Retired mail clerk Carlton Williams believed his greatest journeys in life were behind him. Then seven years ago he found himself caring for the life of an autistic infant and discovered a new journey that has brought a different perspective and simple joys to his life. Williams and his family have been guardians of 7-year old Jadane Martin since he was 9 months old, when they made a courageous decision to assist a family friend through the difficulties of caring for an autistic child. Autism is a complex brain development disorder that is characterised by varying degrees of challenges in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviours. “His mother was a friend of ours in the community and we saw that she was in a troubling situation,” Williams said. “You have to have guts to deal with someone like Jadane as an infant, he couldn’t do anything for himself and she asked for help from people who couldn’t manage him, so my wife and I decided to help out. It pained my heart to see their situation because it wasn’t his fault he was like that.” Already a father of two boys, Williams soon became ‘daddy’ to a third as Jadane became part of the family. “He is a part of my life and I cannot do without him” Williams declared. Jadane and his family have come a long way on the journey to his full potential. After enrolling him in a basic school in their community, Williams heard about the work being done by the Early Stimulation Programme through partnership with the Digicel Foundation. Williams said, “After attending seminars and listening to lectures, I understand him more and I have learnt how to deal with him in a responsive way. I wish all parents who have these kinds of kids take care of them, don’t underrate them.” Currently Jadane is a graduate of Early Stimulation Plus (ESP) initiative and is enrolled at the Promise Learning Centre. “That little man has so much character about him; he’s a very caring and loving child.” Williams said proudly “many people said he wouldn’t talk but now he’s talking more than 90% of people in his category. Every day I pray that God spare my life so that I can see what he’s heading to be.” For Judine Hunter, Special Needs Programme Manager at Digicel Foundation, it is stories such as Jadane’s that drive the work of the Foundation and our annual 5K Run/Walk for Special Needs. She said, “The 5K is inspired by extraordinary Jamaicans and Jadane, his grandfather and their family are perfect examples of the stories and work that continue to motivate us. Every day it seems we uncover more of these persons who are making lives for these special people and we encourage everyone to listen to their stories, spread the word and assist in any way possible.” The Digicel Foundation 5K Run/Walk takes place on Saturday, October 11th with sign up for this year’s event taking place through the Google Play App or www.runningeventsja.com. Proceeds will go towards scholarships at 10 Special Needs institutions across Jamaica.