Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Standing Ovation for Luke Burrows...

"Talent and virtue in a free society should be educated regardless of wealth and birth."
                                   -Thomas Jefferson

It's noon hour, the crowds gather at Toronto City Hall and to be quite honest I am nervous!  The support is overwhelming- our MC Antony Robart, from Global Television; Kerry Joseph and Andre Durie (who deals everyday with the realities of Autism with his two sons), from the Toronto Argonauts; Debbie Christie, Executive Director of the Toronto Chapter of Autism Ontario; Frances Nunziata, Toronto City Councillor; and the Matt York Band.
However, my nerves were greatly eased after Luke Burrows, a 12-year boy, who at the age of 5 was still non-verbal, read his prepared 5-minute speech with the aid of his cue cards, and demonstrated the results of years and years of intense specialized learning.  Luke is a student at New Haven Learning Centre for Children with Autism, in Etobicoke.  To Luke- I think you stole the show when you said that your dream was to "marry your girlfriend and be a father someday".  Special thanks to everyone for their participation!
Later that afternoon, Terry and I had the honour of meeting with the Lieutenant Governor, The Honourable David Onley, and his wife, The Honourable Ruth Ann Onley.  The meeting was held in the Music Room of the Lieutenant Governor's suite at Queen's Park, which as an aide to the Lieutenant Governor told us has been the official reception room for everyone who has been received by the Lieutenant Governors of Ontario since 1937, including Royalty and Heads of State.  Their Honours were intrigued in hearing about our reasons behind the run, our views about the state of awareness of autism, the therapies that are being used succesfully, and the feedback we're getting from people that we meet.  I believe it would be fair to say that Their Honours were very interested in the discussion of Autism.  An indication of the depth of engagement is the fact that our meeting lasted slightly more than an hour, twice the time that the Lieutenant Governor's office had originally allocated. 
For those wondering, the painting in the background is former Lieutenant Governor Hilary Weston.  Eleven years ago, as a Page in the Ontario Legislature, I had the opportunity of being a part of the Honour Guard, when she was sworn in as the 26th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. 

The Dream Continues and Rolls On.....

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