Educator travelling across the nation to raise awareness of autism
Flanked by Springhill supporters, 24 year-old Jonathan Howard makes his way towards town hall during the local leg of his cross-Canada run to generate awareness for families affected by autism. Christopher Gooding The Amherst Daily News
SPRINGHILL - Springhill was more than a milestone for a young man running across the nation to raise autism awareness. It was a promise.
Jonathan Howard, a 24 year-old Mississauga educator who deals with children with autism on a daily basis, wanted to run across Canada since he was a child. It was a writing assignment from one of his university professors that brought that childhood goal to the forefront and last year Howard began making preparations to run the 225 days needed to go from one coast to another.
On the eve of his run he received an e-mail that brought his endeavour into perspective. It was a simple e-mail from a Springhill mother thanking him for taking on the challenge of creating awareness for the disorder her son was diagnosed with just two weeks earlier.
Its message moved Howard and set the bar for his journey.
"I knew that if I could come here I knew I could make it across Canada," an emotional Howard told a small gathering of well-wishers and supporters on the steps of Springhill's town hall.
Amongst them, the e-mail author Tracy Chapman.
Meeting the Chapmans, Howard said, put his goals into focus and emphasized the need for every family affected by autism to have their message heard.
"I'm just running. I'm doing the easy part," Howard said. "They're the ones living with the challenge of autism."
That initial meeting also created a fan out of the Chapmans. After meeting Howard they went to work and organized a fundraiser to support his goal of raising $2.5 million - or less than 10 cents for every Canadian - towards autism awareness.
By day 36 of his run, Howard was back in Springhill and was received at the Junction Road Elementary School where a donation was made to Howard's cause by both the Junction Road Elementary and West End Memorial as well as a donation by the Springhill High School. From there, and with a number of students in tow, Howard ran to the steps of Springhill's town hall, a historic stop for Canadians running across Canada in the name of charitable causes.
"Terry Fox stood right where you are standing," Springhill mayor Guy Brown said in congratulating Howard for taking on such a challenge. "This is history and it's a great event you're here."
On the steps of town hall Chapman presented Howard with a cheque for more than $2,000 towards his cause, the proceeds of the fundraiser held at the Lamp Cabin and Mayor Brown made a presentation on behalf of himself and his wife, June. The event also brought out Nova Scotia Autism Society's director Vickey Harvey from Halifax to thank their champion.
"I think its such an important event," Harvey said. "Autism is something that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society."
For more information on Howard's run latest news and updates go to www.runthedreame.ca.