On Monday, May 11, 2015, PDG Ann Lee Hussey testified before the Maine State Legislature Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services in favor of vaccination for children in Maine.  Her testimony referenced her own experience with polio and her ongoing work with Rotary International's End Polio Now campaign. Her message is especially timely and relevant in light of current issues regarding child vaccination facing the state. (Please see read more for Ann Lee's complete testimony.)
"We’ve Never Done It This Way Before!”
At this year’s annual District Conference, there were a lot of “firsts” and an attempt to step away from the notion, “we have never done it this way before!”  Far too often, we get caught up in minutiae simply for the sake of dotting the “i"s or crossing the “t”s, when we ought to be focusing on ROI – Return on Investment.  What are those attending the conference going to gain from this activity, or from hearing this speaker, or that one?  This was the focus of the 2015 District Conference held at The Wentworth By The Sea, and by most reports, those in attendance had never experienced anything quite like it. In other words, this was NOT your grandfather’s typical District Conference!
"You did a great job.  It was my 32nd District Conference I  have attended in 37 years, and it was one of the best!" - Mort Schmidt, PDG
 Young Suk "Y.S." Yoon, our RI President’s Rep 
Left to Right: RI Rep's Aide Marge Barker, Conference Chair Elias Thomas, Seung Ja Yoon, and RIP's Rep Young Suk "Y.S." Yoon
We were indeed fortunate to have Y.S. as our official Rotary International President’s Representative. Accompanied by his wife Seung Ja, he conveyed President Gary’s message to our Conference in a clear and coherent manner. Y.S. and Seung Ja also brought warmth, charm, and unfailing good humor from their home in Seoul, Korea. Check out the pictures of them riding on the stationary bikes to raise money for Polio Plus (Seung Ja rode 5 miles!) You only had to look at their faces to tell how much they were enjoying themselves from the singing of their National Anthem (Y.S. said it was the first time anyone had done that during all of their Rotary travels), to their delight in Bob Fellows magic on Friday night. Their aide, Marge Barker, did a superb job taking care of them.
When the Conference concluded, they stayed an extra day as Y. S. was enthusiastic about seeing the coast of Maine. We took them on a ride to check out Fort McClary, the Nubble Light, and the Marginal Way. After a fried clam lunch, Y.S. enjoyed New England clam chowder and oysters before finally getting to eat "Maine lobster in Maine." I know everyone who got to meet them at the Conference thoroughly enjoyed their company.
Millennials . . . The New Face of Rotary
One of the themes of the Conference was Millennials and their significance in society and to Rotary. Tami Bonnell, the CEO of Exit Realty Corporation International, gave a thoughtful and thought-provoking talk on Millennial’s characteristics and how we can connect with and relate to them. Her central point was that they are very different from prior generations and we need to tailor our message in a way that they can hear us. She asked a series of questions designed to highlight those differences - When was that last time you tagged someone in a photo on Facebook? How often do you text someone rather than phone or use email? How often do we focus on the job that needs to be done as opposed to the way someone does it? Many of her observations and comments were surprising and eye-opening.
This was followed up later with a panel of Rotarian Millennials moderated by Sam Heck of the Portland Sunrise Rotary Club. He was joined by Ember Earl of the Scarborough RC, Israel Collins of the Saco Bay RC, and Michele Watley skyped in (so Millennial!) from the Kansas City, Missouri Rotaract Club. (Sam had met Michele when he attended the Rotary Young Professionals Summit in Evanston last summer.) The panel discussed what Millennials are looking for in a service organization and some of the barriers our clubs, perhaps unintentionally, put in their way. This includes issues of meeting time, the cost of membership, and that dreaded, "but we’ve always done it that way" or "we tried that once and it didn’t work." I think it is fair to say that many of us came away from these sessions with a new perspective on this large and important generation and with things to think about as we try to increase and retain our membership.
Left to Right:  Sam Heck, via Skype Michele Watley, Israel Collins and Ember Earl.
