Pictured above: Cole Blakeway with his friend Steven.
“Who’s the person who always makes you smile? For me, it’s my friend Steven.”
That’s how Cole Blakeway opened his heartfelt talk on friendship that earned him a tie for first place in his grade at the annual Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District pubic speaking contest.
Now, the 10-year-old Kanaka Creek Elementary student will be sharing his message on friendship with a much larger audience at the TEDxWestVancouverED conference in September.
“I felt really happy and excited,” Cole says about getting the news that he’d been named a speaker at TEDx.
His mom, Kristi Blakeway, who is principal of Harry Hooge Elementary, shared in the excitement.
“I’m so proud of him,” she says.
But, being his mother, she only wished he’d picked another photo to submit for his bio on the TEDx website.
“If you zoom in on the photo, you can see food on his face!” she says, laughing.
But Cole wanted it to be authentic, and as his TEDx bio reads: “Friend. Brother. Son. Messy Ten Year Old. Soccer Player. Math nerd. SD42 Student. Overall great guy. Cole Blakeway may be too young for his own Twitter account, but he’s old enough to help us imagine what a perfect friendship looks like.”
The Grade 4 student got the attention of TEDxWestVancouverED organizers after Kristi posted a video to her Facebook page of his speech about friendship. The video has 3,400 views – and counting.
In the video, Cole talks about his friendship with Steven, who has autism.
As Cole explains, his mom and Steven went to the same high school. They met inside the cafeteria when she was 13 – back in 1988 – and they’ve remained close friends for decades.
“When I was born, Steven was a special part of our family and I’ve grown up calling him Uncle Steven,” Cole says. “Steven is included in family dinners, he comes to my soccer games, he loves watching movies with us and every couple of weeks he has a sleep over.”
During his talk, Cole also shares some facts about autism and concludes, “There is no cure for autism but I think Steven is perfect the way he is.”
He then highlights some of the his favourite moments shared with Steven.
“I look up to my Uncle Steven because he is the happiest person I know… I am looking forward to a lifetime of memories.”
Cole will be the youngest speaker at the September conference, but he’s not the first Blakeway to speak at TEDxWestVancouverED.
In 2014, Kristi gave a talk entitled “Changing the Perception of Homelessness.”
“He told me he always knew he’d be a TEDx speaker,” Kristi says. “He loves public speaking.”
TEDxWestVancouverED takes place September 23, 2017. This year’s theme is “Imagine.” For more info, visit http://www.tedxwestvancouvered.com/conference/