Passions and passing fads

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Most parents have experienced a scenario like this: "I really, really, really want to play 'insert hobby here.' I will practice daily. I will take care of it. I really, really, really want to do this."

So, in support of the child, the parent invests in the 'insert hobby here.' It gets attention for a month, maybe two, and then fades into the background.

But some parents experience a different scenario: A child shows a strong interest in something, the investment of time or money is made and the unique passion only grows.

Meet Joey DeHaan, 10, a fourth-grader at Maryland Elementary in Bexley who has been running his newspaper, The Bunny Town News, since kindergarten.

Joey's love of newspapers began with a favorite bedtime book, The Furry News: How to Make a Newspaper by Loreen Leedy. The animal characters in the book start a newspaper, and the next day so did Joey. What began as one page of boxes and scribbles at age 5 has grown to lengths of up to five sections and 22 pages.

"At first it was filled with dumb articles, but the newest edition is pretty good," Joey said.

With no set plan when he sits down to create, Joey "reports" on a fictional town, its sports programs (complete with players and stats), businesses including The Bunny Town Bank, a stock market and other local businesses, a weather section with a color-coded map, temperatures and forecasts, plus the town's lottery numbers, comics and Sudoku games he creates himself.

So how do you know if a child has a unique passion versus a passing fad?

"Very easy," said Susan Marantz, Gifted Intervention Specialist at Maryland Elementary. "When it's not something everyone else is doing. It's when you don't have to push at all: Your child pushes you."

Joey did just that by asking for his own copier to mass-produce his paper when the family relocated to Bexley from Chicago in 2012.

"We didn't know anyone yet, and so Joey was up to producing almost a paper a day," Joey's mother, Sue DeHaan, said. "That is when he decided he wanted to sell them, as well. I can't even tell you how many reams of paper we've gone through."

Joey takes his paper to the streets for neighborhood events, farmers' market and birthday parties.

"Some I work on for a long time, and then I sell them for $1," Joey said. "It's a lot of work."

"I think his paper is cool," said friend and frequent reader Charlie Fingerhut, 9. "It's a great way to find out what's going on in Bunny Town and the sports scores."

One of the strongest ways to support the passion is to involve the entire family, advised Erica Hecker, a counselor at Maryland Elementary. "When a kid is passionate about something, if you can incorporate your whole family, it's a great way to connect everyone."

The DeHaan family is a great example of this. His mother contributes articles and his father, Jason DeHaan, created a rival paper called The Fox Town News to teach Joey about competition. And through their participation, they realized their son's passion went beyond just the creation of the publication.

"He really is a student of the newspaper," said Mrs. DeHaan. "It's easy to get him presents when we're on trips. We just pick up the local newspaper."

Joey's collection recently grew to include Hong Kong, England and India papers received from his dad's business travels, said Mrs. DeHaan: "He studies the sections, the vocabulary and even the fonts and incorporates what he sees into his next edition."

Another way to nurture this type of passion is to involve teachers, who can broaden a child's passion by finding like-minded people or summer camps they can attend that will further develop the interest and talent.

"But remember, balance needs to be achieved so your child doesn't burn out," said Hecker. "If their passion stops them from going to another activity like school, eating dinner or interaction with other children, then it's time to take a hard look at the activity."

DeHaan's parents are ready for the long haul. They've recently purchased the domain name for

"When I'm older it will be harder and harder to keep it," said Joey. "I'll get a job and all. Maybe I'll just make a different newspaper. It just wouldn't be Bunny Town News. Rabbit Town News doesn't sound good, though."