autism.

So part of the model of care is quiet down what's disorganizing, build up what would be more clean, more efficient, a better way of organizing the nervous system so you get different output.

FRANK BLAKE: So as you're in your kitchen with your son, is there some, first, just for our listeners, if you fast-forward from that moment with your son on the kitchen floor to now you've founded Jacob's Ladder, it's been in existence since 1999, is that right?

So almost 25 years.

And how many people have been through your school?

AMY O'DELL: Well over 4,000 families at this point.

So we have served a lot of children, young adults, families, and even adults who have found themselves in different difficult situations, neurologically speaking.

But yes, and we've developed a program we call Community of Care, which is an international outreach.

FRANK BLAKE: So an extraordinary reach.

At what point do you say, I mean, first brave step out to say, "I'm going to take care of my child on my own."

Then, "Gee, there might be others who need this same help."

At what point does that happen?

AMY O'DELL: Sure. So while I was still up in Raven County, one of my best friends had a child with complex needs.

So I guess the very first evaluation I ever did was on a close friend in Raven County on my back deck.

I'll never forget that either.

He was five years old, and he eventually ended up commuting back and forth from Raven County to Atlanta to attend Jacob's Ladder when we first got started.

But I saw the difference in him, the very first child that I tried to assist outside of my own son.

When I left my job, the kind CFO asked me if I wanted to do contract work so that I could make a living.

And so I said yes. So from 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM, I did on-call crisis intervention.

And that's how we made it until Jacob was five.

But when he was five, the hospital closed, it sold and then closed. And so that contract work was no longer there.

But at the same time, I very much felt a pull to take a next step, and to me, take a next step meant formalize a process to actually help others receive the same type of care.

And in my mind, it was go to a larger metropolitan area. Can't do this up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was pretty sure about that.

And my plan at the time was, because I remained working with Jacob seven, eight hours a day up until the age of 14, so my plan was keep working with Jacob.

My daughter was homeschooling with us at the time as we made this transition up to Atlanta.

And I was going to do, and I did, free, I called them seminars, I did talks, and as parents would come in, so that was 1998, I would do a seminar.

If there were three families there, I would end up trying to help those.

I mean, it was just like clockwork. Three families came. I ended up helping three families.

If 25 families came, I ended up helping 25 families.

And so it was around '98, '99 that I hired my first three employees. And that was a start.

FRANK BLAKE: I listened to an interview that you did where you talked about moving from love as a posture to love as a methodology for treatment, and would you explain that a bit?


I could tell you thousands of stories of children, teenagers, young adults, that I have personally interfaced with, and thousands that my team has interfaced with outside of the time I've had that we are more than our mind or brain.

We are complex beings.

And when we approach anyone, I would say, but especially those that are in super vulnerable positions, whether they've been physically injured, emotionally injured, or they're cognitively at a deficit, they need great help, but the brain is wired such that it has these neuroreceptors that are always scanning the environment to discern, am I safe or not?

It's a primitive response, and it happens deep within the brain. It's very different.

It's in the midbrain limbic system rather than the most advanced part of the brain, which is the prefrontal cortex.

So kids who have been in these vulnerable positions, no matter what they are, it could be a brain injury, it could be a stroke, it could be trauma, it could be autism, it could be developmental delays, whatever it is, they have a heightened sense of needing to know that they are secure and that they are safe.

And that's not a philosophical statement on my part. That is science, that's neuroscience.

And so there are neurochemicals within the brain that are elicited if that person doesn't feel safe.

And I would go further and say, safe, understood, cared for, slash loved.

Because loved, in that context, is am I safe? Am I respected? Am I cared for? Are my needs going to be met?

And you can't go in and start an education plan or a behavior plan if a student, a child, a whomever, is in a state of fight or flight.

The brain won't allow it.

So you can sit there for eight hours a day and try to go through rote lessons and lectures and behavior plans and consequences for poor behavior.

It doesn't change anything.

It actually wastes a whole lot of valuable time in my mind.

So the very first thing I think is important, and it's a cornerstone of our work here, is how do you meet people where they are, at their most vulnerable, and set up an environment and a methodology that has that at the forefront of every single interaction?