Taylor Chace, Paralympic Gold Medalist
Taylor Chace was an active young man growing up in New Hampshire with a strong love of athletics, particularly ice hockey, when at the age of 16, everything in his life changed. While playing in a hockey match in Canada, he was checked into the boards and injured his spine so severely that when he awoke, he was paralyzed from the waist down. In a compelling and moving talk he took us through what this was like for him - how he had to move beyond a self-centered anger and depression to the realization that if his life was going to have meaning he would have to look beyond sport and connect with people. He took up sled hockey and became part of a Paralympic Gold Medal winning team. He showed a brief film of the Sled Hockey Team and, without exception, all of the Rotarians and guests in the room held their collective breath as they watched these brave and strong athletes dig their way around the ice with picks while wedged into a "butt-squeezing" sled. Many of us have difficulty enough standing on skates, to say nothing of being wedged into a sled with runner blades, staying balanced and remaining upright. Taylor is also working with an organization that promotes recreational opportunities for adult athletes with disabilities. Following his presentation, Conference Chair Elias Thomas presented the surprised and very pleased young man with a Paul Harris Award.
"Great Conference. Good job!" - Deb Marsolais, Hampton Rotary Club
Keith Harris, a Cyclist's Journey
Seven years ago, Rotarian Keith Harris suffered a significant health issue that caused him to look at his life in new ways. He decided to replicate something he had done earlier as a young man and ride across the country on a bicycle. He wasn’t sure he could do it, but he strongly believes that dreaming pulls you out of your comfort zone and lets you see things differently. Because of his commitment to Rotary, he decided to use the ride to raise money for the Rotary Foundation. He set out to raise $25,000 and ended up raising $37,000. Keith shared incredible pictures of his journey and recounted stories of what he learned and the people he met, including a young girl and her father he encountered on a Crow Indian reservation. As his trip evolved, he found that his story was growing as the people he met along the way became part of it. What he ultimately discovered is that, "it is about the journey, not the destination."
Bob Fellows - Rotarian, Magician and So Much More!
Bob Fellows is a member of the Exeter Rotary Club, but he is also a magician, illusionist, mentalist, and escape artist. Bob has performed in 50 states, in dozens of foreign countries, and on national television. He brought both his magic and his love for Rotary to our Conference. He performed a series of fantastic illusions involving solid metal rings that magically slipped back and forth over his securely taped together hands, correctly read minds regarding a birthday and a playing card, did a great trick with a candle ("Light Up Rotary!"), and finally escaped from a straight jacket. Just as important as the illusions he performed, he spoke at length about his commitment to Rotary, to helping others, to thinking big, and pursuing one’s dreams. It was a memorable performance. Everyone who was there was not only entertained but also challenged to rethink what Rotary means to all of us.
Above Right:  The First Lady, Barbara Sutcliffe, got in on the act!
Ramesh Ferris, Polio Survivor
Saturday morning, following breakfast, with everyone back in the Wentworth Ballroom, after a brief introduction, the room went totally dark. The darkness was pierced by a spot light, which was directed toward the back corner of the ballroom.  The door opened and ever so quietly, a young man entered.  This was not just any young man, but a rather exceptional young man – Ramesh Ferris.  He entered the room, hitching his way across the back of the ballroom, then down the side and across the front to the stage – all with almost no sound, other than his own breathing.  Once at the stage, be climbed up the stairs and hitched his way to the center and then proceeded to strap on his heavy iron braces and stood.  During his entrance, you could virtually hear a pin drop!  Ramesh was born in India and contracted polio at the age of three, causing paralysis from the waist down.  His mother gave him up for adoption, in the hope that he might receive the necessary medical treatment in order to be rehabilitated to become a productive member of society.  At the time he was a small child, most of the children in India who contracted polio were tossed to the streets to fend for themselves, and either survived to become “creepers” or withered and died.  Ramesh’s story of education and growth was both gripping and inspiring to all.  We are truly grateful to have Ramesh share his story with us.
"Wow. Just wow." - Joshua Holt, Kittery After Hours Rotary Club
Another District Conference “first” was the panel of religious leaders who joined us to discuss their differences and explore Rotary International's role in working toward the goal of greater understanding and world peace.  Although it might sound like the lead-in for a joke:  “A priest, a rabbi, an imam and a Hindu walk into a Rotary District Conference…” it was hardly a joke.  Each member of the panel spoke with conviction but also exhibited respect and did not hesitate to share their differences.  Although only provided one hour for this panel discussion, nearly ninety minutes passed before anyone realized it was time for a break.  A few Rotarians questioned, “Are you crazy – trying to bring such a group together? This has never been done before!”  Many indicated that they wished the discussion had gone on for another hour.  Perhaps individual clubs will have the courage to further explore the idea that Rotary does, in fact, play an important role toward the goal of world peace and sponsor similar discussion groups in the communities they serve.  The presentation was thought-provoking without being provocative and left those in the audience wanting more.
