Nova Scotia

Wolfville to light it up blue for World Autism Awareness Day

People in Wolfville will be lighting it up blue Saturday night thanks to hard work by autism awareness advocate Harrison Czapalay.

Harrison Czapalay, 22, has been a driving force behind marking World Autism Awareness Day in Wolfville

Harrison Czapalay says he hopes people shine blue lights on Saturday for an autism awareness event he's been organizing. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Harrison Czapalay is hoping people in Wolfville, N.S., light the sky up blue Saturday night. 

Czapalay, 22, has autism and he's encouraging residents and businesses to put blue lights outside their front doors for one night to mark World Autism Awareness Day.

"I really want to see Wolfville lighten up blue Saturday night. That would be awesome," he said Thursday. 

"All around the world there will be different structures lit up blue on the evening of April 2nd."

Saturday will be a big day for Czapalay, he said. He's hoping the hard work he's put in trying to get people in Wolfville to put up blue lights will pay off.

But even if people don't switch their lights to blue, he knows what he's doing will help reduce the stigma that comes with autism.

"Autism is now known as the invisible disability because some people can't tell if someone has autism," Czapalay said.

Mayor gives 'major double thumbs up'

Known for his trademark cowboy hat, blue jeans and blue shirts, Czapalay has become a well-known advocate for autism awareness.

"Everybody knows Harrison," Wolfville Mayor Jeff Cantwell said.

"His engaging manner and his warm personality. I give him a major double thumbs up."

Czapalay credits his background in 4-H for his improved ability to socialize with people and to speak comfortably in front of crowds.

"When I was little, I couldn't really speak to a person that well," said Czapalay, who was diagnosed with autism when he was three.

"Thanks to 4-H, I really learned how to deal with people and doing public speaking in front of big audiences. It really taught me a lot."

Acadia University is in the midst of negotiations with faculty. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

'A great cause'

The autism awareness events will begin long before the sun goes down on Saturday night.

The town office will have blue lights and Acadia University will light up the front of University Hall with blue spotlights.

Czapalay is organizing a charity barbecue at Clock Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., to which everyone is invited — and of course asked to wear blue. 

He said several businesses have contributed drinks and food, including cupcakes with blue icing. Proceeds from the event will go to Acadia's S.M.I.L.E. program and the Annapolis Valley chapter of Autism Nova Scotia.

Some blue lights will be available for people who need them for their homes. The operators of the Library Pub on Main Street hope to get blue bulbs put in for Saturday night. 

"Absolutely, it's a great cause and we plan to support it," said Adrienne White, Library Pub general manager.

"It's great to see a young guy work so hard to try and raise support for a cause like that. It's awesome."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.

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