Who’s Who: ‘Cowboy’ Harrison Czapalay: The Valley’s Bright Blue Light

Who’s Who: ‘Cowboy’ Harrison Czapalay: The Valley’s Bright Blue Light
By Mike Butler

Saddle up folks! Remember those Gene Autry, John Wayne, and Roy Rogers types who swept into town and made things better for the townspeople? Did you think they were long gone? Just when all hope was lost for a true gent to ride into town and makes things brighter, in sashays Harrison Czapalay!

Cowboy Harrison Czapalay has become one of the most recognizable faces in the Valley and I am truly honoured to share his inspirational story and his efforts in lighting up the Valley for autism awareness.

The 24-year-old is a hometown boy from Wolfville, NS, and a very high-functioning autistic. He graduated from Horton High School in 2012, and has been involved in the Acadia S.M.I.L.E. program for 20 years. “I’ve loved every minute of it” he says. It’s rare to see Harrison without his signature cowboy hat and cowboy shirt as he ambles around town, along with that signature smile!

Harrison works as a contractor for Flowercart at the Michelin plant in Waterville, and as a part-time stable hand at Poloosa Ridge Stables in White Rock. He’s also a herdsman at local cattle sortings and cattle penning shows, and a rodeo crew member at the Lawrencetown Exhibition. In his spare time, Harrison likes riding horses and going to the different exhibitions in the province. He says, “I am an assistant dairy leader for my 4-H club, I love watching rodeos and horse shows, and competing in cattle penning and cattle sorting. My Friday nights are reserved for S.M.I.L.E. and doing lots of activities with my buddies. This past year I’ve been busy with public speaking engagements. I won at the provincial show and qualified to compete at the Royal Winter Fair in Young Speakers for Agriculture. That was an amazing experience!”

But Harrison is most proud of is his role as an autism advocate. Harrison has become the face of autism advocacy here in the Valley with the Light it up Blue for Autism Awareness event that has taken place in Wolfville for the last few years. This is a special time of year for Harrison and his determination and great spirit have made this an exceptional event each year.

“Three years ago I wanted to bring recognition about autism to Wolfville by observing April 2, World Autism Awareness Day” says Harrison. “Blue is the colour symbolizing autism and all around the world blue lights shine on April 2. I wanted to see Wolfville lit blue for this night and I am still blown away by the support I received that first year! It was amazing and I was so inspired that it started an annual event and my second year had even more support! I really would like to thank Acadia University and the Town of Wolfville, the Rotary Club, and Lions Club, as well as the Wolfville Fire Department for their support.”

Wolfville Lights It Up Blue is a fundraising event, but more importantly it raises awareness and support for those living with autism. Harrison wants to be (and has been on so many levels) a voice for those people who can’t speak: “I want to give back to the groups who have helped me so much” he says. “The charities I’m supporting are Autism Nova Scotia, Annapolis Valley chapter, and the Acadia S.M.I.L.E. program. My goal is to have the town and surrounding communities participate in “Light It Up Blue” by shining a blue light from their homes and businesses, wearing the colour blue, attending my barbeque at Clock Park in downtown Wolfville on Saturday, March 31, and attending the evening circuit and watching the blue moon rise.”

Have you been to the barbeque before? They have Jimmy Dogs from Meadowbrook Meat Market, face painting, raffle prizes, and a lot more. In the evening, for the first time and only this year, there will be a “blue moon,” so there will be hot chocolate and glow bracelets available. There will also be a “blue light circuit” along Main Street and side streets that people can either walk or drive to look at the blue lights. To Harrison, and so many others, it’s like Christmas! For more information, you can either email Harrison at harrisonc1@hotmail.com or his mom at missvicki@eastlink.ca. Hope to see you at the barbeque on Saturday March 31!

To our Valley cowboy, thank you for your efforts and your strength. All the best and may your blue light shine, always!