Sunday, February 24, 2008

Stefan Marinoiu meets Federal Health Minister Tony Clement

The metal plate in his left foot is bothering him, and the blizzards Stefan Marinoiu has walked through have left him with frozen fingertips. But as he makes his way toward Ottawa to raise awareness about autism, the 49-year-old said the only thing on his mind is his 15-year-old son.

Unplanned, and out of exasperation, Marinoiu left his Toronto home Jan. 31 embarking on a 450 kilometre walk to "plead with the politicians" that it is time for a national autism strategy. "Having an autistic child is like having a present and not being able to unwrap it," Marinoiu said. "I have been silent for 15 years.

All the stress, all the pain, no resources, I said I gotta do something and I just walked out the door." His pace has slowed since he left without telling his wife where he was going, and at times, he said blinding snow has left him unable to see the road. The Ontario Provincial Police, who stopped him the first night for walking illegally on the highway, have kept an eye out for him, picking him up several times and driving him into the nearest community. "They told me I was gonna freeze to death," he said. "It has been so cold you feel like you are going to die the next second but I take the next step. I am walking for all the tens of thousands who are like my son. No matter what, I am going to accomplish this."

Though he can't point to one event that triggered his march, he said his son Simon's needs have grown increasingly difficult to meet. Simon waited on a list for Applied Behaviour Analysis, an intensive treatment for autistic children but turned seven, the cut-off age, before reaching the top of the list, Marinoiu said. "My son, he can't speak but I know he feels so much," Marinoiu said. " He needs help to be able to function and communicate. We have all the love to give him but we need more resources." Without money or a cell phone, the part-time delivery man has relied on benevolent strangers for help along his trek.

One night he slept in a homeless shelter, another in a church. Locals have anonymously paid for hotel rooms while others have stopped along the highway to bring him food. His daughter's Facebook group, started after he called home from a borrowed phone, now has more than 1,400 members. Marinoiu hoped to be in Ottawa Monday where Senator Jim Munson said he would be there to welcome him. Others from Ottawa with autistic children have also been organizing online to greet Marinoiu when he arrives. (The Ottawa Citizen - Feb 11,2008)

Following his meeting with Federal Health Minister Tony Clement, Stefan Marinoiu said, "It's hard to do great things with small people."

"Medicare for Autism - NOW!"

No comments: