Hi Everybody!

December has a lot going on! It usually snows, it gets dark earlier, it’s cold, a lot of people celebrate holidays, and people start looking forward to the new year, and make plans on how this year will be different than the last (Can you believe it’s almost 2018? Where does the time go?) Well, this year, December has something else going for it…a new issue of SUFU’S newsletter, “The Connector!” 😊

We’ve got some awesome articles for you to enjoy! We have…
  • An interview with Tucker Conley, the SUFU Board’s new Chairperson!
  • You can learn about SUFU’s exciting Land Trust Project!
  • Avery Olmsted receives an advocacy award!
  • We’ll show you how you can help with SUFU's Annual Appeal!
Have a great December and I can’t wait to see all that we can accomplish together in 2018! Be good to yourselves and each other, Avery
SUFU’s Annual Appeal is Here
and Here’s How YOU Can Help!

We do a lot of interesting and cool things here at SUFU! To make sure that we have money every year for things like our Annual Conference, Chapter Meetings, Roundups, and lots of other stuff, every year, SUFU raises funds by doing something called an Annual Appeal.

Here are More Ways that the Annual Appeal is So Important to SUFU…

  • SUFU members, just like you, are making a difference in politics: For the first time, since SUFU started in 1993, The SUFU Board wrote a transportation bill that was heard by the Maine Legislature, this past Spring! Members testified in person and many more wrote testimony!

  • SUFU members, just like you, help people in Maine understand what living with a disability is like: Tucker Conley, our Board Chairperson, wrote a great Letter to the Editor, which was published in newspapers statewide! In the letter www.sufumaine.org/sufu-to-pph) talked about his anger and frustration that abuse and neglect complaints of thousands of people with disabilities, weren’t being looked into very well, by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. What Tucker wrote really made a difference to a lot of people!

  • In SUFU, we challenge ourselves and others, every day: Whether it’s through Chapter Meetings, Roundups, the SUFU Conference, or being a member of the Chapter Rep Committee or SUFU Board, we challenge ourselves and each other to speak out, improve our lives, and have fun while doing so!

  • SUFU members, just like you, are leaders: Since 2015, SUFU’s Leadership Program has helped over 30 SUFU members with new skills and knowledge, to not only become more active in their own SUFU Chapters, but also their communities!

Recently, in the mail, you should have received a letter from SUFU asking if you would be willing and able to donate to the 2018 SUFU Annual Appeal, as well. Whether we receive a donation of 1 dollar, or $1000 dollars, it’s all important and everybody that can donate is helping make SUFU, that much better!

If you have friends or family that you think might also want to donate to SUFU this year, SUFU can also send them a letter, or they can donate online at this link, right here. and fill out the donation box.

If you would like to donate to the 2018 SUFU Annual Appeal but you didn't receive a letter or think you might have lost it, all you have to do is contact SUFU’s Executive Director,David Unger, at exdirectorsufu@sufumaine.org or (207) 956-1004 / Extension 7.

Also, if you would like to send a friend or family member a letter, please contact David. If we work together, we can make the 2018 Annual Appeal, the best one yet! 😊
Avery Olmstead Receives Advocacy Award from Disability Rights Maine
Avery and Abbott
On Friday Oct 6th, Avery Olmstead received the 2017 Helen M. Bailey Advocacy Award from Disability Rights Maine. Avery was honored for his years of fighting for disability rights. He gave a speech at The Disability Rights Maine Annual Dinner, in Freeport. At the dinner, Avery gave a speech that he really wanted to share with everybody!

What does it make you think and what does it make you feel?

Getting an award for doing something that I hate having to do in the first place, is surreal.

In 1971, I was born at a time when it was still too common for people like me to be placed in an institution (and if my parents had made a different decision, I would have been.) I now live in a time where disability rights groups like ADAPT are getting mainstream press for their impactful and successful healthcare advocacy effects and a young man who actually has Cerebral Palsy is the lead in a popular network sitcom.
In many ways, I do recognize how far we have come.  At the same time, I also get frustrated and depressed because I genuinely feel that the lives of people with disabilities aren't valued by society. This makes me angry because I don’t know what anybody else thinks but I think I’m a pretty valuable person.

When I was 9, I was Maine’s Easter Seals Poster Child. At the time, I loved it. As an adult, I have mixed feelings about it. A lot of the ads I did, basically had the message, "If you give, Avery will be able to walk." Even at 9, I thought, "I don't think so." Implicit in these messages was that who I was, wasn’t ok. Who I was, wasn’t enough. If my Cerebral Palsy would be cured, then everything would be fine. Never mind the fact that what I really wanted and needed were ramps to get into places, not to be pointed at when I went into restaurants and my cub scout leader not to continuously leave me on the sidelines watching everybody else because he had no idea what to do with me.

I'm all for finding cures for different disabilities and diseases. Am I glad that Jonah Salk invented the Polio vaccine? Of Course. The problem is, even with all the social and medical progress that has been made over these last decades, there's still a prevailing assumption by WAY too many, that if somebody has a disability, he or she is unable
to contribute meaningfully to society and are seen, whether consciously or
not, as not valuable, even at times, by ourselves. I’ve been guilty of that and need to remind myself that it’s not true.

I count. I matter. I contribute meaningfully to society. I’m valuable as myself. And I’m still fighting for my rights in 2017. The fact that I still need to fight, hurts my soul. 

