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Hello all!

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 - Meritorious SSP and Special Commendation

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 –

Roger Poulin's quote

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

Hello everyone,

With the help from my family (we are on vacation exploring Maine, by the way), we decided to work on transcribing the online video from The Bangor Daily News tonight rather than waiting.  Please be aware that it is the work of the Lepore Family, not the Bangor Daily News.  Here is the transcript below:

The Bangor Daily News online video – Transcript (3 minutes 25 seconds long)  Both voice-overs and American Sign Language are being used in the video.

Main Interviewees:  Roger “Adventurous Cane” Poulin and Roni “RamSham” Lepore

Please note if the words are within parenthesis is the words of the interpreters, not interviewees.

Roger: I had wanted to hike the AT for 3 reasons. The first is to prove to myself that I could do it. As a Deaf person and as a blind person, see if I could find that success. And the other reason, is that when I was a young child, I had so many big barriers in my life, that many people keep telling me that I couldn’t do things, and I really took that on. Because of my vision, I couldn’t do things, I wanted to really let go of that and show people that I could do. I also wanted to prove to the DeafBlind community that they could do something like this. You don’t have to just sit at home all day, you could go out and really adventure.

Roni: We started this journey in 2010 and so with my experience as a Deaf hiker who worked with hearing and Deaf hikers, and as a SSP, and with the experience of working with people who are DeafBlind which gave me a special perspective, I thought this would be a great opportunity to work with a DeafBlind hiker. And so I felt really inspired to have this opportunity with Roger.

The edge of the rock, this is what I would use to show either this is a steep edge (cliff) on the right side or the left side of where we were walking. I would warn him that the trail was going to get narrow, and that you could fall, or if there was a someplace that he would have to be careful checking for the depth over a rocky path because he would not know how steep some steps would be.  That before stepping down or (making a big leap, or a jump) I would warn him of that, or to show him that “you need to use your poles (cane) to sort of pull ahead to see or feel what is there”.  If it was raining and there was smooth rock up ahead I would warn him of that because of its slippery when wet, and this is the sign for that smooth rock.

Roger: So from Georgia to Pennsylvania, I was not using a helmet, and I ended up falling on this really sharp rock, so I actually hit the crown of my head, popped open and bleeding, everywhere. I mean, I had blood all over me, but I was not in pain (and I was in serious pain) at that point. I got four stitches, and I decided I would buy a helmet at the point and I would wear it for the rest of the adventure.

The first day in Georgia when I was thinking about what it would be like when I got to the end and when I was done with this journey I couldn’t have vision that really. I couldn’t believe that I made it.  There was so many times I wanted to quit. But, I persevered and finished.  The moment at the top was really an overwhelmingly emotional end.



(1:00) The video only gave Roger’s 2 reasons.  His third reason was SSP – Support Service Provider – is very important to the DeafBlind community.

(1:00) Name Tag: Roni Lepore – Support Service Provider


BDN Video Credit:

Video by Brian Feulner

Trail footage by registered Maine guide David Whitney

Interpreting by Sarah Littlefield and Debbie Meyers

Transcribers: Kaylee Lepore, Christine Lepore, Roni “RamSham” Lepore

Just a note that the pictures and video had been uploaded.  Here are the links:

Here is the link to our videos:

Here is the link to our photos:

Or if you want the direct link to the photo album, here are the links:

Around 100 videos are available on YouTube.  I am working on updating each videos with the information such as date of shooting, map location, video description and etc.  It takes some time to update these videos with the information.  For the followers who do not know ASL (American Sign Language) or uses captions/subtitles to access the videos (ie. for telebraille or English as second language), I am sorry that the captions/subtitles will not be available right away.  I plan to work on adding captions/subtitles to some videos after completion of AT this year – between November 2010 and March 2011.  Meanwhile, enjoy checking out these videos.

September 2020


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Appalachian Trail

Map of entire Appalachian Trail - 2,179 miles/3,507 km - through 14 states - Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine

Map of entire Appalachian Trail - 2,179 miles/3,507 km

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