Taranaki ultra runner Jason Reid is in the running to win the People's Choice Award in the AMP Dare To Dream competition, and he needs your help.
Jason was named the winner of the AMP Taranaki Region Dare to Dream Scholarship earlier this year, which gave him $5000 for his charity, Running on the Spectrum.
Winning the regional award made him a finalist for the People's Choice Award, which is based on text votes. If he wins, he will receive another $5000.
"Each finalist has a very different cause. From individual sporting dreams, to starting a business or going overseas for study or a sporting competition. My cause is about helping kids with autism by gifting them a new pair of running shoes to introduce them to how running can help with autism."
Jason says research from the United States has shown children on the autistic spectrum benefit from running both physically and mentally.
It's not just American research that convinced him however, Jason himself is on the spectrum and says running helps clear his mind.
"I have always loved running and when I am running, I find my mind can relax a bit. Living with autism or aspergers means your mind is always going at full speed, it doesn't stop. Running is relaxing and gives you a bit of a mental break."
Jason lives in Ohawe and works as a teacher aide in Hawera. "I have worked with many children on the spectrum through the years, and have seen for myself how running can help."
Unlike cricket or rugby, running is a solo sport, says Jason, which is one of the reasons it appeals to children living with autism.
"Kids on the spectrum can also struggle with rules at times, not in the sense of breaking them necessarily, but needing to understand all the rules before they can do something. Running has less rules, it is just you, your body and the course you are running."
Jason takes a day off work every week to work on his charity, which has already handed out hundreds of pairs of shoes to children. "It's not just Taranaki kids, wherever I go in New Zealand to run, I take shoes with me and I give them out to kids on the spectrum."
Jason says he goes into schools to talk to them about autism and to hand out shoes, and spends a whole day running around the school field.
"Kids come out and join me in their playtimes, or classes come out with their teacher during the day. They enjoy seeing it and giving it a go."
Currently Jason keeps the shoes in the boot of his car, but would like to upgrade to a van with shelving installed so he have find the right sizes easier, and transport more pairs of shoes at a time.
"I have been very lucky thanks to great support from Nick at New Plymouth's Shoe Clinic to be able to already buy so many pairs of shoes and it would be great to have a van to be able to have even more shoes in stock at a time.
Jason's wife Shona is another great support, he says, helping with the website and social media side of the charity, as well as tolerating the fact holidays overseas often involve visiting shoe shops.
"Last time in Australia we had to buy a new suitcase to fit all the running shoes in."
Jason's work with children on the spectrum and running has gained more than just local attention. Next month he flies to the US to speak at an autism conference on his charity.
To help Jason win the AMP People's's Choice Award, text Jason to 2948. Please note SMS carrier charges may apply. Voting is limited to one vote per person. Voting is open now to October 21.