Autism advocate seeks marchers in upcoming Cleveland St. Patrick's Day Parade

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Autism advocate John Keaney is looking for as many people with autism to march with him in the upcoming Cleveland St. Patrick's Day Parade as possible.

So far, Keaney says he has 20 people marching with him, but he is looking for more.

For the past couple of years, Keaney has been showing up at major Cleveland events like the Republican National Convention, the Cleveland Airshow and even Wizard Con, to display his cardboard signs that tell people he has autism, and he asks passersby to take a picture with him to be posted online.

"I've actually had people cry on my shoulder - parents of children with Autism have cried in front of me and cried on my shoulder. I've gotten fist pumps. They shake my hand. They give me hugs, and they tell me thank you," said Keaney.

Keaney says his activism started with his appearance at the Cleveland Cavaliers Championship Parade. He showed up carrying his first sign.

"I was dealing with thoughts of hurting myself. So, the Cavs parade was approaching. The Cavs won the championship - the Cavs parade was approaching. I decided that I didn't want to live in depression anymore."

Keaney got such a positive response, he started showing up at other Cleveland area events and carrying around his sign. Hundreds have taken pictures with Keaney and posted them online.

"I know that I am doing a good thing. I know that by everyone's reaction - the majority of people - that I am doing a good thing," added Keaney.

Cleveland based, Hotcards, an online printing and design company, is donating banners for Keaney and his marchers to carry.

The deadline to sign up to march with Keaney is midnight, March 7.

E-mail if you would like to participate.

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