Chapter To Host Meet & Greet, Public Invited
By Stephanie Sfiridis, National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, Intern
ROCKY HILL, Conn. – Lemon wears diapers, lives in a house, walks with the help of a scooter and shares many symptoms typical of a person with multiple sclerosis. The only difference is, Lemon is a duck.
Lemon and her owner, Laura Backman, author of children’s book “Lemon the Duck,” will visit Connecticut to share their story of triumph in the face of adversity. Backman has been named a keynote speaker for this year’s National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, annual meeting and awards ceremony.
Backman wrote “Lemon the Duck” to honor her father who passed away from complications associated with multiple sclerosis. The book, based on the true story of Backman’s experience raising Lemon, was written to provide a means for children to learn about disability as well as their own ability to make a difference in someone’s life.
“I wanted to make people aware of the challenges facing people and animals with disability,” said Backman, the mother of two grown daughters. “The MS cause is dear to my heart because I saw its disabling effects firsthand.”
Lemon, one of four Pekin ducklings hatched in 2006 in Backman’s Portsmouth, R.I., kindergarten classroom, has a neurological disorder affecting her coordination and balance. Backman recognized these effects to be similar to the symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis. She quickly adopted Lemon, outfitting her with a ducky diaper and equipping her with a scooter made of PVC pipes and four coaster wheels, allowing Lemon to balance better and walk.
“Because of my father’s struggle with MS, I had a better understanding of how to care for Lemon,” explained Backman, “I knew Lemon’s life was still valuable and that she deserved the best quality of life possible.”
Lemon, who has no pain despite her symptoms, lives with Backman and has become a fixture in her classroom, showing the children that being different is okay. Backman takes Lemon to the grocery store, mall and outdoor concerts. Lemon has even accompanied her on a canoe trip. By giving Lemon a great life, Backman stated, she feels she is honoring Lemon’s life, just as she and her family had done for her father.
“My father had a zest for life despite the effects of his illness,” said Backman. “I wanted to give Lemon a future and show that everyone can live life to the fullest even in the face of disability.”
Backman, who has family in Shelton, Conn., has made numerous bookstore appearances throughout New England. She has been featured on broadcast networks such as MSNBC and National Public Radio. Lemon has also been featured in print publications, such as TIME for Kids, South Coast Today, The Warwick Beacon and The Sakonnet Times. “Lemon the Duck” was awarded the 2009 Westchester Fiction Award and 2009 National Parenting Publications Award. In 2010, Lemon was awarded a Special Education Advisory Award in Backman’s school district. She and Lemon have also gone through Professional Pet Assisted Therapy Training and have visited with many children with disabilities. Backman donates all proceeds from her book to the National MS Society and the Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary located in Lebanon, Conn.
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, 450,000 nationwide, battle the potentially debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. There currently is no cure. Symptoms can include among other things, numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
The 2011 Connecticut Chapter Awards Ceremony and Annual Meeting will be held Sunday, March 11, at the Hartford Marriott in Rocky Hill and coincides with the kickoff of MS Awareness Week. Mike Stacy, cohost of The Morning Show with Allan, Mike and Alison on WRCH’s Lite 100.5, will serve as the event’s emcee. The event brings chapter members, families, volunteers and staff together to celebrate achievements over the past year.
This year’s event is open to the public starting at 10:15 a.m. Families with children are encouraged to attend. Lemon and author, Laura Backman, will host a special reading for children, book signing and publicity photographs after the keynote address. Proceeds benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter. For more information on Lemon, visit her website at www.lemontheduck.com.
There is no fee to attend the awards ceremony and meeting, however, registration is required. For more information about the 2011 Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony, please contact the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter at 860-913-2550.
For more information on MS Awareness Week and the variety of programs offered by the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, visit www.ctfightsMS.org.