My mother and I traveled to Maine last week for a few days. We enjoyed our time there especially early Fall season and received wonderful hospitality among friends and people of Maine. The reason we went to the Pine Tree State is that I am chosen to receive an award as well as Roger by the Maine Commission for the Deaf, hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened. Roger was not able to make it to Annual Tea Awards held at Maine State House in Augusta, Maine because he currently works and lives in Seattle and has an upcoming trip to Europe which starts this week for six weeks.
On the behalf of the Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened (CDHHLD), I am recipient of an award, “Meritorious Support Services Provider Award” – This award is given to a trained support service provider. This year’s award is in recognition of exceptional support of Roger Poulin in his quest to complete the Appalachian Trail (AT). Roger received an award, “Special Commendation Award” – This award is given to an individual or agency whose activities in and with the Deaf community deserves recognition.
We want to say our heartfelt thanks to the Maine Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, DeafBlind, Interpreter, and Hearing community and CDHHLD for their generous and amazing support for Roger’s quest with AT and my work. People said that I am now “Honorary Mainer” since I am now embraced by the people of Maine. :)
Annual Tea Awards
Image description: Two plaque awards are displayed with a picture of the State of Maine Seal on top part of award.
On left, Roni’s award – “Presented to Roni Lepore – Meritorious Support Service Provider – In Recognition of Exceptional Support of Roger Poulin in His Quest to Complete the Appalachian Trail – September 18, 2014 – The Deaf Community of Maine”.
On right, Roger’s award – “Presented to Roger Poulin – Special Commendation Award – September 18, 2014 – The Deaf Community of Maine”.
Here is a copy of my acceptance speech upon receiving my award – “Meritorious Support Service Provider” (be mindful that my speech at Annual Tea was not exactly same – upon giving my speech, I was flooded with generosity and gratitude from the audience that my speech altered in some ways for some wonderful reasons!) –
Hello, my name is Roni Lepore and my name sign is . I hail from New Jersey and my mother is here in the audience. I travel to Maine from time to time, not only for hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but also to work, teach, and enjoy the beautiful scenes here in the Pine Tree State. Each time I come here, I am always welcomed by the warm and friendly people of this state. That’s why I keep coming back as much as I can!
When I first found out that I am nominated to receive this award, I was not sure if it was a mistake since it goes to Mainers as I do not live here. Once I learned that it was an exception due to my role as a SSP to Roger Poulin, AT DeafBlind hiker, it is truly an honor to be recognized for my commitment and work. My journey of becoming SSP is probably unique as I received various training, not only here in USA, but around the globe – Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa. I have worked with amazing and diversified DeafBlind clients from many walks of life – age, gender, race, ethnics, experience, and forth on. Each one of their requests to work with me was never the same. I relish and thrive on some challenges that come with SSP work. Yes, some days, there are difficult or bad moments. It requires one’s courage, faith, and belief to get through and move on. The communication and teamwork between SSPs and DeafBlind clients demand that each person understands the needs of each other’s as it becomes a critical two-way journey of enjoyment and respect.
So, being SSP for Roger Poulin was a completely “different zoo” for me. Roger got to witness my good and ugly sides and still worked together! I vividly recalled that when we first hiked for 3 months in our first year of hiking on the Appalachian Trail in 2010, it was a rough and bumpy road between us. It was 24/7 experience for both of us and we were trying to figure out how to work together and balance our control and power over each other. I wore many hats – hiker, first-aid provider, counselor, water girl, and so forth on, and best of all, a friend. It was probably an unorthodox practice of professional SSP as I may have broken most of rules, but it was Appalachian Trail – that’s where one discovers “true self” after going through phrases of man vs. wild, man vs. man, and man vs. self. That’s the true beauty of realizing one’s potentials through this kind of experience. Once Roger and I conquered Mt. Katahdin with David Whitney and his son, Ateon, we didn’t do it by ourselves. It was our friends, family, community – both hikers, Deaf, and DeafBlind – and even strangers backing us up. The most important of all about being a good SSP is to take a good care of yourself – mentally, physically, and emotionally – and ability to prepare and anticipate as much as one can.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank to the Maine Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, and DeafBlind community for recognizing my tireless work and my friends and especially my family for supporting my work. Lastly, Roger is a special person who taught a great deal about how to collaborate with a DeafBlind client even through difficult periods. Patience and respect are valuable legacies that come through Roger and me. Thank you, Roger, for allowing me to be me and being part of your dream to hike on the AT.
Here is Roger Poulin’s acceptance speech for his award, “Special Commendation Award” shown at Annual Tea – in ASL only. English Subtitles and/or text shall be available at later date. Roger gave me his blessings to publish his video here.
Roger’s quote from his interview with The Bangor Daily News was displayed at the Annual Tea –
Image description: “My goal is to show that dreams can become a reality for anyone, regardless of their personal challenges and struggles. I also want to expose the world to understand why SSP (Support Service Person) is extremely important to DeafBlind community.” — Roger “Ad-Cane” Poulin
Here is the list of who’s who on CDHHLD who nominated me and Roger to receive the awards – special thanks go out to them!
Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened Members
Last Updated; August 29, 2014
|Patty Sarchi, Deaf Consumer
|Sitara Sheikh, Vice-Chair, Deaf Consumer
||Christy Callahan, Deaf Consumer
|Karen Keim, Hard-of-Hearing Consumer
||Conrad Strack, Chair, Deaf Consumer
|Kate Strack, Deaf Consumer
||Vacant, Deaf Consumer
|Mary Hamlin, Hard-of-Hearing Consumer
||Vacant, Deaf Consumer
|Vacant, Family Member of Deaf/HoH/Late-Deaf Individual w/Intellectual Disability or Mental Illness
||Vacant, Parent of Deaf or HoH Student
|Vacant, Parent of Deaf or HoH Student
||Cathy Glover, Educator of the Deaf
|David Sherry, Superintendent or his/her Designee of the Maine Educational Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Governor Baxter School for the Deaf
||Nicole Duncan, Audiologist
|Susan Nay, Dept. of Education Representative
||Vacant, Local Educational Administrator
|Theresa Jack, Rep. State/Fed
||Meryl Troop, Civil Rights Director
|Emily Cain, Legislator
||Elyzabeth Smith, RID Interpreter
|Vacant, Legal Rep.
||Vacant, Member-at-Large, Medical or Health Care Professional
|Stephan Bunker, Member-at-Large
||Vacant, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Student
|Marty Golden, Member-at-Large
||Romy Spitz, Late-Deafened Consumer