by Beth Dixon

Annie Forts

Annie Forts came into this world with a mission to spread joy and friendship to all she encountered.

As a young child, Annie told her parents she wished she didn’t have something called Down Syndrome because she was an “UP” kind of person. With her boundless energy, poise, and determination Annie helped break down the stigma attached to people with physical and labels of intellectual disabilities. She was a motivational speaker and effective advocate who traveled the country spreading her message of living on the “UP” side of Down Syndrome.  A Class of 1995 NH Leadership graduate, Annie loved coming back to give leaders in training her “You can do anything!” speech.

In 1997, with the support of the Moultonborough Lion’s Club, she started the Annie Forts UP Syndrome Fund.  To date, more than $325,000 has been raised, with funds going to provide enrichment opportunities for persons with Down syndrome and scholarships for students pursuing a careers in special education.  The fund also has supported individuals with “UP” Syndrome or their family members to attend the NH Leadership Series.

A believer in hard work and volunteerism, Annie was someone who made a difference. Appointed by President Clinton, she served three terms on the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation.  She was on the Boards of Directors of the National Down Syndrome Congress and the Direct Support Professional Association and served three terms on the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities.  Locally, she was a greeter at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Meredith, a 20+ year member of the Moultonborough Lion’s Club, and a regular volunteer at community schools and the Golden View Health Care Center.

Widely recognized for her contributions, Annie’s awards include: first recipient of the Kennedy Foundation’s International Self-Empowerment Award, the American Association of People with Disabilities’ Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, National Down Syndrome Congress Exceptional Merit Award, and the Boston Celtics Heroes Among Us Award.  In 1997, she was named the ARC of NH Citizen of the Year. 

If you were lucky enough to be counted among Annie’s many friends you were the recipient of regular phone calls – just checking in to make sure your life was as great as it could be.  If you met Annie for dinner you had to share her with everyone in the restaurant – it was like traveling with the mayor.  Her goal was to have as many friends as there are stars in the sky – and she succeeded!

To keep Annie’s work and high expectations growing, donations may be made on the contribute page of the UP Fund’s website - Checks to the Annie Forts UP Syndrome Fund may be sent to Bernard and Shirley Forts, 143 Route 25, Meredith, NH  03253

This was originally published in the RAP Sheet: Summer Issue 2016.