Moderator Bonnie Gould of the Fryeburg RC and the panel from left to right, Krishna Bhatta, M.D., Mohamed Ibrahim, Phd., Rev. Anne Williamson, and Rabbi Willliam Leffler.
"You and your district were very brave to convene such a panel, and I commend you for that courage.  I feel honored to have been a part of it." - Conflict Resolution Panelist
"Great Conference with great Rotarians." and "So honored to be the moderator of such an amazing panel." (Religious Leaders on Conflict Resolution) - Bonnie Gould, Fryeburg Area Rotary Club
Bulgarian Cultural Exchange Team
On April 15th the six member Cultural Exchange Team returned from a two week tour of Bulgaria, and then gathered again at the District Conference to make a presentation on the experience.
During thirteen days the team visited Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Bansko, Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo, Russe, Varna and Belchik, before returning to Sofia. They made
presentations to ten clubs and met for meals with others. The local clubs arranged quite a bit of sight seeing and there certainly are a vast number of fascinating historical sites to see; as well as beautiful bucolic country side between the cities.
The basis for future cooperative projects was established through touring projects and all of the personal conversations that were fostered during long days and evenings of discussions. That process will continue when the reciprocal team arrives from Bulgaria in June. Please make an effort to meet their team and invest a few hours in creating your own relationship with fellow Rotarians.
From left to right - Catherine Callahan (Cape Elizabeth/So. Portland), Martha Netsch (Portsmouth), Mike Lassel (So. Berwick/Eliot), David Kitchen (Yarmouth), Israel Collins (Saco Bay), Anamaria Gonzalez Salguero (Cape Elizabeth/So. Portland)
"To be honest I wasn’t planning to attend but my Board said I should and I’m really glad I did. The speakers were excellent, especially the religious panel" - Gary Torow, Brunswick Rotary Club
Four-Way Test Video Contest
What a great group of talented kids we have in our District, and if you don’t believe that, all you had to do was look at the three Four-Way Test Video Contest entries. They were all excellent, so much so, that rather than depending on a panel of judges to pick the winner, we decided to play them twice at the District Conference and let everyone decide. Ballots were handed out and the voting was close, but the winner was Alison O’Brien of Massabesic High School in Waterboro, Maine (sponsored by the Sanford-Springvale RC) and the two runners up were Alex St. Hilair of Baxter Academy in Portland, Maine (sponsored by the Portland RC) and Anna Friberg of Cape Elizabeth High School in Cape Elizabeth,Maine (sponsored by the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth RC). The purpose of the contest was to engage the students’ creativity, teach them a little about what Rotary is, get them to know what the Four-Way Test is all about, and challenge them to relate it to their lives. As you can see when you watch the video voted #1, I think they succeeded admirably. I was so proud of these young people and their message.
Check out Alison's video below! (Note: you must view this newsletter online, so the video will load.)
"Congratulations on a spectacular Conference." - Claudia Frost, Brunswick Rotary Club
Lonnie Hackett - Healthy Kids/Brighter Future
When 23-year old Lonnie Hackett approached the podium at the Saturday lunch session at the district conference, he quickly squelched any thoughts of a narcissistic Millennial. As a freshman at Bowdoin college, he had an epiphany about his shallow life of “football practice, studying, and working out.” This Bangor native and football star made a commitment to service, whatever that would bring. Lonnie had a spontaneous attack of “Service Above Self!”
Lonnie spoke to the Rotary Club of Brunswick on March 31, 2013. These Rotarians jumped at the chance to help him with a commitment to apply for a Global Grant which was approved six months later. The Rotary Clubs of Bath Sunrise, Brunswick Coastal, Portland, Ipswich MA and the Nkwazi Club of Lusaka, joined the effort as full partners.
Meanwhile, Lonnie graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and moved to Zambia with the hope of funding this project which had become his vision. He saw the solution in community school classroom teachers who would be trained as health workers. With a large percentage of children attending school, classroom teachers had easy access to these vulnerable children. From this idea, he created the non-profit, “Healthy Kids/Brighter Future.”