And when I say every single interaction, we tally the minutes, the moments of the day, Frank, because our staff knows someone's grandmother's probably paying this tuition or someone's dad who's traveling around the world trying to support his family's paying this tuition.

Tuition equals one moment at a time in our minds.

So how do we use the one moment at a time to create an environment of safety, attachment, slash love, and combine that with the latest, in my mind, just the latest and most important aspects of neuroscience, and put it together in one cohesive model so that the most vulnerable actually have the opportunity for change, growth, and healing?

FRANK BLAKE: So around 25 years ago, you started with three employees. How many employees do you have now? And maybe you can give our listeners a sense of what do they do during the day? How are they treating the students?

AMY O'DELL: So we have at any given time, up to 160 or so employees.

And we have a traveling team that goes internationally that can set up providers in locations of families that have reached out to us wherever they might live.

But we are a strong and beautiful team of people.

And I can't say enough about the people that choose to work here, it is a decision to put love in action. It truly is.

And I'm humbled every time I walk through the campus and I see what this team of people do.

And in terms of what are their roles and positions, we of course have our administrators, we have our clinicians who do evaluations, design programs.

We have what we call providers, which are the people who on a day-to-day basis are interfacing just like I did with Jacob in the kitchen.

They are our present day interfacers, and they are well-trained on the methodology, they're well-trained on the individual programming that's needed for every student.

And then we have mental health professionals on campus. We have animal assisted therapy people on campus.

So a wide range of very dedicated professionals.

FRANK BLAKE: It would be great to hear some of the stories of transformation from the people who've been through Jacob's Ladder.

Maybe start with Jacob. What's Jacob doing?

AMY O'DELL: Yeah, so Jacob is probably six-foot-three.

He's enormous, strong, very wise.

And when I say wise, Frank, I truly mean if I'm struggling with something here in the business or in the service that we're doing, he's usually one of the first people that I'll talk to because he has such a clear radar, for lack of better word, like he just has a lot of great clarity about things.

And so I really, really appreciate that about him.

And he serves as a provider in our Hope School, which is designed for kids with emotional, behavioral, relational disorders.

And he has a phenomenal understanding in knowing, number, one of where they are, inherently what they need and who he needs to be in the moment in order to help them along the way.

So he is someone who signed up to walk alongside another who needs the help.

FRANK BLAKE: And what are some of your favorite, over the time period, stories of people who've been helped?

AMY O'DELL: One of my favorite, I have so many, several come to mind immediately.

One is a little girl that came to us from another country, and I'll tell you a bit about her story for several reasons.

A very successful businessman, a very successful actress, mom and dad. And then their little one has a stroke in the birthing process.

And literally, we met her I think when she was about two and a half, three years old.

And she needed help in every aspect, very similar to what Jacob had experienced, but for her, the physical limitations were a bit harder.

But they came in from another country, they spent a month here. We trained providers.

FRANK BLAKE: Somehow they had heard about Jacob's Ladder and said, "We want to try this"?

AMY O'DELL: Yes. And they packed up and came, and we help supervise her care remotely now, still to this day.

But I remember watching her struggle to get to a seated position, and then they were like, oh my gosh, if she could ever stand up, that would just be amazing.

Well, she did stand up.

It took about eight months, but she did.

And they were like, "Oh my God, if she could ever take a walk, walk a few steps."

Well, then she started walking a few steps, then she started walking unassisted, and then one time they came for their annual check-in and she and my son Jacob were running across the campus as she ran to the trampoline and started to jump independently on her own.

And verbal, smart as a whip.

And I tell you that story because number one, her prognosis was a zero.

The things they had been told were similar to the things that I had been told.

And I remember on their last visit, Frank, she had dinner with Jacob and I was there.

And she asked Jacob, now she's about six years old, seven years old, she looked over at him with big tears in her eyes and she said, "I have to work very, very hard."

And Jacob said, "I know you do."

And then she turned to him and she said, "But you had to work very, very hard too."

And I thought, God, I never want to forget that moment because for so many reasons.

One, it speaks to possibility.

Two, it speaks to hard work is worth it. It's worth persevering through.

And then you just see two kind of unfiltered, unarmored souls sitting right there in front of you that don't have the luxury of pretending.

