Autism run comes to town
Springhill - Many families across Canada feel alone when they learn their child is afflicted with autism spectrum disorder. Few know what to do and little of the autism community that is there to help them as their child grows and needs help developing.
Jonathan Howard, a 24 year-old Mississauga educator who deals with children with autism on a daily basis, wants to change that by raising $2.5 million towards autism awareness and research by running across Canada, where Springhill was a poignant stop during his 225 day trek from coast to coast. Its here some of his biggest fans are, like Dakota Chapman and his mother Tammy.
On the eve of his run, he received an email that brought his endeavour into perspective. It was a simple email from the Chapmans, thanking him for taking on the challenge of creating awareness for the disorder Dakota 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 Springhills town hall.
Amongst them, the email author and her family.
The pair had met in March as Howard made his way to Newfoundland where he would begin his journey. A brief stop over in Nova Scotia was all he needed to introduce himself to Chapman, her family and, especially, Dakota. Without any idea where the Chapmans lived, Howard called on the Springhill police to help.
In a city youd get strange looks if you walked into a police department and told them you were looking for someone, Howard said. But in a small town of 5,000 it took only two phone calls and they gave me an escort to their home.
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. Right there and then he made a promise to the Chapmans hed be back in Springhill with his run.
Im just running. Im doing the easy part, Howard said. Theyre 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 Howards 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 Springhills 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 its a great event youre 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 Societys 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.
At least one person out of 150 is afflicted with autism, Harvey said, making the message Howard is spreading across Canada very important to Canadian families.
Howard now returns to the road, heading for Halifax and will meet with Premier Rodney MacDonald.
For more information on Howards run latest news and updates go to www.runthedream.ca.