When I started K2 Creative, I wanted to
1. Do things MY way… and
2. Help people.
It sounds corny, but I spent years witnessing people making mistakes in their businesses. I really wanted to help. And I have helped people. Since I added visibility and public relations to my services, I have helped over fifty authors promote their books. They’re all great writers, with great stories. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading their books and promoting them.
But a few authors have truly stood out.
One of those is Dana Ziemniak. When Cori (Aurora Corialis Publishing) approached me with Dana’s story, and the opportunity to represent her, I was both heartbroken and eager to work with her. I knew her story had to be shared… everywhere. You see, Dana’s son Evan died when he was twelve. He was dared by a bully to “play” the “choking game” or “blackout challenge.” And it cost him his life.
Dana’s book, Blue is the Color of Heaven – The Story of a Boy’s Love, Strength & Beyond, is not only her way of memorializing Evan, but it’s her way of taking a stand. Dana discusses her experience getting Evan an adequate diagnosis for his invisible disabilities. Despite her medical training as a pharmacist, she felt hopeless on her journey – even after turning to his school for support. Eventually, Evan was diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, and high-functioning autism.
But it wasn't enough.
Dana’s mission now is to raise awareness about these dangerous “games” and challenges and to save families across the nation from suffering as her family has.
And she's done just that.
Cori and I brainstorm and collaborate on every client we work on together - and even the ones we don't. She mentioned something interesting one day - instead of emailing outlets, connect with producers of local and national shows through social media and pitch them there. Hmm, not a bad idea.
A few days later, I was sitting in a nail salon and Dr. Phil was on one of the televisions. It was muted, so I couldn’t hear what was being said, but from what was on the screen I could see it was about internet bullying.
I saw it as a sign, went home and immediately started searching LinkedIn for Dr. Phil producers. I found one and sent her a private message with information about Dana’s book and Evan’s story. I ate dinner with my husband and took a walk with my sister, nothing out of the ordinary.
When I got back home, I had this message from the producer: Hi Kelli! Please give me a call at (xxx) when you have a moment.
I called her, and what she said completely blew my mind.
When she received that LinkedIn message from me, she was on the phone with a senior producer, who was telling her that they had a family back out of an upcoming filming for an episode about social media and internet bullying. The producer called to tell her they needed another family to participate. At that moment, she received an email alerting her to my LinkedIn message, to an email address she rarely uses, if ever. She isn’t certain why she even had that email open. Her next words to the producer were, “I might have a family. I just got a message from a publicist in Pittsburgh,” and read my message to her. She said they both got choked up and had goosebumps.
Me? I went a little further and started crying.
Things moved so quickly from that minute forward. I gathered information and told her I needed to contact Dana. Cori and I three-way called Dana, and thinking back, it makes me laugh; when Dana answered the phone, she told us she was in the process of medicating her cat – and started explaining what an ordeal that was at times, like her publicist and publisher calling her to chat was part of an ordinary evening. She had no idea what we were about to tell her and how this would impact everything she’s fought for in the last six years. Her husband, Matt, and daughter, Ava, were in the background asking questions and getting excited; Dana, Cori, and I were crying.
Call it what you want – fate, serendipity, chance, coincidence, luck.
I know what Dana calls it – Evan.
Fast forward a few weeks, and the Ziemniaks were on a flight to Los Angeles to film “Shedding Light on ‘The Blackout Challenge’”. They had an incredible experience and were treated so kindly by Dr. Phil’s team. They met another family on the show who lost their son to the same “challenge” just a few months prior to the recording.
And the day is here for the show to air. On Thursday, January 5, 2023, Matt and Dana Ziemniak tell Evan’s story to a national audience, on Dr. Phil. I encourage you to tune in, and find it online or on demand if you're reading this past the original air date.
I am so proud to not only know this family, but to watch Dana’s book land in the hands of families who need to read it. She was contacted by a woman in Ohio, whose 14-year-old son has a 504 plan, like Evan. This mom told Dana she’s sure that Evan will be with her at the next meeting regarding her son and his 504 plan.
We’ve seen an outpouring on social media; people reacting, commenting, and sharing our posts regarding the book, the show, and Dana’s mission. There will be more stories of people – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends – who contact Dana after seeing the show.
Dana is convinced it’s all Evan. It’s always Evan.
And after reading Blue is the Color of Heaven and the circumstances that connected me with Dr. Phil’s people…
I believe it too.
xo - Kel
Kelli Komondor &