"Everyone should be able to go to a conference like this…when you have speakers who can give you a bird’s eye view of the world and how we are a small piece of that but with big impact… it is so inspiring and motivating." - Cindy Bell, Sebago Lake/Windham Area Rotary Club
We Still Found Time For Service Opportunities
The Conference actually commenced on Thursday when about 10 Rotarians turned out for a Service Above Self opportunity at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Portsmouth. Every Thursday at noon, a meal is provided at "the Common Table" to anyone who walks in the door. Ten Rotarians from four Rotary Clubs volunteered to help with the meal and talk with those who came to eat. It was a terrific opportunity to serve and to meet some very interesting people. On Friday we had a blood drive; fifteen people signed up and all were able to donate so the Red Cross collected 15 pints of blood through our efforts. Finally, we created another service opportunity with our Pedaling to End Polio" event. We had three stationary bikes and a large map of the District set up in the hotel hallway. Our goal was to ride a circle around the District, about 470 miles and to have riders or their friends pledge money toward ending polio. All day on Friday and Saturday (and even early on Sunday) riders were pedaling away. We didn’t quite make it all around the District but we got most of the way and we raised at least $545 - pledges are still being totaled and collected. With the Gates Foundation match Pedaling to End Polio raised nearly $1,700 for the Foundation. It was great to make service part of the Conference.
Finally, as always during our District Conference, we held a Silent Auction also to raise money for the Foundation. Many terrific items were donated by clubs and Past District Governors. The auction raised $4318.00.
Our Goal . . . Fun!
Our goal was to have a conference that was not only informative and inspirational but also one that was lots of fun. I hope everyone would go home saying, "Wow, that was great. We have to get more Rotarians to attend District Conferences in the future." 
Aside from some of the events already described, such as the peddling and magician, Bob, we had "Looking for Lawrence" Scavenger Hunt. We created 10 small photo cutouts of Lawrence in various forms of attire based on his interests and activities. These were distributed and displayed in businesses in downtown Portsmouth and Kittery and conference attendees were invited to "Look" for Lawrence and take a "selfie" with the cutout. The person collecting the most selfies would win a prize. President Elect Bowen Depke of the Portland Rotary Club and his son William managed to find all ten and won the prize, a $100 gift certificate to LL Bean.
In addition to the Scavenger Hunt cutouts, there was one full sized cutout of Governor Lawrence. It surprised more than a few people who were either startled when they ran into it or spoke to it thinking it was really him. In any event, on Saturday, "Lawrence" was kidnapped. During dinner that night, Conference Chair Elias Thomas read a "ransom" note he had received saying that "Lawrence" would not be returned unless $1,000 was raised for the Rotary Foundation. District Rotarians, undoubtedly feeling concerned for Barbara, stepped up and in some spirited pledging raised $1,440 to assure his return. Not to worry, he is now safe and at home recovering from the traumatic experience.
Finally, generous Rotarians and clubs sponsored four hospitality suites where Rotarians and guests could gather for conversation and fellowship at various times during the conference. Each suite had a theme (Sanford-Springvale - Honey Bees, Mort Schmidt - Classic Rotary, Seacoast Portsmouth - Island/Caribbean, and Durham Great Bay and Rochester- Roaring Rotary 20’s). Guests were invited to vote for their favorite, and Mort’s Classic Rotary won.
DG Lawrence represented his club's Hospitality Suite.  Can you tell which one?
Polly Needs a Paramedic
Full Recovery Anticipated!!
District Governor, Lawrence Furbish, wasted no time putting a wisecracking parrot in his place in the Seacoast Rotary Club hospitality suite at the recent District Convention.
The parrot, apparently goaded on by Martha Netsch, incessantly heckled Furbish and other event hosts.
"Furbish sucker punched me!" said the parrot who faces surgery and extensive rehab at Piscataqua Animal Hospital in Kittery.  
Furbish could not be reached for comment.
You sure know how to throw one helluva party!  Congratulations! - Major Sponsor

More Pictures from the Conference . . .

A Time to Remember Those We Have Lost
A beautiful memorial service was held Sunday morning, the last day of this year’s District Conference, to remember and pay respects to the Rotarians of District 7780, who had passed during the Rotary year.
As each name was read, a single strike of a Rotary bell was heard, and an evergreen sapling was presented to a representative from the deceased Rotarian’s club to be presented to their family. The bell was struck 25 times.
It was a very somber moment for such a fun, spirited District Conference, but a very important time to remember those individuals who had lived as Rotarians a total of 706+ years, following Rotary’s motto “Service Above Self”.
Finally, we must remember to acknowledge and thank our many sponsors for their financial and in-kind support, totaling nearly $20,000 and the many Rotarian volunteers who assisted in this major undertaking. Without such support, we could not have experienced so many FIRSTS.  We could not have heard so many inspiring speakers.  We could not have scratched the surface of the impact Rotary has on the world.  We could not have been able to LIGHT UP ROTARY!
Russell Hampton
National Awards Services Inc.