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Dude Dad challenges 'Fixer Upper' star - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Dude Dad challenges 'Fixer Upper' star

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Posted: Monday, June 24, 2019 3:04 pm

Chip Gaines accepted the challenge.

"I was expecting he would respond," Dude Dad said. "I didn't know if he'd actually do it."

Taylor Calmus, a.k.a. Dude Dad, a Los Angeles actor and comedian who grew up in Howard, actually had no idea what was going to happen when he posted a video challenging Gaines, the "Fixer Upper" star, to a build-off. It was just another wild idea like those for which he was notorious while in high school.

Granted, challenging a celebrity known for his building prowess to build a playhouse for charity isn't quite on par with -- say, talking your friends into driving from Howard to Madison for lunch during their open hour -- but the spirit of fun underlying both was the same. Just as he did with those high school hijinks, Calmus was able to create a tide that carried others along with him.

He and Gaines raised $1.49 million for the St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

He credits his high school English teacher, Mary Stangohr, with helping him to channel his energy.

"She would tell me whatever I was doing was influencing other people and I should use my powers for good," Calmus said.

With Stangohr's support and guidance, he actually started in high school. When football prevented him from putting together an oral interp selection with Tony Keupp and Gabe Gassman, they decided to present a full play instead of simply the cut they were preparing for competition. Stangohr was their staff adviser for the project.

They raised $1,500 for the Tsunami Relief Fund with their production of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)." The fund was established to help the survivors of the 2004 tsunami which affected communities in 14 countries and killed more than 220,000 people.

"She was a teacher that saw a potential in me, and I appreciate her for that," Calmus said.

After graduating from Howard High School in 2005, he earned a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Sioux Falls before heading west to pursue his dream of an acting career. In addition to other projects, including more than 10 appearances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," he has been recording Dude Dad videos since becoming a father.

Six months ago, he posted a video which was the catalyst for a fund-raiser that included not only Gaines but also Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Kacey Musgraves, Florida Georgia Line and Drew Barrymore, among others. He challenged Gaines to build an 80-square-foot playhouse for under $2,000.

"I think we have a lot in common," Calmus told Gaines via the video. "We're both fun-loving dads. We both love to build things, and we both have amazing wives that work very hard to keep us alive."

He advised Gaines that building a playhouse involved "capturing the magic of a child's imagination" and suggested they use the build-off to raise money for a children's charity. Then he asked folks to tag Gaines with the video.

The idea wasn't quite as wild as it first appears. Calmus has a background in building, having worked in construction while in high school and college. He also continues to use those skills.

"I build stuff on my channel quite a bit," he said.

Calmus believed their audience was much the same, and he knew Gaines was "big into charity work." Gaines had raised $230,000 for St. Jude's Children's Hospital earlier by cutting his hair.

Within a day, Gaines reached out to him, and before long, Calmus was talking with Gaines' public relations folks.

"They right away wanted to get more people involved," Calmus said.

The challenge evolved into a one-week online fund-raiser, and Dude Dad made two more videos, one with Gaines. In one of the sidebars that are characteristic of Dude Dad videos, Gaines told Calmus he needed to bring "a little more energy" to the introduction before they described the challenge.

Gaines, apparently, brings a great deal of energy to everything he does.

"He runs around like he's got four shots of espresso in him all the time," Calmus said.

In the final video, Dude Dad scripted the fund-raising competition as one in which David took on eight Goliaths. He described himself as an "average dad" taking on celebrities.

Meanwhile, Gaines was also promoting the fund-raiser. It showed up not only on the Magnolia website but also in magazines such as People and Southern Living with the ChipInChallenge hashtag. Dude Dad was not among the celebrities mentioned in those articles.

However, Gaines didn't take all the credit when it came time to present the check at St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Calmus and his wife Heidi were at the check presentation and ribbon-cutting.

"He [Gaines] spent half the time talking about my video and how it made it all happen," Calmus said. "He was so gracious about that."

Even though he came up against eight Goliaths, the average dad tied for second place when it came to his fund-raising efforts. He and contemporary Christian singer Lauren Daigle each raised more than $24,000. Gaines, of course, raised the most.

While he and Gaines are not best buds as a result of the experience, Calmus does expect to engage in other "cool projects" with Gaines -- perhaps even the build-off that didn't happen this year.

"Next year, we're going to have our ducks in a row and do more than a regular fund-raiser," he said.

In addition to benefiting a good cause, this experience has also confirmed an important lesson Calmus has learned over the years.

"You can't wait for people to give you permission to do what you want to do," Dude Dad said. "You gotta start doing it."

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