Their journey started in April of this year and Skye and Gail officially hit the road on May 20th, with Skye dipping his bike tire in the Pacific Ocean.
77 days later (yes, 77 days of cross country travel), he reached Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the most easterly point in Canada. Yep, that's 77 days of blog posts and trust me when I tell you they all are worth reading.
But may I direct you to one in particular, Day 76, the second to last day of Skye's and Gail's journey. Skye's words on why he chose to do what he did, what (or more accurately, who) motivated this 18-year-old young man to give over two months of his life (and a good chunk of one of our much-valued Canadian summers) to this project are, might I suggest, profound.
Late last year, I posted a review of a book entitled Being The Other One: Growing Up With a Brother or Sister Who Has Special Needs. The first part of the book focused on a wide range of issues that effect both siblings and parents when a child in a family has a disability. It then went on discuss ways in which adult siblings can gain understanding, learn to express feeling and gain support; strategies for parents to build stronger families and support younger siblings; and the necessary awareness and strategies that service providers and practitioners can use to help families. I highly recommend it, it's a good book, written by somebody who has walked the walk.
But perhaps the one thing it could have focused more on (and in all fairness, I am relying on memory as I don't have the book in front of me at the moment) are the absolutely amazing, stunningly beautiful ways that having a sibling with special needs can affect a person. I don't for one minute mean to downplay the hardship and emotional upheavals for the entire family (which is an issue Skye explores somewhat in his Day 76 post) and yet, let's never forget the positive effect that having a challenged sibling can have on a young person.
Let's face it, without my daughter's challenges, I wouldn't be doing the work I do today. This blawg, quite simply, would not exist. For the simple fact that I was naive enough to believe that the needs of people with various challenges were taken care of in Canadian society. Until I learned, the hard way, otherwise.
Without Kerr as a sibling, it is highly unlikely that Skye would have been motivated to make the journey he completed only yesterday. And yet, as he so rightly recognizes amidst his mental and physical exhaustion and rightful pride over what he has accomplished, the journey he took on earlier this year is far from over.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, this journey is not over. I may be on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, but the journey towards empowering the voices of Canadians who have little or no speech is still back in the Prairies fighting headwinds. We want to expand our network further and create an inter-provincial coalition to advocate with strength. We want to develop our website further and keep it as a resource of stories and educational info on AAC. We want to continue teaching people.But that we all could have the strength of character, conviction and endurance that Skye has demonstrated these last few months when it comes to taking on the issues that affects our family members.
If nothing else, when we're feeling down, tired and depressed and wondering if we can do much more or if any of it really makes a difference, let us turn our minds to Skye, Kerr, Gail and Burns - a lesson in courage, conviction and love.