John and Mark X. Cronin Deliver the Keynote Address for the Together We Can Conference 2024

Last year, John and Mark X. Cronin, the father-son co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks, delivered the keynote speech for the “Together We Can” conference sponsored by Life Works (The Arc of Cowlitz County). The conference organizers were so impressed, they had John and Mark return to deliver the keynote speech at this year’s conference. 

Wendy Keegan, one of the conference organizers, said, “They made such an impression last year, we had to have them back.” 

After the speech, John and Mark spent an hour meeting with audience members and taking photos. 

John and Mark deliver the keynote speech

Dave Hill, the Executive Director of Life Works, said, “Their talk is so inspiring, so uplifting, that we wanted this year’s conference attendees to hear it.” 

“I love the Together We Can Conference,” said John. “We met so many great people and we share a mission of showing what people with differing abilities can do.”    

A Keynote Address that Inspires and Motivates People 

This year, the Together We Can Conference moved to a larger space at the Cowlitz County Event Center. Dave Hill welcomed the audience and introduced John and Mark who kicked off the conference with their keynote speech. 

They opened their talk with a picture of John on his first day of life and recounted the many medical, developmental and social challenges that John faced. They then asked, “what could become of this baby?” And the answer is he could grow up to change the world. John has started the world’s largest sock store, testified twice before the U.S. Congress, spoken at the United Nations, given two TEDx talks, appeared on multiple national broadcasts and been named Entrepreneur of the Year. 

John and Mark deliver the keynote speech

“If there is nothing else you take away from our talk,” said Mark, “It is this. Look at the possibilities. Look at the possibilities in each of us and in each person we meet.” 

The father-son team then told the story of how and why they started John’s Crazy Socks. It is a fun talk that they tell with humor and gusto that had the audience laughing, getting a little misty eyed and cheering. 

As one attendee told John, “I just loved hearing your story. You had me in tears and you had me laughing.” 

Hiring People with Differing Abilities 

The father-son team then turned to speaking about leading John’s Crazy Socks and how more than half their colleagues have a differing ability. “We make the business case for hiring people with differing abilities,” said Mark X. Cronin. “We show why it’s good business to employ people with differing abilities.” 

Their talk shared how they work with local schools and social service agencies and offer tours and work groups so when they are ready to hire, John’s Crazy Socks has a ready pool of job applicants.  They used their speech to encourage the self-advocates and their supporters and to push local employers to help their businesses by hiring people with differing abilities. 

John closed out the talk by offering his advice, “Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. Work hard. Show what you can do.” 

John with some fans

Leading Breakout Sessions on Employment 

John and Mark also led a break-out session on employment for people with differing abilities.  Teaming up with Jamie Stout, the Disability Program Manager for Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region, John and Mark gave a presentation and then led a discussion designed to help people with differing abilities find employment. The sessions attracted self-advocates and family members as well as support staff. 

The conversation offered encouragement as well as practical advice on how to find employment. One attendee came up to thank John and Mark afterwards saying, “It is hard sometimes to find work and sometimes I am depressed. This session gave me hope again and I can’t wait to go back out there to find a job.” 

John with some fans

Keynote and Event Speakers 

John and Mark X. Cronin are frequent speakers at conferences and corporate events. They share their entrepreneurial story of how a young man with Down syndrome together with his father created what is today the world’s largest sock store with a mission to spread happiness. Their speaking engagements bring laughter, tears and inspire people to see what is possible for each of us to achieve. They have spoken in person at events across Canada, the United States and Mexico and at virtual events around the world. They have spoken at events for Microsoft, EY, Bank of America, the Special Olympics, and the National Down Syndrome Society, among others. 

Their advocacy work has seen the Cronins testify twice before Congress and speak at the United Nations on two occasions. Their work has been featured on many national news shows. They are winners of many awards including the EY Entrepreneurs of the Year. They serve on the CEO Commission for Disability Employment and the Neurodiversity at Work Business Roundtable

John and Mark getting reday to deliver the keynote speech

John and Mark recently recorded their second TEDx Talk entitled, “Hiring People with People with Differing Abilities is Not Altruism, It Is Good Business.” That Talk is available on YouTube and the TED platform. Their first TEDx Talk entitled Differently Abled People Want to Help Us is also available on YouTube and the TED platform

If you would like John and Mark to speak at your event, please visit the speaker’s pages at our website or contact Maria Lerner at

About Life Works of Longview, Washington 

Since 1980, Life Works/The Arc of Cowlitz County has been serving children and adults experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities.  They have grown from only providing residential services to also providing vocational, day and transition services. 

Lifeworks/The Arc of Cowlitz County transforms lives one at a time, providing a valuable, sensible, practical, economical and superior alternative to institutionalized care – saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars annually for each of the 100 clients they serve. To learn more, visit their website or call 360-577-9093.   

About John’s Crazy Socks

John’s Crazy Socks was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks—what he calls his “crazy socks.” He and his father, Mark X. Cronin, started the company as a social enterprise with a mission of Spreading Happiness™. With more than 4,000 socks, John’s Crazy Socks is now the world’s largest sock store. More than half their employees have a differing ability, and their Giving Back program has raised over $750,000 for charity partners like the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Autism Society of America. Most of all, they are Spreading Happiness™. 

For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit our webpage, Facebook page, Instagram account, TikTok or YouTube channel. You can also contact us at 631-760-5625 or via email at