Today show surprises dad in Hudson
NBC's "Today" show's Al Roker made a stop in Hudson last month to surprise deserving Lake Elmo dad Michael Pooler on Father's Day.
"I literally knew nothing," said Michael, father of Annie and Daniel.
The surprise was made possible after his wife Julie entered him into the show's contest, writing an essay about why he deserved to be honored.
"I'd love to know what she said," Michael said. Julie didn't save a copy, but she said she included lots of photos and videos. Something about Michael stuck out, and the producers picked him right away.
"They looked at it and they said that's it," Julie said.
In preparation for the event, Michael and Julie were interviewed by the show under the guise of a documentary on autism, as their son Daniel is autistic.
"I thought heck yeah, anything to help get the word out," Michael said.
When the day came, an unsuspecting Michael was at his brother's house in Hudson when Roker knocked on the door and invited him out to a barbecue with chef Myron Mixon and plenty of family and friends on live television.
"As soon as he knocked it was like phew it's over. We got you though, we got you good," she told Michael. "We all thought you'd swear."
Despite being live, Michael said he wasn't nervous. He and Roker got along well, and had an opportunity to speak together about being parents of an autistic child.
"They had quite the bromance going," Julie said.
Before he left, Roker and the "Today" show gave Michael a new smoker so he and his family could carry on with the party.
Michael was one of three fathers honored around the country. Pooler said he was humbled to be honored, but said it also felt a little odd. He said he doesn't think he does anything more than a parent should do.
"I do what I do because I love my kids and that's how I was raised."
His wife, and the "Today" show, disagree. As he talks about his children, it's easy to see why. Michael said having an autistic son can often be difficult, and sometimes they have to get creative. He's redecorated Daniel's room many times when he had special requests — pinning up fish and seaweed when he wanted to be underwater and taping up paper trees when he wanted to be in the forest.
"You do what you have to do to help him be creative," Michael said. "I don't really feel like I do anything above and beyond because I feel like that's what you should do."
Michael isn't alone in going above and beyond for his family. His wife Julie quit her job years ago to stay home with Daniel, and has now started her own baking company Daniel's Desserts to help support his and the family's needs.
Julie said she wants Daniel to be able to have all that's available for him. The business idea started many years ago when Julie baked and sold Christmas cookies to raise money to do just that. They raised so much that she thought she should start doing it every year.
"After 13 years, it's snowballed."
Now Julie is running the business year-round from her kitchen. She had plans to move into a bakery of her own, but the space fell through.
Being able to have Daniel work with her was one of the main reasons Julie started the work.
"I want to be able to do something with him and be successful together," Julie said.
She would like to have her own space, so she can bring in students and adults on the autism spectrum to learn employable skills.
"Then they can broaden what they learn other places or stay with us," Michael said.
Julie's speciality is cookies uniquely designed to look like other foods like doughnuts or nachos. She also does cupcakes and cakes, and has made cakes for Icing Smiles, a nonprofit that provides celebration cakes for children with a critical illness.
"I'll never turn one of those down, ever," Julie said.
Daniel's Desserts takes orders on its Facebook page, and is accepting donations at its GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/Danielsdesserts.
Since Michael's appearance on the "Today" show, and the short segment about Daniel's Desserts, the business has gotten more attention. Michael said it all feels a little like karma. The family has made a lot of sacrifices and changes to make sure they can support Daniel in the way he needs.
"Money things are important but nothing like family," Michael said.