Christmas 2003 – Henderson, Tennessee: After raising three children of their own, David and Laurie Novak raised ten foster children before seventeen-month-old Lexi and her two-month-old brother, Robby, came to live with them the week before Christmas 2003. To the Novak’s foster parenting was a way of giving back and they accepted every child the Tennessee Children’s Home asked them to take.
Lexi and Robby had a rare disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also called brittle bone disease, a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily. Lexi could sit up but not walk due to the extreme curvature of her legs. Four days after the children arrived, Robby broke a leg bone while sleeping. During the first six months the children broke so many bones that the local doctor taught the Novak’s how to splint the injuries themselves.
The situation was almost more than the Novak’s could handle. At a low point, Laurie called the children’s case manager and asked if there was another home that could take the two children. After a long pause, the case manager told her there was no other place for the children to go. Laurie and David agreed to try it for six more months.
They discovered that Dr. Jill Simmons, a pediatric endocrinologist at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital treated children with the disease and they turned to her for help. The doctor placed the children on a special drug, which reduced the number of fractures and the pain.
Despite the challenging health care issues the Novak’s fell in love with the children and adopted them 18 months after they arrived. Broken bones did not slow the children down, especially Robby. At age two, he broke his femur so badly that surgery was required to install a rod in his leg. The following day, Laurie found him standing up in his crib and dancing to music she was playing.
Every two to three months the children received six-hour drug infusions to strengthen their bones. Lexi learned to walk at age four, and although she has had eighty broken bones and fifteen surgeries, she is a talented dancer. Robby has had thirteen surgeries and more than seventy broken bones, mostly fingers, arms, and legs.
July 2012 – Kid President is born: Brad Montague, the Novak’s son-in-law and an instructor at Freed-Hardeman University in Hendersonville got an idea while preparing for a visit from Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State to the university. Brad dressed Robby in a suit and tie, put him behind a desk and featured him as ‘Kid President’ in a short promotional video.
The video was so successful that Montague decided to shoot another one. Because of Robby’s energy, enthusiasm, and adorable personality, the videos spread from family and friends to social media websites like Facebook and YouTube.
In January 2013, Montague produced A Pep Talk from Kid President to You video and Robby’s popularity skyrocketed around the world. Kid President in his classic black suit and red tie, encouraged viewers, “Keep doing what you are doing and make the world better…if it doesn’t make the world better, don’t do it. We need less complaining and more dancing.”
More than 40 million people watched Robby’s three-minute pep talk. A year later Robby began appearing in a television show, Kid President: Declaration of Awesomeon Hub Network TV. Meanwhile, Montague continued to produce YouTube pep talk videos.
Robby’s favorite part in the Kid President videos is the dancing, even though he has broken several bones while filming. In A Pep Talk from Kid President to You, he paraphrases a poem by poet Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in the woods and I took the one less traveled and it hurt, man! Really bad. Not cool, Robert Frost.” Although Robby might have fragile bones, there is nothing fragile about his spirit.
“What if there really were two paths? I want to be on the one that leads to awesome. We can cry about it, or we can dance about it.” Robby Novak