It’s not easy keeping Glasgow schtum, but young East End local hero John White can testify to doing just that.

Founder of the John White Little Star Foundation, 16-year-old John and his band of star ambassadors inspired the city’s Buchanan Street stores to turn off their music in support of Autism Awareness Month.

John explains: “We leafleted every shop on the street and handed thousands out to passersby ahead of the day. With a call out from Clyde 1 DJs George Bowie and Cassie to get behind the 15 minute silence, every shop apart from one turned off their music… that was the Hard Rock Cafe.”

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As John and the team kicked off their awareness rally from the Royal Concert Hall steps at 1.45pm on a busy Saturday afternoon, silence befell the normally bustling thoroughfare.

“When we were walking down Buchanan Street it was just silent and all you could hear was people talking quietly, but not big sounds from the stores,” recalls John. “When we walked back to our stall people were clapping… even the buskers went quiet too.”

John admits he never thought he’d pull off the silence rally… but then, he’s been pulling off fantastic achievements in his East East community for the past three years.

Starting off by fundraising at his primary school’s annual Children in Need appeal, by the time John had moved into St Andrew’s RC Secondary he was selling pin badges and raising awareness in support of St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie.

East Kilbride Connect: John White campaigns to support kids in Glasgow's east endJohn White campaigns to support kids in Glasgow's east end

The buzz of helping others had well and truly bloomed, but John was determined to help kids closer to home, as he recalls: “I wanted to do something more local in the East End. I was 13 and did not have a clue. I was in my grans one night and I just set up a Facebook page.”

From that day in July 2016, the John White Little Star Foundation was born, as John adds: “I knew what I wanted to do… there was nothing by the way of relief for children with disabilities in the East End at that point. There was a club they could go to but no charity or support.”

Social media played its role in building attention for John’s ambitions in reaching the people he wanted to help, and within a year, the foundation became a registered charity with the ethos of ‘supporting children in Glasgow’s East End who are living with a disability or life threatening illness.’

More than just buzzwords, ‘equality, participation of all, respect and ambition,’ are at the heart of the foundation that John has built.

Karen Steven, whose son Caleb was one of the first children supported by the Little Star Foundation says: “Caleb has ADHD and autism, along with sensory and audio processing disorder.

“John has gone above and beyond and nothing is ever too much. He has put his heart and soul into making a difference in the lives of children in the East End. Caleb now feels part of something when he helps out at events and John can’t do enough to get him involved.”

In recognition of all the hard work put into fundraising and awareness through street stalls, dance-a-thons and charity balls, John was shortlisted by Young Scot as a Year of Young People Champion 2018.

East Kilbride Connect: John outside Eastbank primary. John outside Eastbank primary.

And with the knack of gathering celebrity endorsements and support from local and national politicians — including Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — John and his star ambassadors pulled together for a second year an award ceremony in the Foundation’s name which celebrates the great work of others in the East End.

Sharing that support, Shettleston Councillor Thomas Kerr says: “The work the Little Star Foundation has done in the East End is unbelievable in raising funds to help some of the most vulnerable children in our communities. Thanks to John, a huge difference has been made to many lives in our community.”

Looking to the future, 5th former John smiles: “Everything happens from my bedroom, which is a bit of a nightmare. When my pals come over I’m like ‘don’t touch that.’ So at the moment our ideal premises would be a shopfront in the East End, somewhere that’s easily accessible and visible. I’d love it to be in the Shettleston area… somewhere we can have a wee inclusive club every week.

“Ideally further down the line, I’d like to reach out to the wider city, especially the Govanhill area, to get a club started there,” adds John. As a career, I’d like to get into politics or the police. My plan is that in 2022 I’d that a back seat from the foundation and try and get someone else to take over.”

To connect with or support John’s work, find out more at John White Little Star Foundation’s Facebook page.

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