When Howard Luck was graduating from high school, his counselor told him that college would be way too demanding and that he should limit his career aspirations to bagging groceries at a local market.
Howard has a variety of learning differences and had been in special education for much of his time in school. He always had a penchant for music, tactile learning, wood shop and anything that allowed him to help others. If he could have chosen any job, it would have been to own a family fun center with theme park rides and a laser tag arena. These are the things his dreams were made of, along with an adoration for his middle-school crush, Rebecca, who also has learning differences.
Years later, despite his counselor’s presumptions about his abilities, Howard has a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in marketing. Rebecca is now his wife, and the two have purchased their own business – the Northridge franchise of We Rock the Spectrum, a kids gym that caters to children on the autism spectrum.
Howard and Rebecca began volunteering with We Rock the Spectrum in early 2018 and learned of an opportunity to own WRTS Northridge that summer. Inspired by the mission of full inclusion and a desire to help children with different abilities, they became business owners, but this wasn’t their first time. “We had been entrepreneurs for a while and we previously owned a chocolatier company,” says Howard. “We also had a nonprofit where we would donate money to worthy causes and that’s one of the ways we were introduced to We Rock the Spectrum.”
Dina Kimmel, CEO and founder of We Rock the Spectrum, explains that the company’s mission was inspired by her son Gabriel, who was diagnosed with autism in 2009 and her daughter Sophia, who struggled as the sibling of a child with autism. “After being asked to leave from several play spaces, I built the first We Rock the Spectrum in our home,” Kimmel says. “Howard and Rebecca are very special people and having them as gym owners completes the puzzle for me. When I opened our flagship gym in Tarzana, I knew I could teach my son to someday work in the gym and then hopefully make it his own. After meeting the Lucks, they gave me hope that my dream would come true for an independent future for our son.”
The hope Kimmel describes is a contagious quality that you can feel in Howard’s laugh, Rebecca’s diligence and the many kids who play and learn and grow at We Rock the Spectrum. “I wanted to give kids the hope and understanding that they can own a business of their own one day,” says Howard. “Things may be rough, but if you want something bad enough you can find a way to get it done.”
His advice for kids was so poignant I asked for some parental advice too. “Even though your kid has a disability, let them be open, but you be stubborn,” he offered. “When you hear people say your son or daughter can’t do something, go somewhere else! No one can tell you or your child about his or her potential. I see myself in these kids and I see my mom in each of these parents.”
The Lucks, meanwhile, are busy looking to the future. They hope to add an after-school homework club to the list of services offered at the gym and a Preschool Prodigy music curriculum is already in the works. Of course, Howard also envisions a teenage version of WRTS where there might even be some laser tag. For more information about the Lucks and We Rock The Spectrum Northridge, visit werockthespectrumnorthridge.com.