Meg Casey
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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

Meg Casey
Meg Casey with award
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Meg's Aims, Agencies And Awards

HELPING HAND

February 20 1985

Meg CaseyThe Milford Independent Disabled Persons received a Valentine's present in 1985 in the form of a check from the Jaycees representing proceeds from their "Las Vegas Night." Standing at the rear is Helen Arnold, president of the M.I.D.P. and Charlie Montelbaum and Dave Ellum, chairman of Las Vegas Night hands a check for $1,000 to Meg Casey, executive director of of M.I.D.P.
Milford Citizen photo by Jesse Thompson

Milford Independent Disabled Persons

March 13 1985

Dear Readers,

M.I.D.P. stands for the Milford Independent Disabled Persons committee and our purpose is to help people with disabilities to live a fuller life. In order for them to do this, they must have understanding and cooperation. (They do not want a hand-out, nor do they want your pity!) In order for the "physically challenged" (as is the more the popular way to state it) to have this independence there are two accessibility barriers to overcome:

  1. Attitudinal barriers which are perhaps the most painful. This simply means that if they want to be accepted for what they are – people with disabilities who are just as regular as anyone else of performing a task, holding down a position (and I did not say job) with career possibilities and living a normal life, and
  2. Architectural barriers which shut the door of opportunity in their faces, for if the home in which they or the business that could employ or serve them are not accessible, they cannot be independent.

Transportation for people with disabilities has dramatically improved, education for children in our schools has very much improved, and most Milford citizens have a better awareness about the abilities, and the disabilities of Milford citizens. How was this accomplished? Through thousands of volunteer hours donated by each M.I.D.P. member. Using what is laughingly called our "free time," we run an office, seek advice, remaining informed, and advocate for the disabled. Who has helped? The mayor, city officials, concerned service organizations and business and industry. Each year we reach more and more people.

If you know if anyone needs the kind of services we offer, please have them contact us. They won't be sorry.

It's great to have independence. I hope you appreciate yours.

M.I.D.P. Award

April 13 1983

April 1983 has been proclaimed Handicapped Awareness month in the city of Milford.

This consciousness raising project was an an attempt to have people voluntarily take time out to consider, even for a minute, an aspect of life that they might very well find themselves someday trying to deal with. Everything planned went off with such success that Milford recently won national recognition for it.

Six of the delighted members of the M.I.D.P. flew down to Washington to attend an awards reception last week held in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. The awards were given by the National Office on Disability.

Ecstatic and cheering all the while, Milford's group collected two lovely plaques for over all achievement in the community and $3,500 which must be used to further the work of the committee in these areas. With that bright new feather in their cap, the M.I.D.P. has enthusiastically set off to make all of this year's accomplishment even bigger and better.

The Sunshine Foundation

June 27 1984, July 13 1983

Dear Readers,

The Sunshine Foundation was originally founded by policeman Bill Sample from Philadelphia. Through the volunteer efforts of his fellow police officers around the country raising donations, the organization grew so that wishes can be granted to children with terminal illnesses.

The Sunshine Foundation has paid for all of the travel, lodging, food and entertainment for an annual "Gathering" in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for Meg and 14 other families for a week since 1982. In 1983 the foundation also arranged to have five of the top medical researchers come for two days to update their progress and to try to answer the questions of the new parents, considering how limited the information on progeria is.

The "Pocono Gathering" families had traveled from several different the parts of the globe just to meet one another. From Canada, Chile, England, South Africa and from all around the United States. They were people of different races, different religions, different nationalities and different family types – yet they have all something in common.

One member of each family had progeria.

This was probably the most peaceful, unifying and beautiful gathering of nations ever in our times and all for single purpose, the love of a child.

Late 1981 marked when Meg went public about her condition and got involved with the Sunshine Foundation. On a whim she took a midnight plane to join two little boys with progeria after seeing on TV how poorly they were treated by the press at Disneyland. News of Francie Geringer with progeria from South Africa wanting to meet Pinocchio was from an August 1981 AP news story. The shy kid met the wooden boy character on December 2 of the Disneyland trip. He met Mikey Hays of Texas on Sunday November 29 who told Mickey Mouse that he was not a real mouse but a dressed-up girl. Alicia Gowans of San Jose traveled to the park upon hearing about the two boys. Meg probably showed up Friday the 4th after reading the December 3 article. Upon Meg’s death memorials were requested to be made to the Sunshine Foundation.

Help Educate Youth (H.E.Y.)

April 13 1983

The H.E.Y. Program (Help Educate Youth) all work on the premise that. "Curiosity is not wrong. Ignorance is." Without curiosity a person cannot learn and grow to expand horizons. Disabled adult volunteers of the H.E.Y. group make the rounds of the city's elementary and high schools helping with the answers to questions that might otherwise never be asked either out of fear or lessons in good manners.

The Progeria Foundation

December 12 1984

The Progeria Foundation, Inc. seeks to raise funds with the help of community organizations to subsidize medical expenses for progeriacs, support a communications network and eventually fund research into the cause of the disease.

