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Port Leyden native touts philosophy on ‘Today Show,’ ‘Fox & Friends’

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PORT LEYDEN — A “Napkin Notes” philosophy touted by a Port Leyden native got a huge boost last week from a New York City trip that included televised appearances on NBC’s “Today Show” and “Fox & Friends.”

“I still can’t believe this is happening,” W. Garth Callaghan said by email. “When the first story broke about 10 days ago, I looked my wife, Lissa, in the eye and said, ‘This isn’t a big deal. No one cares about this.’ This is an incredible journey, and I can’t wait to see where it ends up.”

Mr. Callaghan, who last fall began sharing his “Napkin Notes” philosophy through several digital formats, said the four-day trip was exhausting, but everyone treated his family with grace and respect.

“The ‘Napkin Notes’ page on Facebook took six months to garner 1,000 followers,” he said. “We went from 1,000 to 33,000 in just a few days. I am receiving messages and well-wishes from around the world. Many are messages from other parents committing to writing notes to their children because of this story.”

Mr. Callaghan, 44, a 1987 graduate of South Lewis Central School, Turin, who now lives near Richmond, Va., with his wife and daughter, Emma, began writing short notes on the napkins he sent with his daughter’s packed lunch when she was in kindergarten.

That practice took on even greater meaning when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in fall 2011. Although the tumor was successfully removed in December 2011, he has since had been diagnosed twice more, now with prostate cancer.

Following the latest diagnosis in October, he determined to complete 826 notes in advance, enough so Emma, now an eighth-grader, has one for every school day through graduation.

The “Napkin Notes” story of Mr. Callaghan, the son of Jeanne Callaghan, Port Leyden, and the late Stephen M. Callaghan, was told in late September in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, followed by articles in other publications, including the Lowville Journal & Republican and Watertown Daily Times.

The story continued to spread, and a recent flurry culminated early last week in father and daughter being invited to appear on the “Today Show” and National Public Radio’s “Here and Now.”

They were interviewed Wednesday for the radio show and by Matt Lauer Thursday morning on the “Today Show.” Then they were invited to appear Saturday morning with Clayton Morris and Anna Kooiman on “Fox & Friends” before returning to their Virginia home.

Mr. Callaghan said it was “all very surreal” at the “Today Show” set, as they saw television show hosts Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil and met with show hosts, including weatherman Al Roker, who, like Mr. Callaghan, attended SUNY Oswego.

The family also saw Kevin O’Leary from the TV shows “Dragon’s Den” and “Shark Tank” in a Times Square hotel lobby and had a picture taken with him, plus took in a bunch of sightseeing with the aid of an old college friend.

While the trip was enjoyable, the Lewis County native’s goal of advancing and perpetuating the “Napkin Notes” movement remained at the forefront throughout.

“I want to inspire every parent in the country to do this,” he said during his “Fox & Friends” interview.

And the appearances seemed to make an immediate impression, even on their interviewers.

“It makes me look at my role as a parent a little differently,” Mr. Lauer said near the end of the “Today Show” spot.

The Callaghans’ “Today Show” segment is online at http://wdt.me/Xdh9UK, while the “Fox & Friends” segment is at http://wdt.me/E4CKBm.

Mr. Callaghan also has a website at www.napkinnotesdad.com.

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