Members of Speaking Up For Us (SUFU), a statewide self-advocacy network, planted a tree recently at the University of Maine at Presque Isle to celebrate the network’s 20th anniversary. The tree planting took place on July 9 outside of Gentile Hall. Similar tree planting ceremonies in honor of the network are being held throughout the state this year.
SUFU members selected Gentile Hall as the location for their tree planting as many of them are frequent visitors to the wellness center and having the tree nearby would give them ample opportunity to watch their tree grow. More than 35 people attended the ceremony. Members of the local SUFU chapter took turns digging the hole for their evergreen tree, offering a dedication, and giving it the first watering.
“Today our local chapter gathers in our own community to plant this tree,” said Debbie Wiggins, SUFU member, during the event. “By planting this tree we are stating that self-advocacy will be here to continue growing throughout Maine. A plaque will inform members of our community about the importance of this self-advocacy tree.”
Speaking Up For Us was started in 1993 in Maine and for the past 20 years has been an important part of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. The network has given members a voice in decisions made about people who live with disabilities. SUFU educates others about their rights, leadership, relationships, alternatives to guardianship, how to organize, vote, get jobs, and other important issues. It also works to educate the community about putting the person, not the disability, first.
“The University is very pleased to serve as the site for this special tree,” said Dick Gardiner, Director of Gentile Hall, who represented UMPI at the event. “We hope that all campus and community members will take the opportunity to reflect on the important work SUFU does in this community when they pass by the tree.”
For more information about SUFU, contact Krista Kennedy at 768-8312.