Ask Ken Gudek if it’s a good time to talk, and he replies, “Super!” Ask him about his recent South American cruise, and he reflects on how witnessing the poverty in Peru made him grateful for all that he has. His bright and appreciative outlook didn’t come without obstacles.
Ken was born with the brittle-bone disease Osteogenesis Imperfecta (literally, ‘imperfect bones from birth,’ and OI for short), and despite suffering “over 50 fractures by the age of 23,” he still recalls his childhood fondly. “I always had my family around me, and I almost always had a smile on my face. We did need to be careful at all times, but I was blessed with having great doctors, nurses, teachers, friends, and my family.”
Only when pressed will he note that he “couldn’t play any real sports,” the exception being Wiffle ball, “on my knees because my legs wouldn’t support my weight” and only with his older brother’s friends, who were “more mature and more careful” than kids his own age.
“The Endless Pool is great,” he observes. “I swim in it for 30 minutes, four to five time a week.” That’s double his maximum swim time from when he first started! “I feel it helps me stay stronger and keeps my heart in good health. I love it and don't know if I’d be as healthy as I am right now without it.”
Right now, he walks with crutches, as he has since college. Otherwise, “I do normal things that everyone else does, like go to work, drive, go out with friends, and go home at the end of the day to my wife, Teresa, and my son, Ken Jr.,” who turns 25 later this month. “I walked through Disney on the crutches. If I didn’t have the Endless Pool to build up my muscles and stamina, I probably wouldn’t be able to walk Disney.”
“Walking does help,” he continues, “but I do get sore if I walk, say, a mile or two. In the Endless Pool, I never get tired or sore. The low impact it has on my bones is the governing factor.”
In addition to managing his health and maintaining his sunny disposition, Ken is also accomplished professionally. He’s the CFO for Technical Needs, a successful New Hampshire staffing firm that’s placed over 40,000 workers. He’s also active in Park Place Realty; both are family businesses.
At Technical Needs, he’s made certain that giving back is integral to the company’s ethos. Mostly, their generosity stays close to home, as it has since he, his father, and his brother founded the company in 1976. “We’ve continued the tradition of giving back to the community of Salem because it’s been very good to our family,” he notes. Their Broken Bats for Broken Bones initiative starts close to home (it’s a collaboration with the minor-league New Hampshire Fisher Cats) but benefits the national Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, of which he’s currently Treasurer.
“Over the years, so many caring people have helped me become the person that I am today,” Ken reflects. “So we feel it's important to try and help as many people as we can by not only donating our funds, but donating our time, which I feel is more important because the people will always see a smile.”
Ken Gudek Photo Credit: New Hampshire Union Leader