To stem stigma, Cleveland autism advocate marching in St. Patrick's Day parade

To stem stigma, Cleveland autism advocate marching in St. Patrick's Day parade

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - When we first introduced you to John Keaney, of Lakewood, he shared his struggles with autism and his very public mission to spread awareness about people living on the spectrum.

"People treat me differently than everyone else," said Keaney.

Keaney is used to showing up at huge public events, like the the Cavs Championship Parade and the Republican National Convention, with his signs that tell people he has autism and asks for their support.

For the first time ever though, Keaney will be a part of the big event as he's set to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade.

Last week, he told us he was looking for people with autism to walk with him in the parade.

Since Keaney's story initially aired, he said the response has been overwhelming, as dozens of people with autism plan to march alongside him in Saturday's St. Patrick's Day parade.

Others have also reached out offering to help in any way they can.

Keaney now has more than 50 people set to march in the parade for his autism awareness campaign.

"I feel like there is a support system there. People that also have autism and their families are supporting me -- not letting me be the only one with autism in the parade," said Keaney.

With just days to go until the parade, Keaney is getting his signage ready.

If you see him and others marching alongside him who also have autism, he has this request:

"If you can find that I did a good job, please cheer us on," said Keaney.

He's also asking that you'll take a picture of him and his fellow marchers, and post it with #helpingotherswithAutism -- because every post and view on social media, Keaney says, is one step closer to everyone realizing that people with autism are just like everyone else.

Keaney says he plans to march in the parade again next year, and is hoping to double or triple the number of people who are walking with him who also have autism.

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