Uplift Summer 2019
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2019 VM National Conference and 55th Anniversary Celebration

VM Summer Conference

VMs from five different states and those who want to share the journey gathered at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows May 3-5 to exchange insigths about their VM Chapters at the annual conference and to celelbrate 55 years of ministyr to those with disabilitye. Fr. Sal Gonzalez, OMI gave an energetic, humouous and informative presentations entitled "The Call to Everyday Holiness" on Saturday. The Oblate Provincial, Fr. Lou Studer, OMI presided over the Sunday Anniversary mass where Br. AndyLawlor, OMI was presented with the Fr. John Maronic Achievement Award. Unfortunately, the two Texas recipients, Susan Krantz and her husband Warren Clare, were unable to make the trip. They will receive their plaque at an upcoming San Antonio Chapter meeting.

VM Summer Conference VM Summer Conference

Meet Our Newest VM Advisory Council Member
(Jim Harper (Colonel, USAF, Ret.)

Jim HarperI was born in Pontiac, Michigan. I attended Michigan State University, received a B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice and began my career as a United States Air Force Security (Police) Forces officer. Integrity and respect for others has been the bedrock of my professional life. Sharing Christ's love with others is the bedrock of my personal life. Traveling around the world with my family allowed me to be part of organizations and communities where diversity was appreciated, honored and respected. However, it wasn't until 1993 when our youngest daughter was born in Italy with Down syndrome that I came to fully appreciate children and people of all ages with various disabilities. I have watched Jennifer grow to become a true gift from God and achieve goals and dreams just like other people do. She taught me the real meaning of patience as she continually tried to learn to tie her shoes while growing up and succeeded when she was six. In her teens, she got involved with Illinois Special Olympics and opened my eyes and heart to those athletes and their wonderful world. She has competed in many Special Olympics (SO) sports over the years, and won more medals than I can keep track of. Jennifer's favorite SP Sports now are Rhythmic Gymnastics and Snowshoeing. Her joy of life, unconditional love of other people and everyday happiness are my daily inspiration.

I am married to my wife Bonnie, We met at MSU in 1973 and she and her family inspired me to become a Catholic at Easter in 1976. Bonnie and I were married later that year and have been married 42 years now. We have three beautiful daughters, two handsome sons-in-law and are blessed with two wonderful granchildren - a girl 5 and a boy 3.

I retired from 30 years active duty with the USAF in October 2006. I also have an M.Ed. in Counseling and Career Guidance from Montana State University. I worked as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamiliton for nearly six years and retired in 2012. I am an Illinois Master Gardener and belong to the O'Fallon Garden Club. I am their liaison to the local high school's Transition House, of which Jennifer is an alumnus. I advocated for a raised garden box in the O'Fallon Community Garden for the sole use of the Tranistion House of all their students with various disabilites could learn to enjoy gardening. The Transition House has a permanent garden box, provided for them rent-free by the city. This year they are going to plant a Salsa Garden with tomatoes, peppers and cilantro.

I am also the chief Beekeeper for the O'Fallon Garden Club Apiary where we have four beehives. These bees pollinate the Community Garden, which gave 4,280 pounds of free produce to the O'Fallon Food Pantry in 2018. I also became a University of Montana Master Beekeeper in 2019. In addition, I am a member of the 3rd and 4th Degree Knights of Columbus Council and Assembly. I also belong to the O'Fallon American Legion Post and O'Fallon Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge - both of which focus on service to others!

Make Gratitude A Way Of Life!

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