Welcome, We're Glad You're Here!
The Heather & Liam Connection
It takes a village - How the St. John Valley Take Care of Their Own
In 2009, "The Heather & Liam Connection" was informally established after Heather Dawn's tragic death in 2008. My beloved 24 year old daughter was talking on her cell phone when she crashed on April 15, 2008.
This memorial project honors Heather Dawn's innate love and ability to enhance the academic, personal and social education of children with autism and other entangled learners through relationship development. "Liam" is the little guy who just happens to be on the autism spectrum whom Heather had worked/played/loved for several years.
Following is a listing of our activities since its inception in 2009. We have come a long way!
- Judy Bouchard, Founder presented on the dangers of cell phone use while driving by telling "Heather Dawn's Story" to a southern Maine corporation. We received our very first "donation" for "The Heather & Liam Connection" (HLC).
- Presented "Heather Dawn's Story" to St. John Valley high schools.
- Presented to Maine Driver Education instructors at Augusta conference.
- Presented to UPS staff in Presque Isle, Maine.
2011 – 2012
- Hosted an "Aroostook County Quilt" raffle to raise funds for adaptive equipment for kids with autism and other entangled learners.
- Sponsored a "Spaghetti Feed" to raise awareness and monies for HLC.
- Held a Spring Fling raffle.
- Purchased 13 iPad 2s with protective covers for children with autism and other entangled learners in the St. John Valley and beyond.
- Established a social media group via FB for disseminating information on the project.
- Established an account at Norstate Federal Credit Union in Madawaska.
- Opened a post office box for HLC.
- Maintained a booth at the Madawaska "Top of Maine Trade Show" in April to bring education and awareness for children with autism and other entangled learners.
- Hosted a "silent auction" to raise monies and awareness.
- Sponsored an informational lecture on autism for community members.
- Held first formal meeting of HLC in May, 2013 at the Madawaska Elementary School. Established a mission statement, elected officers and appointed a board of directors.
- Participated in the Ft. Kent Scarecrow Festival Parade on Sept. 14 to further bring education and awareness for children with autism and other entangled learners.
- A "Super Heroes Unite for Autism 5K Run, Walk, Wheel" awareness and fundraiser was held in Madawaska on October 12, 2013.
- Held a Bake Sale at MES to raise monies for iPad 2s for three kids on the waiting list for iPads on November 21, 2013.
- On November 29, 2013, we walked in the "Christmas Light Parade" in Madawaska.
- Achieved "Incorporation Status" in 2013; by-laws were established.
- Presented "The Dangers of Distracted Driving: Heather Dawn's Story" to Maine Motor Transportation Association in Rockland, Mane.
- Presented "The Dangers of Distracted Driving: Heather Dawn's Story" to the staff/drivers of R.F. Chamberland, INC in St. Agatha, Maine.
- The "Traveling Billboard" concept was conceived by RF Chamberland and presented to Bouchard following her presentation on distracted driving.
- Letters of intent were sent to all of RF Chamberland's business and personal contacts asking for support in the sponsorship of the iconic autism puzzle piece fundraiser.
- Presented "The Dangers of Distracted Driving: Heather Dawn's Story" to St. John Valley middle/high schools in April and May.
- Presented "The Dangers of Distracted Driving: Heather Dawn's Story" to Madawaska Elementary School 6th Grade students in June.
- Presented "The Dangers of Distracted Driving: Heather Dawn's Story" to FT. Fairfield Middle/High School students in June.
- Procured a venue for our after school social skills group at the Madawaska Elementary School.
- Established insurance for HLC.
- Presented HLC mission and goals to Madawaska School Committee.
- R. F. Chamberland, INC of St. Agatha, Maine unveiled the "Gift That Keeps On Giving": our Heather & Liam Connection traveling billboard at the 2014 Top of Maine Trade Show in Madawaska. This beautiful tractor trailer will bring much awareness for autism as it travels the country and Canada.
- Awarded 3 more iPad 2s to children from Ft. Kent, Madawaska, and Caribou in January, 2014
- Organized a "Mother's Day Basket" raffle for May.
- Traveled to Augusta, Maine to receive an award for "Impact on Community" by the Maine Autism Alliance on April 15, 2014.
- Our website, theheatherandliamconnection.org was launched in August 2014.
- Participated in the 2014 Acadian World Congress Parade in August. We were awarded the "Best Non-Profit" entry.
- Opened our after school "Club Friends" for children ages 2-10 at the Madawaska Elementary School in September, 2014.
- Accepted recognition and a donation for HLC from TAMC in September 2014.
- Organized an informal family support group for parents and extended families of kids with autism that meets each week at MES.
- Hosted 2014 "Super Heroes Unite for Autism" Walk, Run, Wheel 5K during Columbus Day weekend.
- Sponsored a Harvest Bake Sale in November 2014 at the Madawaska Elementary School.
