I am Eastmark is a movement born from the aspirations of our most inspiring residents. These residents inspire not because of what they do, but because of who they are – ordinary people doing often extraordinary things. Their commitment to health and fitness, family and friends, kindness and compassion resonate and motivate others to follow suit. They embody the Eastmark spirit. They are Eastmark.
Meet Rob Williams. He’s a proud family man who recently started a group for Eastmark dads of special needs kids, and he’s frequently out doing early morning laps at the Community Pool as he trains for his very first IRONMAN triathlon:
Where are you originally from and what brought you to Arizona?
“My family and I moved here about three years ago, and we’ve lived in Eastmark for two and a half years. We lived in Denver, where I grew up, and then Wisconsin for about 15 years, before moving to Arizona. We have a son who has autism and that’s actually why we moved from Denver to Wisconsin in the first place. When he started school in Denver we just couldn’t find a school that was a good fit for him. We did a lot of research and found out that, at the time, Wisconsin had a lot of school resources for special needs kids, so we moved our family there. And we wanted to mainstream our son and the schools there were able to help us with that. So, we raised our son and daughter in Wisconsin. When our son graduated, as great as Wisconsin was for early education, it wasn’t so good for adult services. My wife and I are both from the West, with me being from Denver and my wife from Phoenix, so we eventually wanted to get back to the area, and Phoenix has some great autism services for adults.”
Why did you decide to make Eastmark your home?
“We were looking at a lot of homes all over the East Valley. We probably looked at about 250 homes over a four month period while we rented, but we just didn’t find what we were looking for. Then one day we came out to Eastmark and looked at the model homes, specifically the Maracay models. We wanted to give our son his own space, and we found a home that was a good set up for the three of us (my daughter lives in Florida and so she wasn’t moving in with us).
Quite honestly, we moved to Eastmark for the house, and specifically for our son’s needs, but we had no idea about the community, and that’s been the most awesome surprise! I’ve never experienced anything like it before. I’m currently in the Eastmark Leadership Class 3 and I’ve just been amazed to learn about the forethought and details that go into planning a community like this. I don’t know anything about urban planning, but when you move into a community like Eastmark, you can feel it. There’s a vibe in this community that I feel, it’s pervasive I think, and you can see that with the activities, events and the different clubs and groups that residents are starting up. What’s really cool is we moved here for a specific house, and we found a community.”
What is your background (family, hobbies, career)?
“I’m a big family guy. I spend a lot of time with my family, and with my son specifically. I’ve always felt that it can be hard for autistic kids to make friends. Social skills are one of the biggest challenges for those with autism. As my son was growing up (he is now 21), it became clear to me that he would have few friends. Don’t get me wrong, he has tons of acquaintances, and people love him – he’s just that kind of guy. But not real friends as you and I would define them – boys with whom to roughhouse and wrestle, with whom to play, with whom to talk. So, I decided I would be his friend, that guy, as long as my body could hold up, and I was going to do everything I could to lengthen the time that my body could hold up. I already considered fitness to be important, and I’ve been very active all my life, but this objective gave me huge motivation. And so I started setting goals: my first being to ride 1,000 bike miles in a year. Did that. Then about 8 years ago I decided that a true mark of fitness would be to be able to complete triathlons. So I started training for those, and have done many.
Goals are a big help to my overall objective of staying fit and so I decided that I would complete an IRONMAN triathlon at some point in my 50th year. I’m currently training for the IRONMAN triathlon to be held in Wisconsin on September 10, and I’ve been training right here in Eastmark. I have a big loop that I run throughout the community, and I actually use the Eastmark Community Pool for my swim training – there aren’t too many people swimming at 6 o’clock in the morning so I usually have it all to myself, and it’s big enough for me to do what I need. You have to open water train as well so I’ve been training for that at Saguaro Lake, and I do a lot of biking up through Usery Pass and up to Fountain Hills. This area is also one of the reasons why we picked the East Valley for our home. I love to bike and out here I can go north up Signal Butte or Ellsworth and I’m pretty quickly out of traffic and on to the more open roads. Having grown up in Colorado, I love to ride out in the country and see the mountain views.
We have a very tight-knit family. Our daughter lives in Orlando and we make an effort to see her every couple of months. When we moved to Wisconsin we didn’t know anyone there, and so because of that, the four of us became very close. Twenty years later and that’s still a very important part of the fabric of our family. My life is family, church, community and work.
I work in information technology, specifically for a data storage company out of Silicon Valley. My role is a global business development manager and I’m able to work out of my home here in Eastmark.”
What do you think makes for a strong community and what characteristics do you value in a neighbor?
“Sometimes I think it’s hard to articulate, you just feel it. It’s a selflessness and a feeling of gratitude among neighbors. It’s having residents who are thankful to be a part of such a great community, and they’re thankful for their neighbors, too. There’s a willingness to help others and a willingness to be helped. In this community you see a lot of uncommon giving and generosity. On the Eastmark Facebook group, it’s kind of like when you were a kid and you’d go over to Mrs. Robinson’s house to borrow a cup of sugar. Well, now you just post it on Facebook and within 10 minutes you’re bound to find someone who is willing to help you out.
We have a very healthy, engaged community at Eastmark, and ultimately it’s about a high level of interest and concern for your neighbors. It’s almost as though neighbors ‘get’ that they have a role to play and there’s an engagement that needs to happen, and I think a lot of our neighbors are willing to work together and come up with solutions. The Community Life Team helps plant the seeds and by example have helped encourage community interaction and engagement. You now see a lot of neighbors planting their own seeds and starting their own clubs, discussions, and activities. I started an informal group in the neighborhood for special needs dads and it’s the idea that it can be a lonely existence being the dad of special needs child. When my kids were growing up I didn’t really have any other dads to talk to who were going through the same thing. It’s just a small, informal group of guys that get together over at The Handlebar, or meet over at the pool, and just sit for an hour or so and talk. It’s those kinds of opportunities that I think are just happening everywhere in the community.”
What’s an interesting fact your neighbors might not know about you?
“I was born in Calgary, Canada and I have dual citizenship in both Canada and the United States. My dad was in the oil industry and was transferred to Canada in the late 1960s where we then lived for about 10 years.”
Do you have a fabulous neighbor you’d like to see featured in an upcoming #iameastmark resident profile? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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