For the Forts family, who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their fourth child, March 10th, 1967 dawned as a bright, sunny spring-like day full of anticipation and the start of another exciting adventure with the birth of a new baby.
The next day, our rapidly expanding balloon of tremendous joy and great plans for the future were unceremoniously pierced and deflated by our doctor. He told us that Ann appeared to be a Down Syndrome diagnosed baby. Further, he strongly advised that we immediately place her in an institution before we became too attached to her by taking her home to join the family.
That course of action was completely unacceptable to us because, as a family, we already had developed a strong bond with Ann during the previous nine months of pregnancy. In the doctor’s opinion, Ann’s presence in our home would have been a major hindrance in our ability to properly raise our other children; she would never amount to very much in society; and finally, she would never really enjoy her life or ever have many friends!! Well, we all realize how very wrong he was. Can you imagine how different Ann’s life would have been if we took that doctor’s uninformed advice??
There was no question, that as a family we had to make many adjustments to our preconceived thoughts and plans as to how we could best prepare Ann for a realistic and meaningful role as a contributing and respected member of society. We knew that all of our efforts to help and guide Ann required a consistent and solid foundation of optimism, patience and love.
As a typical baby, Ann was cute, lovable, and in the eyes of some people, different. Now, let us all look at everyone around us. Aren’t we all also different?
Ann has always been encouraged to be friendly, courteous, independent, out-going, and to always try new experiences so that inclusion in school, church and community generally would be a satisfying and realistic goal.
Today Annie Forts is our Lakes Region “Goodwill Ambassador” and a charming, attractive, outgoing, young woman, nationally recognized motivational speaker who annually travels over 20,000 miles speaking at meetings & conferences all over the United States.
The primary focus of Ann’s speeches is to help people understand there definitely is an “UP” side to life with Down Syndrome. She speaks from first hand knowledge because she too has Down Syndrome, which she prefers to call “UP” Syndrome. She created the concept of “UP” Syndrome to redefine, in a positive way, the image of mental disABILITIES to focus on the ABILITY portion of the word, disability.
Ann has served 7 years as a member of the President’s Advisory Committee in Washington DC called The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation. She has been a guest on “The Today Show” and “The Geraldo Rivera Show.” Ann has received numerous regional & national awards for sharing her “UP” Syndrome philosophy with her peers, their families, students, teachers, doctors and social workers. She received the 1st International Self Empowerment Award by the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation at the United Nations in NYC.
Ann has been a major contributor to the Fund by donating many of her speaking fees and her recent donation of $10,000 which she received as part of her Paul G. Hearne / American Association of People with Disabilities 2002 Leadership Award.
In 1997, as part of a community-wide celebration to honor member Annie Forts, the Moultonboro Lions Club decided to help Ann realize her dream to start a new fund to assist and encourage young people with Down Syndrome. The fund was incorporated in NH as The Annie Forts “UP” Syndrome Fund, Inc. and approved by IRS as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit charitable fund. $50,000 was raised at the celebration.
Over $300,000 has been received in donations to date towards Ann’s ultimate goal of $1,000,000. Only interest earned is used to provide enrichment opportunities to persons with Down Syndrome and to help support individuals interested in pursuing a career in Special Education. Since the fund was started in 1997, the awards committee for Annie’s Fund has issued financial awards totaling $115,000.
February 27, 2002 – Washington, DC
Annie was awarded the Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities. Annie was one of seven recipients chosen from more than 400 nominees.
“I hope to have as many friends as all the stars in the sky.
I think that I am getting very close to my wish.”
“Don’t ever prejudge the limits of our abilities. We definitely will surprise you
and sometimes we even surprise ourselves!”
“Accept us for who we are — without any reservations. With your
help and encouragement, we can become responsible and contributing
members of our communities.”
“The doctor who discovered Down Syndrome many years ago was Dr. John Langdon Down.
I really wish that his name was Dr. Up so that today, Down Syndrome could be called
“UP” Syndrome instead. Then maybe people would begin with a better attitude towards
us as they start to understand what we are all about and what we are really capable of doing.
“Help us when we need help, but only enough help so we can
finish what we were doing on our own.”
“You must make things happen — don’t wait around for someone else to make
things happen for you. While you are waiting, you will be missing out on some
great things that you could have made happen for yourself.”
“Please don’t ignore us, or look the other way when we approach you.
Doing that to us will not make us or our disability go away.
We didn’t have a choice about our disability, but you definitely have
a choice in how you accept us!”
“I LOVE MY LIFE!”
“Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to get involved. While you are waiting for someone else to get involved, you probably will miss out on a lot of great and wonderful experiences that might not come your way again!!!” – Annie Forts