AWARDS & RECOGNITION
We each become the roles we play. I’m a lawyer, an advocate, a neighbor, a brother, and a son. I’ve even been a Cleveland Indians batboy.
I’m asking for your help so I can play another role – your voice in Congress.
That’s the kind of responsibility you have to earn, and the best place I can think of to start earning your trust is by introducing you to my family.
My family’s story is probably a lot like your family’s—it’s a story about working hard for a better life. My grandparents Louie & Francka Arko did not have a high school diploma between them. They ran a neighborhood tavern on 40th & St. Clair serving beer, cooking soup, and cashing third shift checks to ensure my mom received the education they never had. A firefighter’s salary wasn’t enough for Ed and Pat Kelley to send my dad to school, but once my dad took on a milk route as a teenager, they were able to send him to St. Ignatius and on to college.
My parents made the most of these opportunities, taking on day jobs to pay for law school at night. My dad became a trial attorney and made a name for himself by fighting for the families of Ohio steelworkers who were dying of cancer because of corporate neglect. My mother served as a Guardian ad Litem, protecting the legal interests of children and as a Cleveland Heights Municipal Court Judge, she protected the interests of the entire community.
Because of two generations of hard work, my older brother, Chris, and I were born into a vastly different situation than my parents and grandparents. We were poster children for the American Dream.
When I was in high school, though, I learned a hard lesson that families all across the state have been forced to learn: When our government fails to look out for us, the American Dream can be quickly snatched away.
When I was 14 years old, my brother Chris sustained a traumatic brain injury from a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. He would need around-the-clock care for the rest of his life. We had good health insurance that should have paid for the care my brother needed and deserved. My parents, though, had to fight the insurance company every step of the way, and even with insurance covering some of our costs, we were forced to pay upwards of $20,000 a month in out-of-pocket medical expenses. Fortunately, my father’s legal practice allowed us to meet this heavy financial burden, and my mother gave up her career to care for Chris full time.
Then, when I was 16 years old, my dad died from a heart attack. Without my father, we struggled to meet the ever-growing financial burden and our insurance company started cutting off our coverage. We couldn’t turn to another insurer because back then you could be disqualified for a pre-existing condition like quadriplegia. My mom leveraged everything for Chris’ care and I followed her lead. I followed an Arko family motto: “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” When we couldn’t afford a full-time night nurse, I moved into my brother’s bedroom and became his caretaker. I even sold the college savings bonds my father left me to pay for Chris’ care. It was a nightmare.
My family’s finances eventually recovered, but it was a close call. My parents were formidable people—my mom still is. Even so, all their work—and all the work of my grandparents before them—almost got wiped out because no one would hold insurance companies accountable for abusing families like mine.
I became an attorney, just like my parents, because I saw the law as a tool I could use to fight back and give voice to people who didn’t have the power to make faceless corporations sit up and take notice.
I see my family’s version of the American dream every day, and I know first-hand just how tenuous that dream can be. I believe that the American dream should be accessible to all families across the state and that the government must protect that dream from those who would snatch it away. Someone needs to stand up for the rest of us. That’s why I’m asking for your help today and your vote next November.