Teen wants kids heard in divorces

By Ken Ross, [Springfield] Union News,  Saturday, August 18, 2001

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Clayton S. B. Giles is on a mission.

Since May 27, the 14-year-old resident of Calgary, Canada has been riding his bicycle across Canada and United States accompanied by his father.

He embarked on the 3,600-mile-long trek to raise awareness about the hardships endured by children of divorce.

"I know what some kids go through when their parents are taken away from them," Giles said Thursday outside the Hampton Inn in West Springfield, where he was staying. "I felt I had to do something to help them."

Giles' parents divorced in 1992 after being married 18 years. The next year, his parents became embroiled in a long, acrimonious custody battle. Most notably, Giles could not see his father, F. Eric B. Giles, between March 1995 and May 1998 because of a court battle mainly over Eric's failure to pay court costs owed to Giles' mother, Marnie B. Harrison.

During that time, Clayton and his sister, Lindsay, now 12, lived together with their mother. Then on Jan. 10, 2000, Giles ran away to live with his father. "I ran away to his house because I couldn't see him enough," he said.

Lindsay still lives with her mother. But Clayton has rarely seen his mother in the past 20 months, as he readily admits on his Web site: The last time he saw her was briefly before he embarked on his journey in May.

And even though Clayton states on his Web site he believes "custody should always be shared jointly by both parents," Clayton's father was granted sole custody of him on March 22. Clayton justifies this discrepancy on his Web site by stating, "It's too late for my family, but I hope to make some changes for future families."

Clayton's mother does not hold a grudge against her son, she said yesterday. She added she did not object to her son's journey. "I wish him the very best," she said.

Clayton's father is equally proud of his son. "It's wonderful," he said. "He's a pretty brave kid."

Clayton headed east from Calgary across Canada to Niagara Falls. There, he headed south to through New York State and New England. During his two-day-long stay here, he visited Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee and Six Flags New England in Agawam.

Clayton plans to continue his journey south to Washington. He and his father will then drive to Toronto, where Clayton will cycle to Ottawa, Canada's capital, and where he hopes to meet with Prime Minister Jean Chretien to discuss his cause.

But even if he does not meet with Chretien, Clayton said he hopes his journey "accomplishes a sense of awareness" about children's rights when it comes to divorce. "So kids won't be separated from their parents," he added.


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