By Christine Frances Poe
One never knows what life has in store. You may have a plan; a “road-map”, but the journey can still surprise you! In 2012 I shared an idea with “Balance My Life” readers; my dream of writing a 22-book series on Autism; a “how-to” collection supporting families from the moment they receive an autism diagnosis to the later years, when a young adult on the spectrum is ready to leave home to begin a new chapter. I always knew I wanted to help those affected by autism. In raising my own child with Asperger’s, I know too well the challenges one faces each day. We’re the fortunate ones. Dorian, now 11 years of age and “high-functioning” has more advantages than those at the other end of the spectrum. Yet we all share one common bond. As parents we advocate for our children; for their successes; health; well-being and most of all acceptance. In this respect, we’re no different than other parents who put their children first. Yet our journey is fraught with pitfalls, frustration, turbulence, aggression, and sometimes violence. Parents of children labelled “autistic” more often than not feel alone, misunderstood, and helpless.
Our family went through 7 years of hell before receiving the autism diagnosis; although we always knew something was amiss. It’s unfortunate our children need to be labelled in order to receive assistance. Yet once we crossed that hurdle, more support was readily available. Before long, we enrolled Dorian in a special needs school for children. Missing Links draws from many disciplines to provide children with the best education and treatment available, filling the gaps to Autism. It wasn’t long before we saw a difference in Dorian. Once prone to hour-long meltdowns; severe aggression, anger, and screaming; Dorian blossomed into a caring, compassionate, humorous individual who suddenly wanted to change the world…for other families living with autism, and kids like him, who needed understanding from the world.
In January 2013, at the age of 9, Dorian decided to send his Ganz Webkinz plush polar bear “Tikko™” out into the world to raise Autism Awareness. Wearing a white t-shirt with rainbow-coloured message (representing the spectrum) “Autism…it’s okay to be different!” Tikko™ was ready to travel!!
Tikko’s first trip was with Lesley & Ashley Pawliw. Travelling to Jamaica, Tikko™ wasted no time embracing the local culture. Along the way, Lesley and Ashley took many photos of Tikko™; introducing Tikko™ and his Autism Awareness campaign.
I decided to create a Facebook Page “Tikko Travels™” where we’d post photo albums from all of Tikko’s trips. I connected with another mom in Jamaica who started her own autism foundation due to lack of support in the area. It occurred to me we could learn a lot about autism around the world by researching autism in all the areas Tikko™ visits; sharing the information with our Tikko™ followers.
Shortly after Tikko’s first trip, CTV News interviewed us for their “Lifetime” segment. Suddenly we were inundated with requests to take Tikko™ on vacation. This was the defining moment; when I realized I’d need to put my book series on hold to support my son’s dream. Contacting GANZ, I asked if they could spare more polar bears, as we didn’t want to miss any opportunity to send Tikko™ on vacation. To date, GANZ has generously donated 600 bears to Dorian’s cause.
In the first year, Tikko™ travelled to over 24 countries; meeting celebrities such as Ne-Yo(an American R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and actor); Canadian actor (and Dorian’s cousin) Devon Bostick (aka Rodrick; “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and CW’s “The 100”); Eliza Taylor, Lindsey Morgan, Ricky Whittle, Isaiah Washington (also from CW’s “The 100”); Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham; Canadian/American actor Jim Carrey; The Globetrotters…to name a few.
Tikko’s been all over the globe! Now operating a “Tikko™” office and working 24/7 to keep Tikko’s journey successful, I put away my vision of a book series to focus all my energy on the polar bear who found his way into our hearts. Now a family business shared by myself, Dorian, his older brother Bryce and my husband Brett, whose help is instrumental in creating our Tikko™ videos; Tikko™ is thriving!
Some of our most favourite memories are: when Tikko sky-dived from an airplane while four seasoned skydivers played “pass the Tikko™” at 10,000 feet; meeting Commander Chris Hadfield & the Canadian Snowbirds on Canada Day 2014 when Tikko flew with themover Parliament in Ottawa; Tikko parachuting solo from a kite at the Washington State Kite Festival 2014; bungy-jumping off the Macau Tower in China (the highest bungy jump in the world); when singer/songwriter Alessia Cohle was so inspired by Dorian & Tikko™, she, and her musical partner Brian Donkers wrote “Make A Change (The Tikko Song)” which Alessia sang at the Canadian Milton Italian Club on September 21, 2014 while 14 children on the spectrum took to a runway, modelling costumes native to where Tikko™ travelled (orchestrated by Kitsa Statti / Catwalk Girls Modelling & Makeup).
Tikko represents HOPE, COMPASSION and COURAGE. We invite everyone to JOIN THE JOURNEY!
“Autism…it’s okay to be different!”
Tikko™ has travelled to Africa, Arctic, Asia, Alabama, Alaska, Alberta, Amsterdam, Arizona, Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, British Columbia, California, Caribbean, Carolinas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, China, Costa Rica, Crete, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Florida, France, Georgia, Germany, Greenland, Hawaii, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Illinois, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kentucky, Korea, Kuwait, Labrador, Lithuania, Louisiana, Manitoba, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Netherlands, Nevada, New Brunswick, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York City, Northwest Territories, North Pole, Norway, Ohio, Ontario, Oklahoma, Pakistan, Pennsylvania, Peru, Philippines, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Rhine Valley, Romania, Russia, Saskatchewan, Scotland, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tennessee, Texas, Thailand, Virginia, and Washington (DC) and the Yukon to name a few.