'On a wing and a prayer'

Dave Stewart
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Parents quit jobs to follow 15-year-old son's journey across Canada to raise money for United Way

Ayden Green, 15, of Ontario, stopped in Charlottetown this week on his journey across Canada. Ayden is cycling from St. John's, N.L., to Tofino, B.C., raising funds and awareness for the United Way Centraide.

Ayden Green says the United Way has done a lot for him so he wanted to do something for the organization.

So, the 15-year-old Ontario student decided to bike across Canada raising money for local organizations as he went.

He's not alone. Green's parents, Steve and Sandra, have joined him on the journey. They even quit their jobs to be with Ayden when their employers wouldn't give them the time off.

Ayden biked across Prince Edward Island on Wednesday, with his mom beside him and father trailing behind in the family camper.

"When I was little I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism, and cerebral palsy,'' Ayden told The Guardian. "I was helped by a lot of organizations that (receive) help from the United Way in Ontario.''

Ayden was diagnosed when he was 5 with mild cerebral palsy, spending a lot of time in occupational therapy, physical therapy and botox therapy, having to wear plastic leg braces and leg castings. When he was 8, Ayden was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability and Asperger syndrome.

What really stood out for him was the fact that funds donated to the United Way stay right in the community it was raised in.

"I was astonished on P.E.I. that you manage, with your (small) population to raise about $1 million. That is insane; it's nuts. The generosity of the people (on P.E.I.) who give . . . it's an awesome opportunity for local organizations to focus on what they do best, which is programming.''

His journey began in St. John's, N.L., on July 15 and wraps up in Tofino, B.C., "I have no idea when,'' Ayden laughs.

He will travel approximately 8,000 kilometres before he's finished. The country isn't quite that wide. Ayden wants to hit as many big cities as he can so that will add some distance.

Both his parents worked as producers for a television network in Ontario before the trek across Canada began.

"They wouldn't give them the time off so my parents said they'd find a job when they get back.''

Ironically, the company which used to employ his parents is now one of Ayden's sponsors on his bike ride.

His mother said they were skeptical, like any parent would be, when Ayden first told them he wanted to bike across Canada but she said Ayden persisted and wouldn't let it go.

"One of the things is Ayden is a pretty special boy and so he came to us with this idea and we couldn't really say no,'' Sandra Green said. "There were a lot of obstacles in front of us but we decided as parents that we really needed to make this happen for him.''

Sandra said Steve have no regrets about walking away from their jobs, not when it comes to family and her son's dream.

"We're just going on a wing and a prayer, just hoping everything will work out for the best because it's all about Ayden right now. (It's about) getting him some confidence and getting him to redefine his life and make him a very proud young man.''

Ayden has raised more than $500 so far. His goal is to hit the $50,000 mark.

The family has a website set up about the journey and a link for people to donate to the United Way. The website is www.aydensride.com.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: United Way, The Guardian

Geographic location: Canada, Ontario, Prince Edward Island St. John's Tofino

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