Photo: John Davidson signed copies of his latest book, “The Right Road: How far will you go?” last Saturday at Kingsmill’s. The book describes his 286-day walking journey across Canada.
When his son Jesse was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, John Davidson knew he had to do something. His love for his son led him on a walk across Ontario, and later, an even bigger journey across Canada.
Jesse Davidson was born in London, Ontario in 1980. He was diagnosed with Duchenne musclar dystrophy (DMD) when he was six-years-old. DMD, which usually appears in childhood, is a fatal genetic disorder that weakens the body’s muscles over time. Most children with DMD usually start using a wheelchair and have difficulty walking by the time they are 12.
In 1995, John Davidson, then 49, pushed 15-year-old Jesse in his wheelchair across Ontario. Jesse became known for his determination and courage, and the father-and-son team raised $1.5 million towards DMS research, and for a charity that became known as “Jesse’s Journey.”
“We just thought we needed more funding for research because there just wasn’t enough there. And this was the only thing I could do because I couldn’t offer any medical skills, and I had to do something…”
John and Jesse were on the road for 124 days together and walked 30 km a day.
“Jesse was 15 at the time and yet I felt like I left with a 14-year-old and came home with a 16-year-old because I just saw him mature right in front of me in the time we were on the road. It was really quite an experience,” says Davidson.
When they returned home later that year, Jesse had even more memorable experiences. He dropped the ceremonial season opener puck for the Toronto Maple Leafs; he met the Prime Minister and received a standing ovation from the House of Commons; and in 1997, he met Queen Elizabeth II for a tree planting ceremony in London.
"He got to be in the Prime Minister's Office and he was recognized by all parties in the House of Commons and they stood and applauded his efforts," says Davidson. "To see everyone in that house stand united to cheer on a young Canadian was very, very heartwarming for me."
Jesse was named to the Order of Ontario in 1996 and received many awards, including the Ontario Community Newspaper Association Junior Citizen of the Year award. He graduated from Fanshawe College in 2001 with a diploma in hotel and restaurant management. The Jesse's Journey foundation has provided over $3 million in research funding. The Jesse Davidson endowment has surpassed $7 million.
For more information on Jesse's Journey and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, visit the Jesse's Journey website.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview with John Davidson and more about his journey across Canada.