I have to wonder, if people with disabilities were seen as contributing members of society, by society at large, would there be over 2,600 abuse/neglect complaints under investigated or not investigated by DHHS? Would we have to fight so hard to convince 50 Senators to keep Medicaid? Would the Americans with Disabilities Act be in jeopardy? Would I have to wait months and months for my wheelchairs to be repaired?

If people with disabilities were seen as valuable human beings, by society at large, would these problems (and others) be so pervasive? Maybe, but I doubt it.

No one's immune. Growing up, I lost count of the number of times I heard somebody say something like, “you’re so fortunate to have a physical disability, instead of a mental one.” The consequence was that I became afraid to associate with people who lived with intellectual disabilities and if someone thought I had an intellectual disability? That really scared me.

In the job I have now, working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to find their own voices, I’m blown away by the people that I meet every day. I have a feeling that the universe has a sense of humor and I’m really glad that fate brought me to Speaking Up For Us. The fact that I had a hand in assisting our Board Chairperson, get his voice out in a letter that went to newspapers all over the state? Gives me immense pride!

I’ve been living with activism burnout. Sometimes I need to binge watch tv shows and take a lot of naps to recharge and get some gas back into my tank, so I can be an effective activist and that’s ok. A good friend of mine told me, “take breaks when you need to, just don’t disappear from the fight.” I won’t. I fought just as hard as anybody else, during the healthcare debates. I need to continue challenging perceptions (including within myself) about what it means to live well with a disability. Sometimes I have no idea how to do that and need to reach out to others for some perspective. If we don’t challenge perceptions, our lives are going to continue to be devalued and as I said earlier, I’m a pretty valuable person.

Disability Rights Maine, I’m humbled and honored to receive the Helen M. Bailey Advocacy Award, thank you very much!

There were other SUFU members at the event, take a look 😊
SUFU Members: Enjoy the Outdoors by Volunteering at a Land Trust
Hi Everybody,
SUFU has a great opportunity for SUFU members to get involved with the land trust community. You might be wondering, “what is a land trust?” I wouldn’t blame you because I didn’t know the answer until a couple of months ago.

A land trust is an organization that helps conserve and protect land. This land can be a farm, or specific pieces of land where people like you and me can go and just enjoy nature or ride a bike. In most cases land protected by a land trust can’t have any businesses or homes built on it. There are land trusts in every state. Maine is special though because we have over 100 land trusts!

A few months ago, our Executive Director, David Unger and SUFU Chapter Advisor (including the Sports Chapter), Laurie Bernier, created a partnership with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. (www.mcht.org) They then met with a bunch of land trusts, to talk about how SUFU members would be great volunteers! Land trusts need volunteers to help do many things, including making sure trails are clean and safe to use.

People were very excited about what Laurie and David had to say! As a result, some of the land trusts are partnering with SUFU to provide volunteer opportunities!

At the Conference, remember the man who we made an Honorary SUFU member at the Annual Meeting, by presenting him with a SUFU t-shirt? That was Whit Whitney from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust! 😊 He’s so excited to be working with us and we are excited to work with him!

SUFU members have already started volunteering at land trusts! For example, some members from the Belfast Chapter, worked with the Blue Hill Heritage Trust to pick blueberries and donate them to the Tree of Life Food Pantry . Everybody had a great time, enjoying nature, and giving back to the community!
I went to another land trust, the Langlois Sculpture Preserve, which is in Cushing (by Rockland). The preserve is brand new and has all kinds of art all over the place! They also created a trail that people who have wheelchairs can use! I went there to try it out and had a really good time!

Chris Dupont, who is a member of the Belfast Chapter has been doing some really great work at the Blue Hill Heritage Trust! He’s in charge of keeping tract of a bunch of plants that are at the Trust and keeping track of how healthy they are, how they’re growing and stuff like that. He keeps track of all the stuff in a database that he keeps on his phone! Chris has been a huge help to the Blue Hill land trust. He said that he really enjoys being able to give back to the community and he’s very excited to continue volunteering at the land trust because in the summer, he will be doing more work on the trails! Chris said that he thought other SUFU members should give volunteering at a land trust a try because it’s a great way to be outdoors and do some good at the same time! Here’s a picture of Chris at work…

If enjoying the outdoors and volunteering for a land trust sounds like something you would like to do, contact Laurie at (207) 623-3210 OR advisorl@sufumaine.org
5 Questions With...
SUFU’s New Board Chairperson – Tucker Conley

1. What has SUFU meant to you in your life?
The best part of SUFU for me has been being able to help other people with disabilities learn leadership skills!

2. How are you feeling about being SUFU's next Board Chairperson?
I'm feeling both nervous and excited. One of my favorite movie quotes from Spiderman is "With great power, comes great responsibility. " As SUFU next Board Chairperson, I think that's an important message, for me to remember.

3. What are you most excited about as SUFU's new Chairperson?
I'm most excited to meet new people and hear new stories!

4. What would you like to accomplish together, as SUFU's Board?
I hope that as a Board, we keep accomplishing, bringing new leaders and information to the Board, as well as making sure that SUFU is more financially stable. I alsowant all of us to have good communication with each other, as well as with SUFU staff.

5. How would you like to see SUFU grow in the future?
I want to see more people joining SUFU, especially in the areas of Chapter growth.
Have an Idea for Something to be in The Connector?
Contact: Avery Olmstead SUFU Communications & Development Manager (207) 956-1004 / Ext. 4
Facebook: Avery Olmstead SUFU Maine
Speaking Up For Us of Maine