By CHERIE ILG HAAS
Achievers International chapter vice president Marge Mazzone, F217160, had a fulfilling career as a dedicated nurse until a work-related accident changed her life. While responding to an emergency, Marge tripped and fell, cracking the vertebrae in her lower back. Like many people do, she put the resulting pain on the back burner and worked for nine more days before seeing a doctor, not wanting to believe she might have a serious injury. But her career came to an abrupt end as osteopenia set in, causing her back pain and difficulty in walking and standing for long periods of time.
Despite her new limitations, Marge did not consider herself handicapped. She felt uncomfortable about parking in the handicapped area at her first FMCA convention, in Brunswick, Maine, even though it was necessary. However, it was at this convention that Marge and her husband, Ron, learned about Achievers International and joined the chapter there.
FMCA members of a spectrum of ages and varying disabilities make up the Achievers, and they welcome all to join. “This chapter is for anyone with any type of physical limitation,” Marge said. “We just want to make people aware that there’s a chapter for people with disabilities.”
Awareness is not where their purpose ends, though, for the Achievers also have helped to make life easier for disabled RVers in several ways, particularly at FMCA conventions.
FMCA and the Achievers have worked cooperatively to provide convention amenities such as handicapped-accessible family parking; designated serving areas at morning coffee hour and the ice cream social; a reserved section at evening entertainment for those in wheelchairs and scooters; and golf cart transportation to and from convention activity areas for individuals with mobility issues.
In order to keep these achievements going, chapter members volunteer by driving the golf carts; handing out the coffee, doughnuts, and ice cream; and helping on the parking layout crew, among other activities.
Recruiting new members is also high on the list. At FMCA’s 70th International Convention in Buffalo, New York, this past July, 25 members joined the Achievers thanks to chapter members’ efforts. “We discovered that a lot of people didn’t know about the chapter,” Marge said, who was part of the recruitment effort.
Although some people feel there’s a stigma attached to being handicapped, they can leave that behind them with this chapter. “We don’t look at ourselves as handicapped,” said Marge. When she joined the Achievers, she was warmly accepted, and there was never a question about what was “wrong” with her, she said. And, she added, because her disability is not an obvious one, she was self-conscious. So, acceptance was especially important to her.
“I find the support among the chapter members is great,” Marge said. “The individuals are concerned about each other.”
In addition to staying active in the Achievers International chapter, Marge keeps her life full even though her nursing career had to end. She now volunteers often with her church’s social justice committee and youth group. Somehow, she also makes time to babysit three grandchildren and travel about five months out of the year with her husband.
“You can’t give up,” she said with conviction.
This is true not only for individuals with disabilities, but also for the Achievers International chapter. For although they’ve accomplished much for handicapped FMCA members, more improvements remain to be seen. Perhaps the most universal one, Marge mentioned, is that the chapter wants to make people in general more aware that they should be considerate of those with disabilities.
For more information about the Achievers International chapter, contact FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.