It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

ADAPT is Like High School Youth Group, Only Better!

My mom came down to the Holiday Inn on C street last Sunday. She was supposed to come down for the fun run, but ended up coming down just for the big meeting and then leaving. She's trying very hard to understand my strong attraction to ADAPT, and I thank her for that effort. She's definitely out of her comfort zone.

My mom does youth group stuff for a living (yes, some people get paid to do that) and I was seriously involved in youth group as a teen, serving as our chapter's co-president for 2.5 years, and as our exec vp for 1/2 year before that. I realized while she was sitting there next to me how much my experiences in ADAPT mirror my experiences in USY.

I used to be a hard core USYer and thought I'd be a lifer. I even used to staff conventions. Now I'm a hard core ADAPTer and know I'll be a lifer. Of course there really are people who are lifetime USYers, stuck back in high school for all eternity, but the thing with high school youth group is that you eventually have to grow up and move on (No mom, that does NOT mean you can throw out my t-shirts). I've moved up to bigger and better things, ADAPT, but would have probably been one of those lifetime high schoolers had I not found something to replace that hole in my life, in my soul. Yes, thats right, if you know me in real life, in case you haven't noticed, ADAPT is so much in my soul that I might wither and die without it. Even if I experience "compassion fatigue" (the new buzz word for burnout, what I sat in class learning about this morning, don't I sound smart?) ADAPT will always remain close to my heart. USY used to, but not so much anymore. I'm still NOT ready to give away those t-shirts though.

The weird thing? My close friend I went to DC with had friends come to visit her for dinner last night and it turns out that they have a 17 year old who is a big time USYer. We immediately felt a kinship and hit it off even though I am 7 years her senior.

So without further ado, here is a list of the first 10 ways I thought of that ADAPT is just like high school youth group. Both...
  1. offer you the opportunity to meet people from all over the country, either at December's yearly International Convention, or at the Spring/Fall National Action, which, coincidentally both end with a dance [picture left. don't know when that was taken, but sometime between 10:15 and 11pm]. Some of my closest friends are from Chicago and Michigan.
  2. make it impossible not to make intense long lasting friendships within nanoseconds. I mean the energy... intense.
  3. produce completely AWESOME chapter / regional / [inter]national t-shirts that fill up your wardrobe to the point where they are the only things you wear.
  4. are made up of local chapters that hold many kinds of events throughout the year.
  5. are run on practically no money and require a ridiculous amount of fundraising.
  6. also offer a plethora of other awesome things to buy besides t-shirts. Like flair.
  7. never offer enough sleep.
  8. consume all your time and energy.
  9. pump you up with chants and songs.
  10. fill your heart with joy.
I want to work for a CIL and teach 15 year olds about public policy. Get them pumped up, take them to the fun run, get them more pumped up, and then send them home to keep them away from the arrests. Although hill visits would be cool too. A 15 year old shaking Tom Harkin's hand, priceless. How? I have no clue. That's going to be hard, especially since I don't know all that much about public policy.

My mom took this opportunity to say, in a snide tone, that all 15 year olds want is to fit in. This is true. So true that I went into several deep depressions during high school. I then replied in my head that this is where I fit in. This is where I don't feel like people are exasperated by my interests. This is where you can roll into a room and people will welcome you with open arms. Does anyone in high school do that? No. You have to seek out those environments for yourself / your kids.

To share 2 quick stories, I was sitting with a friend while looking for another friend, who I could not for the life of me describe. In the outside world I would state that she's in a powerchair and 3ft something. She sticks out like a sore thumb. In ADAPT, powerchair & 3ft something means nothing. Which one?

Story #2. Last year a 14 year old recent paraplegic (car accident) attended the action with her able bodied cousin. She cried hard when the dance was over. She wanted to stay there forever in the safe enveloping love of our community. I'm sure this was the first place she felt accepted post accident.

Yes, 15 year olds just want to be like everyone else. But if you're a chair user, a waddler, a 3ft tall person, are missing half a leg, blind, you cannot. You are not. Even in USY where I felt most at home during those high school years I was still somewhat of an outsider, subjected to erroneous assumptions by the staff. Except in ADAPT. In ADAPT I am truly 100% a member of the gang.


Adelaide Dupont said...

This is the best advertisement for ADAPT I have ever seen.

Some people, reading this, would ask, "Are you very sure this group isn't a cult?"

I probably would have compared it to Girl Guides or Girl Scouts, which groups I was reading about yesterday.

Great you met the 17-year-old who is a big UYSer and also the 2 stories.

Cheryl said...

HAHA! My mom for the longest time thought ADAPT was a cult, and even tried to convince me that my therapist thought so too (not). She's come a long way.

Marsha said...

Beautifully written. And to your mom and other parents I would say....the two best things we can give all our youth are "roots and wings." Roots come from family, but biological families are not always able to provide youth with disabilities with the "disability family roots." Those roots need to come from the disability community, whether from groups like ADAPT, CILs, People First, ASAN, etc. In order for young people to spread their wings and participate in the world, they need to know that when they encounter the "slings and arrows" of the world at large, as they most assuredly will, there will always be a place where they are welcomed, and safe and where they belong. And you described all that so beautifully, Cheryl. Bob and I have been part of ADAPT for 18 years, and it is definitely family, and actions and meetings are like family reunions...we catch up with one another, we celebrate weddings, new jobs and births, and we mourn deaths, and have even scattered ashes.

Spaz Girl said...

"This is where I feel like people aren't exasperated by my interests."

Oh my lord, oh my lord, oh my lord YES!!!! Every time I tell people that disability advocacy is what I want to do with my life, or that I'm making a class project relate to disability, again, people sigh in exasperation and say "Can't you do something ELSE for a change??" Well, I can't. When I read that line, I screamed YES at the top of my lungs and almost started crying. Finally, someone understands. THANK YOU!!!

I want to get involved with ADAPT so badly but it's very hard because I do not really have transportation to events and whatnot. Also, I go to school in rural PA, so I'm not near a local ADAPT group for most of the year. When I'm home in NY, I know there's a big ADAPT group in NY but again, I have no transportation and no money. I'm dying to apply for this year's ADAPT Youth Summit, but you have to pay for your own transportation and I don't have the money for that. Can you give me any advice?

Thank you for this post, so much.

lilwatchergirl said...

This post has been included in this month's Disability Blog Carnival - see Thanks for a really interesting contribution!

Cheryl said...

Sorry it's taken me so long to reply, I've had very unreliable internet the last few weeks. My advice is to APPLY, and if you haven't you still just barely have time. Applications are due tues. You have a few months to figure out the $, and can always back out, but if you don't apply you miss out. On the other hand are you even 20 yet? The age cap is 30, so maybe start saving now and go next year or the year after? You have time.

You may have noticed by looking either at this blog or the AYS blog that I went 2 years ago. It was GREAT. In case you don't know, SouthWest flies to Chicago, so I think my tixs were only about $200, which my mom offered to pay, although I managed to get a local disability rights group to pay $150. Maybe ask family members for cash for your birthday / Christmas / Chanukah? Get 4 people to give you $50 and you're there!

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