Jim Fennell's Just Checking In: Disabled man plans to run again

JIM FENNELL September 15. 2012 8:38PM

Tony Dubois calls his first attempt at running for public office a learning experience. He promises it won't be his last.

Dubois recently lost in the Republican primary for state representative in Nashua's Ward 5. He said he will run again and feels good about the lessons he learned in campaigning.

'It was interesting,' Dubois said. 'It taught me a lot for the future.'

We first met Dubois a couple of years ago, when he was getting ready to graduate from Southern New Hampshire University with a business degree. He was 34 at the time, and earning his degree was the culmination of years of learning how to live with Becker muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that primarily affects voluntary muscles.

Dubois cannot walk, has little use of his arms, needs the aid of a breathing tube and is diabetic. He needs constant care, and just getting out of bed and ready for the day can take hours.

He has seen firsthand how people with disabilities can get lost in the system if they don't advocate for themselves, and that has been his motivation to run for office.

'One of my purposes was to deal with the disability issue in the state,' Dubois said. 'I feel there is a disconnect. They are taking services away from people in need.'

Dubois has fought his own battles and has been a tireless advocate for himself. He is in an ongoing fight to keep the state from cutting benefits that could force him into a nursing home.

He hasn't always succeeded, but he never stops trying. He also has seen that there are people willing to help when the government is not. Home Depot and Wilkins Mechanical, a plumbing and heating company based in Bedford, recently teamed to donate and install a generator for the Dubois home after being approached by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

'They didn't have to do it,' Dubois said of the charitable businesses. 'They took it on their own initiative.'

Dubois already is thinking about future runs for political office, to help other people with disabilities be free from relying on the charity of others to be able to live a full life. He sees Tuesday's setback in the primary as temporary.

'I learned a lot, and it will definitely help me going forward,' Dubois said.

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IF THAT slight woman running around Manchester's Livingston Park this Wednesday looks familiar, well you might have a Joan Benoit Samuelson sighting.

The one-time Olympic gold medalist will be in Manchester as part of a partnership with Hannaford Supermarkets to promote the 'There is No Finish Line' program.'

A screening for the Nike-supported film of the same name, a documentary about Samuelson, will take place Tuesday night at the Palace Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults (free for children 15 and younger), and proceeds will help benefit the Manchester Invitational high school cross-country race.

Samuelson will run Wednesday with participants in the 'There is No Finish Line' program, which is aimed at inspiring 'back-of-the-pack' athletes.

Participants submitted stories of their motivations for living a healthier lifestyle; Samuelson will share some of those stories, as well as her own, during Tuesday's show at the Palace.

'Setting goals and believing in yourself is as important to maintaining your health as it is to competing at the highest levels of a sport,' Samuelson said in a news release. 'With the support of Hannaford, 'There is No Finish Line' provides individuals with tools and inspiration for achieving their own fitness dreams.'

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LACONIA Harley-Davidson held a summerlong raffle to benefit the ongoing expansion of the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith. The raffle raised $25,000 for the project, and a matching donation from an anonymous benefactor doubled that amount.

Supporting nonprofits is nothing new for Laconia Harley-Davidson, which has raised more than $120,000 in the past four years for organizations such as the Loon Preservation Society and the New Hampshire Food Bank. In this case, however, the motorcycle dealership wound up being even more generous than it initially intended.

There were 2,500 tickets sold during the raffle, and the winners were announced at an event earlier this month. The first ticket drawn was announced as the grand-prize winner of a 2012 H-D Street Glide. Problem was, the rules said the first ticket drawn would win a $100 gift card, the second ticket drawn would win a $500 gift card and the third ticket drawn would be the grand-prize winner.

Anne Deli, owner of Laconia Harley-Davidson, ended up giving a bike to both the planned grand-prize winner (Adam Wilson of Massena, N.Y.) and the unintended winner (Sarah Tillotson of Richford, Vt.).

'While it was an honest mistake, we felt that it was important to maintain the integrity of this raffle and future nonprofit partners, and award two motorcycles,' Deli said.

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USING the Kickstarter funding platform, the 'Who Cares About Kelsey?' project (www.whocaresaboutkelsey.com) met its goal of raising $20,000.

'Who Cares About Kelsey?' is a documentary that examines the risks of teens with emotional and behavioral disabilities through the eyes of Kelsey Carroll, who was a senior struggling to graduate from Somersworth High.

Dan Habib, the Concord filmmaker and guiding force behind WCAK, said the money would be used to expand online educational material about the project and help distribute the WCAK educational DVD kit to low-income schools.

Habib, who also produced the award-winning documentary 'Including Samuel,' is the filmmaker in residence at the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability.

The film will be screened at Rivier College in Nashua (Tuesday), Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook (the next two Wednesdays) and Keene State College (Oct. 2).

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Jim Fennell may be reached at jfennell@unionleader.com.

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