And when you don't have the luxury of pretending, meaning, I'm going to put on a facade, I'm going to make you think I'm something I'm not, I'm going to whatever, say the words you want me to hear.

When you don't have that luxury, you just get a lot of really raw truth.

And I think raw truth is beautiful. I really do. So I loved that moment.

FRANK BLAKE: So Amy, I'm just curious with that girl or with Jacob or with any of the other folks who go through Jacob's Ladder, is there a cycle back ever with the doctors who say, "This is pretty much a... It's not going to get much better than this," to just say, look at this, and what did you miss and how your observations are of the way the world responds to the kinds of successes you've had?

Is it, "Boy, how do you do this, Amy?"

Or is it more, "Well, that's a one-off and not really repeatable"?

AMY O'DELL: Yeah, that's a great question.

When Jacob started doing better and better and better when he was younger, he went for his checkup and his pediatrician said, "Wow, he's doing really well."

And I said, "Would you like for me to tell you why?"

And he said no. And I said, "Okay."


AMY O'DELL: What we do these days, Frank, is we have a very, very, very in-depth analysis of why we write the plans we write, how we execute the plans that we write for kids, and we measure outcomes very precisely.

And we plot all that in very well done and thought-out comprehensive reports.

And we make those available to anyone who's a part of that student's care team.

Pediatricians, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists.

We have all the data, and we are an open book in terms of sharing that. I don't have a great answer about how that's received because usually I'm not in the room when it's received.

But I will tell you that my vision moving forward is to publish outcomes and to really try my best in the future, to be a voice in the conversation that helps us to view this topic in a different way- not in a fragmented, disconnected, disjointed way, and not in a way that looks at one part of a human being and says, here's what we're going to do about that, but it's disconnected from this part, from this part.

To look at it as a whole.

So I hope I get the opportunity to do that.

FRANK BLAKE: Who is someone from whom you draw inspiration, someone you admire, someone that you think people should know more about?

AMY O'DELL: Love that question, and two people pop into my mind.

One, his name is Dallas Willard. He was, in my mind, a great philosopher.

He passed away in 2013, and he studied a branch of philosophy called epistemology. I think that's how you pronounce that, epistemology.

And it is the philosophy of knowing, like understanding what knowing means.

And I read one of his great books called The Divine Conspiracy, and it had the greatest impact on me about how there's the integration of the parts of us and what that means and what knowing the definition of knowing is.

So I love him. Dallas Willard really was important in my own process.

And these days I love a theologian, and again, just a great thinker and a disruptive thinker because he just wrote a book called Disruptive Thinking, and it's on the New York Times bestseller list.

TD Jakes. I listen to him every single day of my life.

And one of the reasons I love him, first of all, I think he has a great deal of wisdom for the times that we're in, which are pretty tough and chaotic when you look around.

And I also think he started from nothing, from a very difficult and kind of destitute place in terms of what he had to work with, but he never gave up.

And he's got millions and millions of listeners and followers.

And so I have a lot of respect for him and for that, and I'm learning a lot from him.

FRANK BLAKE: That's terrific. Thank you for that.

Now, we ask everybody who appears on this podcast, who's done a crazy good turn for you.

Somebody in your past who you just say, "Boy, this person did such a wonderfully kind thing for me."

AMY O'DELL: I have had so many people do crazy good things for me, but I have to tell you, and I mean, just magnificent things, or I wouldn't be here having this conversation with you because none of this would be real, Jacob's Ladder or any of those pieces.

But recently, Ted Decker, Larry Smith, two people that I respect greatly and also have shown up in pretty tremendous ways, came to visit the campus.

I offhandedly asked Ted Decker if he knew any contacts that could help me with turf for the kids so they would have a playing field.

And he was pretty quiet when I asked the question, and I just remember him looking down at his feet as we were walking.

He said, "Yeah, I think I got a contact."

And then a few days later, I was hit up with an email about 50 people on the chain.

And about two weeks ago, we had over 100 people from Home Depot at administrative levels to vendors to, I don't even know all the roles, but they filled up our parking lot, they filled up our campus, and they worked for eight hours and transformed our place.

And that matters a great deal to us.

And when I say transformed it, they gave us the turf.

They brought so many plants and flowers and beautiful things, and the beauty and the surroundings for the kids matters a whole lot to us.

