Josh Wandell: An All Pro Dad’s Story That Must Be Told


Imagine being in the prime of your life with your new wife and family.  You’re also helping raise a generation of youth, but one day you’re told you have 2-5 years to live. What do you do then?

“Faith over fear,” is a powerful statement and the life motto for Dr. Josh Wandell, Principal at East Side Elementary in Elizabethton, Tennessee and All Pro Dad Team Captain.

Dr. Wandell was recently diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death.” (

Josh and his wife of one year, Tabitha, were devastated by the news as they had just merged their families together. At first, Wandell understandably sunk into a low state after receiving his diagnosis.  After a week passed, Wandell chose to not let the diagnosis defer him from his responsibilities of being a husband, father, and principal.

Dr. Wandell refuses to let this disease ruin him.  Despite a small limp and slightly slurred speech, he continues to go about his daily activities with great energy.  One of those activities is being a Team Captain of an All Pro Dad’s Day chapter. Once a month, under the leadership of Principal Wandell, numerous parents and their children meet at East Side Elementary to spend time together, make meaningful memories, and discuss a number of family topics.   The school serves many children who lack a male role model in their life and Wandell recognizes the impact All Pro Dad has on his students.

Dr. Wandell said that his top students are those who attend his All Pro Dad chapter.  Carrying the responsibilities of being a principal, Dr. Wandell still makes it a priority to run an All Pro Dad’s Day because he sees the impact All Pro Dad has on the relationships between dads and kids. Ever since All Pro Dad began at his school, he has noticed a higher volume of male involvement on campus. All Pro Dad is so important to East Side Elementary that two of Dr. Wandell’s close friends promised to ensure that the program continues no matter what.

After his All Pro Dad’s Day meeting concludes each month, Wandell goes out to the student drop off and greets every single student that arrives on campus. He has developed a special bond with the students in the school and has a nickname for each of them. Despite his condition, Wandell doesn’t end the day without visiting every classroom and interacting with the students and the teachers.

Dr. Wandell was such a powerful example to us of how a man should lead. He’s spending his life reaching families and serving others.   Stay tuned as our team will be producing a documentary about Dr. Wandell’s story in the coming months.  We are beyond grateful for his investment into the lives of children and families in his community and are thankful for his reminder that, “At the end of the day, the most important investment we can make is in relationships.”

Learn how you can be a catalyst for strengthening family relationships in your community with our Each 1 Reach 1 campaign.


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