Multiple Sclerosis Can’t Stop Dennis Conway, He Is Always There For His Students

Editor’s Note: Dennis Conway of Woodstock,Georgia, believes that serving others has helped him to not worry and think about himself constantly in terms of his battle with Multiple Sclerosis. When you help others, you find love, respect and a purpose that’s beyond compare. Part 4 of a 4-part series.

My students know that when they get in trouble, I’ve got their backs. I’ll defend them, protect them and help them with the difficult situations they encounter at school and on the lacrosse field. I had one student who got in trouble and had in school suspension for nine days. However, he was allowed to come to my room. He also ate lunch in there because he was not allowed to go to the lunchroom with the other students. He was able to get his schoolwork done which was a bonus. Even though he spent his time in my room instead of in suspension, he learned his lesson because he really wanted to be with his friends. I am always there for my students, no matter what!

Conway's believes that he and his wife, Leana, are the perfect match.

Conway's believes that he and his wife, Leana, are the perfect match. She loves his passion for helping special needs students.

I told my freshman lacrosse players that I didn’t know what was in our future, but I did know that I would be their coach for at least four more years. I’m in a wheelchair, I’ve had double vision for three years and my right arm doesn’t fully function. I’d be a total mess without my wife Leana. She helps me with every aspect of my life. I’m convinced that God sent her to me. She and I love to cook, and we have a small catering business called the Redneck Gourmet. We also compete in BBQ cook-offs. When she’s with me, I don’t feel like I’m disabled. But when she has to go off for a weekend conference, someone else comes in and helps me. That’s when I really understand how disabled I am. However, when Leana is here, everything is great and we have a normal life.

I catch a bus every morning at 6:45 to open the coffee shop at school. At 7:15, the girls softball team helps me run it. We sell coffee, lattés, frozen drinks, bagels and other goodies. The softball team runs the selling department and then the special-ed kids clean, restock, and handle inventory. When my kids come in, they’ll sign in like they have jobs outside of school. They work until school starts. I love witnessing their work ethic and skills grow everyday.

The principal of the school graciously gave us the money to start the coffee shop. We were able to pay the investment within the first year. The profits go to children who don’t have lunch money so they can have a nice meal and be full and focused for the remainder of the school day. The money also helps students who can’t afford to buy certain things like corsages or tuxedos for the homecoming dance. Although the coffee shop only is open for 45 minutes each day, the students are very supportive. They know the purpose of the money and are very appreciative. Sometimes the coffee shop will make $100 a day. Every little bit counts.

Another organization we have at school that has been a tremendous help is the Friends Club. Regular students become friends with our special needs students. They help them with homework, sit with them in the lunchroom and simply “hang out” with them. The county has this program in several schools. Every year we have a Friends Club formal, and all the special needs students dress up, dance, socialize, enjoy a DJ, and have a photographer take their pictures. They wear tuxedos and formal dresses. The money from the coffee shop helps to fund this.

Conway loves he and Leana's catering business and supervising the student coffee shop at school.

Conway loves he and Leana's catering business and supervising the student coffee shop at school.

Woodstock High School has the largest special needs population in our county. Our students have learned to really embrace the special needs students and that makes my heart happy. We have about 13 young people in wheelchairs, who eat lunch with the other students and go to school with everyone else. The Friends Club, the other teachers and I will always be there for them and support them.

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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