- Was awarded Non-Profit status 501 (c) 3.
- Hosted a Spring Fling Bake Sale in March at MES to provide adaptive equipment to kids with autism and other entangled learners.
- Organized an "iPad 2 Mini" raffle to raise monies to offer 2 more days of "Club Friends" after school program for local kids with autism and other entangled learners.
- Participated in the Top of Maine Trade Show in April 2015. A great success for autism awareness and fundraisers for summer camp, "Club Friends".
- Held the Annual Meeting and Recognition Dinner at the Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha, Maine on May 3, 2015.
- Filed our annual report to the State of Maine.
- Presented an autism awareness workshop to students and staff at MES on May 8, 2015.
- Presented Heather Dawn's Story to drivers/staff of TNT Road Company in Fort Kent and Millinocket in May.
- Participated in a "Hotdog Roast" fundraiser for The Heather & Liam Connection with Madawaska Elementary School Special Education teacher, Eric Carter, and his students on Friday, May 29th.
- Began grant writing process in May.
- HLC hosted a “Zumba in the Park” in July 2015. Whereas, the attendance was small, certified instructor, Bianca Lang, made sure everyone had a good time and got their heart pumping while participating in this fun event.
- Our after school “Club Friends” at Madawaska Elementary School has entered its 2nd year in October 2015. Our first year was a learning year and we have modified the application guidelines to offer the class to school aged children with parent attending the class on a rotating basis. Currently, we are serving 3 clients and have been apprised another client who will be joining "Club Friends” in the very near future. The format for the class has been modified to provide a structured social skills element.
- HLC is privileged to have parent blogger, Maeghan Swanson, share her family's journey with their son and brother who is on the autism spectrum. Please visit www.theheatherandliamconnection.org and check out Maeghan's blog. Her powerful blogs are honest and informative.
- Met with Madawaska School Department Special Services team to brainstorm possible "experts" in the field of autism for a 2016 St. John Valley Autism Conference. We have someone scheduled for April, 2016.
HLC's April Autism Awareness Extravaganza -
- March 15, 2016 Provided glow sticks to each St. John Valley Elementary School child and staff along with grade appropriate tolerance/autism concept books, appropriate handouts, and a cd with positive messages of acceptance and friendship.
- March 29, 2016 Presented "Dangers of Distracted Driving: Heather Dawn's Story" to Aroostook Safety Commission at NMCC.
- March 31, 2016 Guest speakers, Sherry Pelletier, social worker and Heidi Bowden, parent, shared their knowledge base and experiences with self care for parents and children with autism.
- April 1, 2016 The first annual "Light It Up" for autism walk.
- April 1 - 30 HLC's Autism Awareness Extravaganza events/fundraisers were determined to be successful.
- May 12, 2016 "Jayden" received HLC's 2016 ipad2 mini give away as a deserving youth.
- May 12, 2016 Presented "Dangers of Distracted Driving: Heather Dawn's Story" to Valley River High School students and staff.
- August 14, 2016 Enthusiastic HLC members walked in the Acadian Festival Parade along with R. F. Chamberland's magnificent trailer, and Jack Bouchard, our loyal mascot. We had a great time while bringing awareness for autism and distracted driving to the many spectators along the parade route.
- August 20, 2016 Our "Ride for Autism" was a grand success. We had classic cars, classy motorcycles, sweet trikes and wonderful support from car enthusiasts throughout the county. Thank you all!
- September 2016 "Club Friends" opened for its 3rd year at MES with Miss Becca as lead teacher. "Club Friends" members are benefitting from this after school program as they hone their social skills. A big shout out to the kids and Miss Becca!
- September 2016 HLC Founder and President Judy Bouchard attended a retreat for families of victims of distracted driving crashes in SLC.
- October 23, 2016 Judy Bouchard presents "Heather Dawn's Story" on distracted driving to the St. Agatha Youth Ministry.
- PLANNED EVENTS
- November, 2016 HLC will present 2 iPad2 minis to Aroostook County youths.
- November 18, 2016 "Thanksgiving Bake Sale" at MES during Parent/Teacher Conferences from 12:30 - 7:00 PM. Funds will be used toward opening more branches of Club Friends.
- Fall HLC in conjunction with the Town of Madawaska will be installing signs encouraging citizens to refrain from using cell phones while driving in school zones.
- Spring, 2017 A weather resistant "Buddy Bench" will be installed at the Madawaska Elementary School playground during the second annual "Light It Up Blue" event in April. The purpose of this gift is to encourage children to befriend someone who may be sitting alone on the bench during recess. "Be a friend, make a friend" connects perfectly with HLC's goal to tighten the chasm between children with diverse needs.
- "Ride for Autism" is scheduled for August 20.
- 3rd year "Club Friends" program begins in the fall with Brahim Berthe, Social Skills Facilitator.