Many people have attempted to cross Canada for one cause or another. That isn’t lost on Steve O’Brien, 51, father and husband for 30 years. The former national athlete and teacher from Quebec knows that cross Canada tours are becoming “old hat”. That however isn’t stopping him from achieving his goals to bring awareness about kids dropping out of school.
“I had to make it different, so what I’m doing is having a relay with a baton over 12,000 km and to make the project even more interesting, I let the kids choose the way I would cross Canada”
The kids can pick how O’Brien makes his journey, running, walking, biking or even using a scooter or wheelchair. Rollerblading and long board (skateboard) have also been used. O’Brien also brought along some skis and snowshoes just in case. He says he will even use a pogo stick to help make it to the east coast.
That might sound like fun but the message is very serious one to O’Brien. “I like to suffer on the roads each day, because kids are suffering everyday out there”
O’Brien believes that more kids are dropping out of school because of lack of physical activity and the family unit falling apart. “The more exercise you do, the more you will pursue your education”
“Kids really need to be listened to” O’Brien wants to inspire kids to reach their goals. “Technology is killing our kids and today many kids from a single parent home. ” parents have to make time to spend quality time with their children” O’Brien says. “and not cuddle them, kids need to be disciplined” O’Brien says that goes hand in hand in helping kids grow up to realize their dreams”
O’Brien recalls an exercise one time while he was substitute teaching, “I told the kids that if we can get some work done, then I will allow you all 15 minutes to do something fun and that was to draw a picture of their family, favourite animals etc, and 19 out of the 24 drawings showed just one parent – i could see how life was changing, parents were splitting up and kids are getting mixed messages, the school yards are getting empty – and it hit me hard and I think the key for any person is to have a good childhood, if you grew up with a good childhood, 90 percent of the time they have turned out to do well in life”
The cross Canada tour is only a precursor to an event he wants to go national with next year. O’Brien is working on creating the very first Canada Wide Youth Relay Day in which he is inviting as many schools to participate for kids to relay as many kilometers as possible , register their achievement back to the Steve OBrien foundation and we’re going to find out which province takes care of their kids the most per capita and wants corporate sponsors to back up the results with a dollar pledged for each kilometer, that money going towards youth clubs in each province.
O’Brien who gets emotional talking about his own kids and the support he gets from his own family says whatever it takes to get the kids on the right track – whether it be a sports program or an arts program, we have to find out what their interests are and then make sure they have the means to pursue those interests, we have to show them what perseverance is.
O’Brien credits his idol, Terry Fox for teaching him that and regrets as a youth not seeing Fox as he made it through his hometown in Quebec. Little did he know at the time how much influence Terry Fox made on him. “I remember Terry saying in the media why was doing what he was doing and it was simple, because kids get cancer and he was running for those kids” O’Brien said.
O’Brien doesn’t like the spotlight on him, though he has many in his career as an athlete winning gold medals at the Commonwealth games and placing 6th overall in the Olympic tryouts, O’Brien insists what he’s doing is for the kids. “I’m doing this for your children, or grand children, this isn’t about me or raising a lot of money it’s about our future, our children – we have to become role models for our kids, if you love your kids you gotta discipline them, it never feels good to do that, but down the road your kids will only love you more for showing them what’s right and what’s wrong” O’Brien goes on to say that parents, especially those who are separated are scared to discipline their kids because the child will go suck up to Mom or whatever and parents tend to cuddle their kids and give them whatever they want”
O’Brien plans to head east out of the Sault on Wednesday and reach his goal of Newfoundland by mid December. He encourages anyone to help out by spreading his message or making a donation (every 5 dollar donation is entered into a draw for some special one of a kind prizes) by visiting the official website, http://www.steveobrienfondation.com
O’Brien recalls a text message from his youngest son, Joshua about a month ago, “Dad, you have dreamed of doing this for 35 years, now you’re going to do – live your dream and have a good time”
Those are words that keeps O’Brien going.