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Ch. 2 anchor’s brother taught him to help disabled

Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson

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The Neumann Family

Services spring fund-raiser is from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the North Lobby of the Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to

Updated: August 28, 2011 12:22AM

When WBBM-Channel 2 anchor Rob Johnson was asked to be the master of ceremonies for the Neumann Family Services’ spring fund-raiser Tuesday at the Merchandise Mart, no one had to twist his arm.

Supporting people with disabilities is an issue dear to Johnson’s heart. His younger brother, Edward, lives with Down syndrome.

“For me, it was always a perfect fit because I believe in Neumann Family Services and their mission 100 percent,” Johnson said.

That mission focuses on helping people with disabilities live more independent lives by integrating them into the community as much as possible.

To that end, Neumann, located at 5547 N. Ravenswood, is raising money to build an industrial-size teaching kitchen for the agency’s clients.

Johnson said teaching such skills is vital in making folks like his brother more marketable in their search for work. Too often people with disabilities end up doing short-term, menial work, he said.

When Johnson is at the podium, there’s a good chance he’ll talk about an issue that he brings up whenever he can: Getting people to stop using the “R” word, or “retarded.”

Use that word in Johnson’s presence, and he may ask you, bluntly, if you’re referring to his brother.

“It’s a little awkward,” the DePauw University graduate says of having to correct folks. “I’m not going to deny it. I really feel strongly about it.”

If he’s talking to an audience of high school kids, he’ll likely tell them: “You don’t sound smart when you use that word. You sound like you don’t have a grasp of the English language.”

Johnson talks with affection about his brother, who lives in a group home in Little Rock, Ark., not far from where Johnson’s parents live.

Right now, Johnson said Edward is focused on June 19 — Father’s Day.

“He’s already talking about it,” said Johnson. “He’s already got plans. He’s all about the pomp and circumstance.”

Johnson said he plans to be in Arkansas with his brother and their parents on Father’s Day. “Whenever we get to be around each other, we have a blast,” Johnson said.

Rob Johnson, who joined Channel 2 in 2006 after working at WLS-Channel 7 for eight years, previously reported at television stations in Houston, Arkansas and Louisiana. He lives in the western suburbs with his wife, Stacy, and their son, according to Channel 2’s website.

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