John Davidson is one of my personal heroes; he is an unflinching beacon of courage, strength, compassion and kindness; but above all, John Davidson is father whose actions speak very, very loudly, and an inspiration for anyone who takes the few minutes to hear his story. I’m asking that you be one of these people; I promise that if you are, you will be incredibly moved by the huge commitment this parent makes to both his child, and to his community as a whole.
Unless one has experienced it themselves, I can’t stress enough how heartbreaking it is for a parent to watch their children suffer and not know how to help ease the pain. Shortly after Tristan was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) in 2000, I packed up my life in Calgary and moved to Ottawa where he’d been recently transplanted, all so I could (a) be with him, and (b) find out more about the insideous condition that was slowly disintegrating his muscles. I desperately wanted to find something – anything – I could do to make his road easier to travel than it was looking like it was going to be. Not long after I arrived, my research pointed me to a book titled “Jesse’s Journey” written by a man named John Davidson; and also to the London, Ontario based organization he had founded of the same name. In his book I read how John, a broadcaster by profession, had already been down the same road I now had staring me in the face; but more importantly, how he chose not to let DMD dictate the kind of life his son Jesse would have. The following except is taken directly from the “Our Story” section of their website.
How far would you go for someone you love?
That’s the question that led to the birth of Jesse’s Journey when one family dared to dream about what’s possible after learning the crushing news that Duchenne muscular dystrophy had become a part of their daily lives. When John and Sherene Davidson learned that their middle son Jesse was diagnosed with Duchenne they charted a life changing course for themselves-setting out to raise research funds to find the elusive cure. The story of Jesse’s Journey began to unfold in the summer of 1995 when John Davidson – at the age of 49 – set out on an incredible mission to push his 15 year old son Jesse across Ontario in his wheelchair-a trek of 3339 kilometres. The journey became a rallying point for people in communities across Ontario and across Canada. This grueling test of endurance for a determined father and son generated $1.5 million dollars for research.
Three years later there was another chapter in the amazing story. In 1998 John Davidson found himself on the road again-this time alone. On his son Jesse’s 18 th birthday John dipped his running shoes in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s Newfoundland. 286 days later he dipped those same running shoes in the Pacific at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. The 8300 kilometre journey across Canada generated $2 million dollars in grassroots donations made by Canadians coast to coast. From their humble beginning the Davidson’s managed to bring the Jesse Davidson Endowment on stream. The means was at hand to begin funding research each and every year. Jesse’s Journey has funded more than $5 million in research projects in North America, and is the ONLY Canadian charity that exists solely to fund Duchenne muscular dystrophy research.
I’ve had the good fortune to get to know John, mostly through phone calls and even once in person when he made the time to meet me for a coffee during a busy tour out west he was on. John embodies hope, inner strength and perseverance; he presses on when others around him pack it in and give up. The Davidson Family never let the cards they’ve been dealt stop them from creating greatness, which is evident in the charity that both bears their son’s name, and that helps Canadian families cope when hearing the difficult news of “Your child has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy”. And for that, my family and I will be forever grateful to John, Sherene and Jesse Davidson.
I hope you enjoyed John Davidson’s story, and make sure you take a moment to watch the video below to experience this great man’s courage strength and compassion. Thank you.
If you would like to know more, find them online here: Jesses Journey