'He's in clock heaven': P.E.I. boy with love of clocks visits avid collector

Eight-year-old Dane Simpson from Cornwall, P.E.I, has been fascinated with clocks for years. 

But recently Dane, who has autism, hit the jackpot — clock collector Alberto Cardona from Stratford, P.E.I., invited Dane to see his vast collection of clocks.

"There's so many," said Dane. "One clock even said, 'Cuckoo.'"

Like a bee foraging in a field of flowers, Dane flitted from one antique clock to another.

"He doesn't know where to look," said Dane's mother, Coralee Simpson. "He's just overwhelmed."

'All it takes to make him happy'

Dane's passion for clocks goes back to when he was just four.

Pat Martel/CBC

"It started in preschool when they had to dress up as their favourite book character and he wanted to be a mouse clock," Coralee said. "And his love for clocks just continues on." 

Dane speaks softly, but he's not shy about revealing his most-liked nursery rhyme.

"Hickory Dickory Dock is my favourite," he shares. 

Singing and talking about clocks is routine for the Simpsons.

"It's always interesting to play clock games and sing clock songs every day," said his dad, Evan Simpson. "If that's all it takes to make him happy, that's not much to ask for."

'Clocks are big. And loud'

Other people who know Dane's love of clocks have added to his small collection.

Pat Martel/CBC

"His Aunt Susie made him a T-shirt and if you could have only seen his face when he opened it," his mother said.

His swimming instructor, who went to London last spring, brought him a replica of Big Ben. Dane hopes to visit London one day to see the real thing. And his educational assistant gave him a clock last Christmas. 

Dane's explanation for his love of clocks is simple. 

"Clocks are big. And loud," he said. 

Coralee Simpson

Many kids these days have digital watches or clocks, but Dane prefers the old-fashioned timepieces.

"They have hands and faces on them."

Dane's passion for clocks has actually served him well, according to his mom.

"With Dane having autism, it's kind of soothing to him. It's what he loves," Coralee said.

'We have to make this happen'

"Other children like to play with video games or Lego," she said. "Well, clocks is his love.... it's just Dane's thing."

Pat Martel/CBC

A few weeks ago, Dane's parents were listening to CBC Radio when they heard a story about Alberto Cardona. 

"And I said, 'we have to make this happen," Coralee said. "Dane will just lose his mind."

His parents waited to tell Dane about the adventure until the night before the visit.

"We just thought telling him at the last minute would have been a little better, so going to bed last night he was quite excited."

'The love of clocks'

Dane was anxious but excited to see the clock collection. As the family arrived at Cardona's home, Dane hopped out of the car, ran up the sidewalk and rang the doorbell. He quickly shook hands with Cardona and then was off on a mission to see every clock.

Pat Martel/CBC

When the cuckoo clock chimed, Dane got so excited he ran around waving his arms. 

"He has the love of clocks like you," Coralee told Cardona. "So we had to come and visit you."

Dane politely asked if he could get a closer look at one of the clocks.

"Excuse me, can I open one?" he said.

Cardona obliged, and then presented Dane with the gift of a small clock.

"I give it to you for this special visit here," he said.

Dane then offered him a thank-you card with a hand-drawn picture of a grandfather clock. 

'I'm holding back tears'

"This is the more beautiful and nice card I get in my life," Cardona said.

Pat Martel/CBC

"I'm holding back tears because you can just tell ... he's in clock heaven," Coralee said. "I don't know how we're going to get out of here." 

"That little boy has the same passion, the same love for the clocks. For me it's a very, very special moment. I never forget in my life."

It's unlikely Dane will forget anytime soon either. 

"They're great. So many different things," Dane said. "Yes, we will come back."

Pat Martel/CBC

More P.E.I. news