Voices That Care
Say Hello to ... Cavin & Cason
Every single person in Care2Run’s ecosystem is essential, and we’ve grown so much in three years thanks to all the different individuals who’ve played a part in getting us to where we are.
It is for this reason that we aim to hand this section over to our people – our participants, coaches, volunteers, parents, friends and loved ones – so they can tell you what Care2Run means to them.
This week we say hello to ….. Cavin and Cason Ong, a father-and-son duo who have grown together since joining Care2Run.
ON July 14, 2018, Cavin, a bright and athletic Care2Run mentee, graduated as a Junior Coach. The graduation, undoubtedly, marked a significant moment for the young man who is a person with autism. However, it was equally momentous for his father, Cason, who had journeyed alongside Cavin for the duration of the Junior Leader Programme (JLP).
Care2Run’s JLP is a pioneering programme that is designed to empower young differently-abled persons by helping them be more active, sociable and employable. Yet to reap the full rewards, parents, Cason tells us, should also be active participants. This is the reason, he says, he got involved in the programme.
“I was sending Cavin for the sessions, and I felt that instead of me doing nothing for a couple of hours, it would be better if I got involved as well. At first, it was just to pass time. But after a while, I saw how parents can actually play an important role by helping to mentor other children,” Cason says.
The father and son team have been a part of Care2Run for some years now. And as Cason shares with us, Cavin has grown a lot during this time. But we’ll let him tell you about all that in his own words …
Hello and high five, Cason. Can you share with us how you and Cavin got involved with Care2Run?
Hello. Actually, I first heard about Care2Run when they ran a programme with SMK Kelana Jaya some years back. I was impressed with what I saw and I thought it would be good for Cavin to participate. Actually, the programme at SMK Kelana Jaya was also how kids like Max and Amirul (both now Junior Coaches) got involved with Care2Run. Cavin had been swimming competitively for a few years when we found out about Care2Run and I thought that in addition to swimming, maybe he could benefit from other physical activities like running. He responded very well to the activities as well as to the coaches, and we’ve been involved ever since.
Does Cavin still swim competitively and how did he get involved with swimming?
Yes, he does. He’s part of the Selangor para swim team. He’s not in the first team at the moment, but he is part of the squad. Cavin was swimming from the time he was very young. He was about five when he started lessons and he was very comfortable in the water. At the time, it was just about learning the basics and playing around in the water. The actual training to swim competitively only started when he was about 12.
As a parent who’s actively involved with Care2Run, how do you feel the programmes benefit young differently-abled persons?
I believe Care2Run runs very effective programmes for differently-abled youths. On top of improving their physical agility, it also helps children become more confident and encourages them to come out of their shells and vocalise their thoughts and feelings. Cavin, for example, was the kind of child who always kept quiet when asked anything. Ever since he’s been involved with Care2Run however, he’s become more vocal. Now, after the regular sessions when it’s time for reflection and he’s asked to say something, he will readily step up, come forward and speak. To be honest, the Care2Run coaches and I noticed this change in him when we attended the APCD Disability Inclusive Sports forum* last year. There were other youths with autism from participating countries at the forum and I guess seeing how these youths came up to the podium to speak motivated Cavin also to do the same. He stepped forward confidently and talked about how he felt and how he liked the sessions. To me, that marked a huge improvement compared to a few years before.
* Cason and Cavin were part of the Malaysian contingent at last year’s forum in Bangkok. The other representatives from Care2Run were Senior Coaches Chloe Lai and Eric Chong and Junior Coach Max Liew.
Have you always believed in the power of sports to effect positive change in young persons with differences?
Yes, and I feel very strongly about it. Kids with differences can definitely improve through sports, and sports does provide an avenue for them to grow. But, of course, there are challenges for the kid as well. Individual sports may not be an issue. But there is still resistance to bring kids with differences on board for team sports. Another area where sports and exercise can help is in the area of physical health and wellbeing. For many children with differences like autism and Down Syndrome, diet is a big concern. Many of these kids have poor nutrition and end up with complications like obesity. So sports and exercise can definitely help improve this.
Can you share with us a little about Cavin’s developmental journey?
Sure. Cavin was already eight years old when we enrolled him in a government school – SK Sri Damai in Section 17, Petaling Jaya. The school didn’t have a pendidikan khas (special education) programme at the time, but they graciously accepted him. The only thing is that I had to follow him to school and wait there until lessons were over. When he was nine, however, he joined NASOM (National Autism Society of Malaysia) and after that, someone from NASOM would accompany him to school. Cavin was a hyperactive child, but through many programmes over the years – such as Care2Run, swimming and the NASOM choir – he’s managed to develop self-control. He’ll be 21 in December and he now works one day a week at the office of his speech therapist. He does a little filing and general work around the office. Apart from that, he goes to a church in Petaling Jaya – Life Chapel – two days a week. Life Chapel has a programme which assists adults with differences and they conduct many activities which are aimed at helping participants become more independent. My daughter Carina attends the programme there as well.
What are your aspirations for Care2Run, Cason?
I think Care2Run can become a big player in terms of non-profit organisations which provide sports therapy. Initially, when the programmes were conceived, they were for children from low socio-economic backgrounds but the focus has expanded over the years and I think that Care2Run has a lot of expertise in the area of coaching differently-abled youths. The problem, of course, is that we lack manpower in terms of facilitators and volunteers. However, I hope people, particularly other parents, can look to me as an example. I’m a parent who got involved because of my child. If other parents can step forward as well, then perhaps we might have enough volunteers.
Do you feel it is important for parents to be actively involved in the programmes?
Yes, of course. I think one of the good things about Care2Run is it makes room for parents to be involved. I understand that not every parent is the same just as not every child is the same. Some children may not respond well if their parents are around. Besides that, you also have to consider that some parents may have large families and they have to focus on their other children as well. Having said that, if at least one parent of a child can commit the time, they will be able to benefit as much as their children.