Perspective: a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.
It doesn’t take very much for all of us to lose perspective from time to time. That’s life.
In the daily grind we often take things for granted, we often lose perspective, we often forget what matters most. Love of life, love of those around us and our passion.
Jonathan Henry has never lost his perspective. “I don’t see life as an obstacle,” confessed Henry.
Thirty-six years ago, Jonathan Henry was born with Down Syndrome. In the 1980’s the medical community and society for that matter were quick to discuss the obstacles that would confront Jonathan and his family for the rest of his life.
Everyone tried to provide the Henry’s with perspective. The Henry’s wanted to change that perspective and provide their own unique experiences for their son.
“The 1983 medical community still did not offer any hope and we were told if we decided to keep him, not to have any more kids because we would be too busy as Jonathan probably wouldn’t be toilet trained until a teenager and would always have floppy muscles and no coordination or balance,” said Peter Henry, Jonathan’s father.
“Jonathan has overcome everything life and society has thrown at him. He never seems to have a bad day,” Peter Henry added.
Within the first year of his life, Jonathan and his family were confronted with the unthinkable, cancer.
Jonathan was born with a rare form of Leukaemia and by six months old his mother Shirley had also found an abnormality with one of his testicles.
Confronted with two different types of cancer and two separate rounds of chemotherapy at that tender age was devastating, but young Jonathan Henry’s character, personality and strength shone through as bright as ever.
“The pride we feel is immeasurable from witnessing him beating Leukaemia and Testicular Cancer and going through chemo and overcoming everything that has been thrown at him was life changing,” admitted Peter Henry.
“We have been blessed as every one of our family and friends without exception has been supportive of Jonathan and has accepted him for who he is, an outstanding young man.”
“There is no diagnosis for pure human love and spirit and belief in oneself,” confessed Peter Henry.
“I don’t think I have any disabilities, I love who I am,” Jonathan Henry said proudly.
“I never have a bad day, I always try to be positive, I just want to be accepted for my abilities and not my disabilities.”
Now that’s perspective.
From day one the Henry’s were driven to give their son what every parent wants their child to have, an opportunity to live their best life.
“Jonathan showed signs of his love of physical activities during early intervention, which was new philosophy in 1983,” explained Peter Henry.
“Jonathan started learning physical activities at seven when he was enrolled in the Smile Program at Acadia University. He was the ultimate student when it came to learning gross and fine motor skills and the proper mechanics.”
“This allowed his confidence and belief in himself to flourish.”
“I think I fell in love with sports when my parents bought me a soccer ball to learn kicking and a Fisher Price basketball set to learn throwing skills, admitted Henry.
“I loved the Smile program at Acadia. The girls were really cute and they taught me a lot of physical mechanics,” Henry said with a smile.
Henry’s elementary school in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia promoted sports at every turn.
It was evident Jonathan Henry was falling in love with sports, a love and passion that still drives him today. Nevertheless, by the time he had reached junior high Henry would be confronted with the disappointing reality of not making the school team.
“It was when he started junior high that he wasn’t fast or good enough to make the school teams. He didn’t understand, but we had to live with the reality of those times.”
Jonathan Henry has always been driven by the competitive side of sports, a move south of the border would change his life forever.
The Sunshine State
Jonathan Henry’s inspirational journey in sport and life would flourish south of border when the family moved to Florida where Jonathan would be enrolled in the Gretchen Everhart School for Exceptional Students.
“Jonathan flourished at Gretchen and his confidence and personality and his love of sports was evident once he got involved with Special Olympics,” explained Peter Henry.
Henry would play Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, Golf, Baseball, try his hand at Track and Field, while excelling at Swimming and Speed Skating.
“He always focused on learning the proper mechanics and in time mastered the qualifications to participate in every sport at a State Level.”
Jonathan Henry just couldn’t get enough of sport and what it offered.
As time went on it became evident Henry wanted to specialize in Swimming and Speed Skating.
Henry has qualified several times for the Special Olympic Nationals in both sports and has also showcased his talents on the global stage.
Henry holds several World Records in his age group at the World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important sport has been to his health, both mentally and physically, and sheer enjoyment of life while staying in top shape. He just never seems to have a bad day and is always smiling and ready to give anyone a hug and high five,” said Peter Henry.
“My parents and sister were my biggest supporters when I was young,” admitted Henry.
“I have been fortunate to have many awesome coaches and supporters over the years who pushed me to be the best I can be.”
A New Love
Jonathan Henry’s love of sport had carried him to new heights and many accolades. However, one night at the rink grew another new passion.
“My love for hockey started when my dad took me to a Tallahassee Tiger Sharks East Coast Hockey League game in 1998,” confessed Henry.
“There was a fight in the first five minutes and I was hooked,” Henry said with his famous smile.
“It was so fast and exciting. I wanted to grow tall and become a hockey player.”
Henry has been a fixture around the rink ever since and has worked as the Assistant Equipment Manager for the Moncton Wildcats for the past three years.
“I’ve had the pleasure of living with Jonathan and his family for the past three seasons,” said former Moncton Wildcat standout Jeremy McKenna.
“Knowing Jonathan has changed my life,” confessed McKenna.
“No matter what the day or the challenges, if it’s warm or cold , if the Cats won or lost he wakes up and he’s always happy, always positive.”
“Jonathan’s “can do” attitude is contagious, he always put a smile on my face.”
“J-Bone (Jonathan’s nickname around the rink) is always welcoming and loves to talk hockey.”
The former billet brother’s even share a love of playing video games together on the little down time they had during the season.
“Jonathan beats me sometimes in NHL 20,” confessed McKenna who is now part of the Calgary Flames organization.
One would only imagine what the rigors of playing major junior hockey would be like, but McKenna and his billet brother’s lives were similarily hectic.
Hard work and dedication ruled the roost at the Henry household.
Henry has worked at Sobey’s in Dieppe for the past decade while also being a member of CrossFit Dieppe.
The highly decorated athlete workouts three to four times a week while also balancing his work schedule, while never missing a Cats game.
Dedicated and driven, that’s Jonathan Henry.
We can all learn something from observing Jonathan Henry and his interactions around the sporting world and in life.
Henry truly loves his role with the Cats and the impact that the organization has had in his life.
“I have had many Moncton Wildcat billet brothers who have been very supportive as well as Mr. Irving and the entire Wildcat Organization for giving me the opportunity to work with the equipment guys,” Henry said proudly.
Jonathan Henry’s journey in sports and life is truly remarkable.
On October 26, 2019 Jonathan Henry’s accomplishments will be honoured in a night to remember.
Henry is being inducted into the Moncton Sports Wall of Fame in a ceremony at the Capital Theatre.
The ceremony pays tribute to individuals and teams who have helped advance Moncton’s sporting community, Jonathan Henry has certainly done that and more throughout his life and career.
“Being inducted into the Moncton Sports Wall of Fame is very exciting to me and my family,” Henry said.
“It shows that hard work and dedication to be the best you can be on a daily basis can result in being recognized for your ability, not your disability.”
That’s real perspective. That’s Jonathan Henry!