How We Got Started
It was not that long ago that a child born with Downs Syndrome might be taken from his or her parents and placed in a home separated from main stream life for ever. If you look back on Joel's life thus far, on the places he has been, the experiences, and the lives he has touched, you realize what a tremendous loss to society it would have been and would be if Joel would have been one of those removed. Multiply that by the countless similar individuals who have been and still are removed from the rest of us and the net loss to society is astounding. Similarly are those children who remain in normal homes yet who have been so protected, coddled, misunderstood and underestimated that the net result is similar to that of the prior scenario. Everyone is born with characteristics that separate them from everyone else. Some are acceptably subtle enough that they leave the person in the class of "normal". If your differences are more extreme you will probably become dubbed as "handicapped", "slow", "different", "retarded", "challenged", ect and those are the lucky ones. There are plenty of levels of "different" where the "difference" can be extremely challenging for those in a position to deal with these individuals on a regular basis. One thing we do learn from it all is that in many cases the "differences" that would seem to be weaknesses to the "normal" often become part of these "different" individual's greatest strengths. Joel's own experiences exemplify this notion. Because he doesn't communicate verbally as well as others it forces those around him to take a moment and truly listen, his kindness instills kindness, his try instills encouragement and hope, ultimately his weakness encourages all around him to be better people. Now that is strength!
Joel Zettel was born in July of 1998. His parents, Steve and Michelle Zettel, ran a wilderness outfitting business in Idaho and eventually a fishing business in the Florida Keys. Six weeks after his birth, Joel travelled via horseback into the Idaho's Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness for what would be his first of many extended outdoor experiences. Over the years Joel would live in wall tents, raft the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, spend countless hours on horse, mule, boat or just in tow on his family's next adventure.
Joel has always participated with the rest of his peers. His close friends and family have provided very little mercy, sympathy or protection for Joel beyond that accorded to most other children. It has been a battle at times, to keep all that deal with Joel on the same page in this matter. Children and adults alike have been drawn to Joel. It has been a challenge to prevent the well intentioned nursemaids of the world from doing everything for Joel. Most have yielded to the notion that is is better to help Joel do for himself than to do for Joel. Joel has flourished as a result. And as a result, Joel is a "Rock Star" (as his Mom would always say). He has never meet a stranger. No matter where he travels someone always seem to know Joel, or they will in short time.
On December 27, 2015, Joel's mother died from a 14 year battle with breast cancer. Joel was 16. There was a tremendous outpouring of concern and compassion for Joel, his older brother Steven (17), and his dad. As is the case whenever an exceptional person like Joel's mom passes away unexpectedly, folks want to contribute to a cause in her name. That cause was decided should be Joel's Future. The Joel Zettel Future account was established at the East Idaho Federal Credit Union in Challis Idaho. Generous parties from around the country have donated to the Fund.
Joel's parents had been discussing over the prior couple of years the concept of a "Joel" website where Joel could capitalize on his fan base and sell custom "Joel" merchandise. The idea was for Joel to create a job for himself and provide merchandise that the buyers would be proud to flaunt and have the satisfaction of knowing they were helping Joel out in some way.
Quite honestly, the hold up for Joel's parents and subsequently, Joel's web site, was a name (domain). There were domain names that were close but never felt right enough to pull the trigger. It wasn't until his mother's death, with older brother going to school 7 hours from home, that his father began using the grammatically incorrect, “It's now just me and Joel". But in essence there were plenty who still wanted to be the "me" in me and Joel. And so there it was, Me and Joel.
Joel's initial line of Merchandise is now available. In the future we also hope to host sites for others like Joel. Give them the opportunity to make and receive contributions to their fan base as well.
We hope this site will aid some of the world's so called "weakest" to help them make their world a better place.