I told them flowers to us are not just flowers.

Flowers to us are creating an environment that provides peace and beauty and safety and all the things that we hold near and dear.

And so that was just a big surprise and a really, really crazy good thing.

FRANK BLAKE: Well, I love to hear that.

For our listeners, just as background, Ted Decker is the CEO of Home Depot and Larry Smith, who Amy referenced, is Bernie Marcus's nephew.

So there's a lot of Home Depot in that answer. So thank you for that.

Now, for our listeners who want to learn more about you, want to learn more about Jacob's Ladder, what's the best thing for them to do?

AMY O'DELL: Go to our Jacob's Ladder website, Jacob's Ladder School website.

I would encourage, especially anyone that's looking for help and find themselves in a difficult situation with their child or adolescent, whether it is mental health related or any of the struggles we've talked about today, we'd love to help.

FRANK BLAKE: Great. Well, you're awesome. And what you're doing is amazing.

I have to say, maybe there's one other question.

Do you ever get just exhausted?

I mean, I look at what you do and I go, having visited Jacob's Ladder, say, "That's a hard job."

I mean, everybody may think they have a difficult job, but you and your team have really hard jobs.


You know, it is a hard job in many ways.

But there was a few other things, just to share with you.

I was thinking this morning about one of your questions was the campus and why it was designed the way that it was.

And it hit me that in the center of campus, Frank, are these four beautiful weeping willow trees and weeping willow trees are called weeping willows for a reason.

They're the weeping tree.

And so as you visit campus and walk around campus, there's sadness and difficulty because of the situations, but we've made a decision to show up with joy and promise, and that's just a decision that we make.

And I think the weeping willow trees are a reminder that yes, it's hard, and yes, it's sad, and if we are not careful, it can seem overwhelming, whether it's the individual situations of the people that you're trying to help or it's what it takes to keep everything together and running.

But I think we, as a group of people, make the decision to find joy in the suffering.

And I think that that truly is a decision that you make.

And then in terms of the exhaustion part, if you're not careful, here's one of the things that I love and I've found over the years, is that if you're serving out of your spirit, like if I showed up and did this as a business, if my main thrust was this is a business and I need to blah, blah, blah, all the things you think about when you're running a business, that part can be tough.

If I ever let that get isolated as my thrust, if that becomes my focal point, rather than I'm here to serve and I'm here to be in this capacity, in this role, and by God, I'm going to do everything I can to keep the business moving forward with that.

Because you have to choose which one you're going to put your mind on.

And so what I find is if I ever lose connection with what's in my spirit about what this is really about, boy, can you get exhausted super fast.

That's really what makes the difference.

FRANK BLAKE: So one final question, just going back to where I started on the questions, but your perseverance and your ability to push through people saying, "No, this is unreasonable," was that something somebody would've said about you when you were eight years old, 16 years old, 24 years old, they just said, "Yep, that's definitional for Amy," or was that built over time?

AMY O'DELL: That is such a great question, and no one's ever asked me anything like that. |

But I think my honest answer was, I told someone the other day, actually, I was talking to Larry Powell and he told me that he played tennis at UGA.

And I was like, "Wow, I played tennis in college as well."

And what I didn't tell him is that I don't know that I had that much skill, per se, in tennis, but what I did have was people hated to play against me because I just chased every ball.

I chased it down, but I didn't know that... I don't even know now what I would call that.

I just know that there was something in me that chased down every ball.

Even if I lacked skill, I was still going to chase the chase down the ball.

So I think there's something there that was... You know?

And I also remember, Frank, reading about Joan of Arc when I was eight years old.

Literally I was eight years old, and Joan of Arc fascinated me.

And I thought to myself, how could someone be so convicted when they're 15 years old that they think that they have something to say about the French government and in front of the-?

How does that happen?

But so fascinated by that, and I would use the word conviction of heart in that, to me it's really that.

It's like there's something there in the heart that just, I don't know, gets set on fire about something.

I guess that could work to your detriment if you have your mind set on the wrong thing.

FRANK BLAKE: Your mind is set on a great thing. Thank you.

Thank you for your time. This is great. Really appreciate it.

AMY O'DELL: I appreciate it very much.

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