Olivier and Gizmo

Olivier and Gizmo

As fundraising organizations try and make the best of a very bad situation during this COVID-19 pandemic crisis, Autism Speaks Canada has come up with an innovative way to keep their annual Dog Walk intact. The key word in today’s world is “virtual” and that was the way to move forward in this case.

On Sunday June 7, Canadians will be encouraged to walk virtually by playing fetch in the backyard, walking around the block or finding a quiet trail to explore, all while practicing physically distancing. “We recognize the vital role our dogs are having by providing comfort, companionship and keeping us active in these unprecedented times,” correctly points out Autism Speaks Canada Director Krista Leitham.

The national ambassador for this event is Olivier St-Amour, a 13 year old Town of Mount Royal resident who attends Collège de Montréal Previously diagnosed with ADHD, impulsivity and anxiety, further assessments uncovered an Asperger diagnosis at the age of 11. “This late diagnosis answered many questions we had had over the years and allowed Olivier to have a better understanding of his strengths and challenges,” said mom Heather McCoy. “Olivier is a sensitive soul, who loves to laugh and joke around.”

Olivier adores his dog Gizmo, a two-year-old poodle who is full of energy and spunk. “He is always around to brighten our day, and he brings a huge amount of joy to our lives,” said Heather. “He also provides unconditional love and friendship to Olivier, who is also a loving brother to his older sister Megan.”

So how is Olivier handling being off school for so long and self-isolating? “It has been hard changing routines,” he says, “but I have been passing the time by drawing, singing and spending time with my family and my friends over FaceTime. Gizmo and I have also developed a hide and seek game with covers. We play it every night before bed. I feel very lucky to have Gizmo. He fills my day with joy. He welcomes me when I wake up in the morning and snuggles me before bed at night.”

As for the Dog Walk, Olivier said: “it is important that people participate in the Virtual Dog Walk to help spread awareness about autism. This will increase acceptance and understanding for those struggling with different challenges faced by those with autism. It is important for people to realize the positive impact dogs or pets have on the lives of those on the spectrum.”

To register log on to: www.autismspeaks.ca/dogwalk.

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