Petting Oysters

August 19 1983
by Pam McLaughlin

Meg Casey sold her T-shirts featuring a frenzied little oyster at the Milford Oyster Festival. In 1982 the design pictured the amorphous creature after a narrow escape from an oystering boat seen left clinging to the outside of a porthole with an oyster friend on the inside, trying to help him in.

1983's T-shirt design was the last in a series which Casey had been drawing since 1978. A new series began in 1984 with the same characters. "This series had to end for its sake," said Casey. "I don't want to run it into the ground, like a movie with too many sequels." It all started when a local merchant asked Casey, a local artist, to come up with a design and then changed his mind. That gave her the idea to do it herself.

After completing the first silkscreen cartoon for the 1978 shirt, she offered it to the Oyster Festival Committee for a fee plus royalties. They turned it down and she's glad they did.

She attributes last year's sales success to the national publicity she received concerning a rare, premature aging disease she suffers from called progeria.

"So many people would come up and say that 'I saw you on TV', then buy a shirt," she says.

Aside from the Social Security she receives, selling the shirts is the only source of income for Casey, who is a full time volunteer at the Milford Independent Disabled Persons office on Naugatuck Avenue.

Speaking on oysters, Casey plugs her copyrighted, silk screen designs."Some like to eat 'em, some like to pet them and everyone likes to wear them!"

Petting Oysters

August 19 1983

Meg Casey sells her T-shirts featuring her character Mr. Oyster at the Milford Oyster Festival. Between 1978 to 1983 he was pictured in a series of adventures eluding an oyster fisherman. "This series had to end for its sake, "I don't want to run it into the ground, like a movie with too many sequels."

Meg's receives Social Security, the proceeds from the shirts goes towards running the Milford Independent Disabled Persons. Meg's view on oysters is "Some like to eat 'em, some like to pet them and everyone likes to wear them!"

10th Oyster Festival

August 15 1984

Hello Readers,

The Milford Independent Disabled Persons Committee will have an awareness booth on the Green for you to stop and visit. The committee will be selling originally designed 1984 Milford Oyster Festival buttons and hold a drawing later in the day! Remembering that every dollar goes to a good cause - I thank You.

Due to not being an "officially" licensed promotional item, Meg's Oyster Festival t-shirts were not sold in the main festival area but among the craft tables on the green.

Meg Casey
Meg Casey with Phil Donahue
photo courtesy of the Milford Citizen

Charmed by Phil Donahue

Sunday, November 28 1982

I've heard a lot of talk for the past years about how unaware the American public is of what goes on in the world around them. While that may, (for the most part) be true, I can attest from personal experience that they all (for the most part) watch the Phil Donahue show.

Through a highly publicized account last fall of a special meeting of two little boys in California's Disneyland and the surprise arrival of two females on the scene, I was asked to appear on the Donahue show in Chicago this past February.

The weekend was so sensational because the four of us Fransie Geringer of South Africa, Mickey Hayes of Texas, Alisia Gowan of California and I, Meg Casey of Milford, all have the same rare condition that has come to be known as Progeria. It is more accurately titled Hutchinson–Guilford Progeria syndrome after the European doctors that first documented it in the 1800s.

When the story first broke in late August and early September 1981, Fransie and Mickey were billed as the only two living "victims." When a tiny 12-year-old up from San Jose showed up it was thought to be a wonderful miracle. When an old dinosaur (me) came sauntering out of Connecticut, all hell broke loose.

On my return from the wildly acclaimed weekend in Mickey Mouseville, I was met with the message that the producer of the Donahue Show had called and would like to discuss the possibility of my making an appearance on the show.

About this time I was began to get uptight because it seems that every time I open my mouth, I was being quoted in the press.

The taping was to take place on February 8 with guests Mickey Hayes, Cindy Edwards, Dr. Dorothy Valee from Boston Children's Hospital, Rabbi and Mrs. Harold Kushner whose progeriatric son had died at 14, and myself. We were interviewed by the dashing, ever popular Mr. Donahue (I call him Phil) and his audience.

My sister-in-law Maureen who was an absolute brick through the whole thing, accompanied me everywhere. We landed in Chicago greeted by freezing temperatures and a frolicking Mickey Hayes who tried to play with the frozen snow while impatiently awaiting our arrival; we were holding up lunch!

The next morning we were whisked to the studio which was a mass of people buzzing around, the center of which was a guy with a loosely tucked in shirt with the sleeves rolled up. We heard the unmistakable demanding voice of Mickey demanding to know who he was.

Donahue stood with his arms akimbo, looking down at this pint site size gestapo and answered "I'm the guy that you came to see. Don't you know the name of the show you're going to be on?"

Mickey, bold little tart, said "I never heard of it!"

During our briefing from the producer, Mickey demanded to know if he could hold the microphone.

He was told in a patronizing tone, "We don't use those kinds of microphones, Mickey. We'll just clip one on the front of your shirt. Would that be alright?"

"No," he fired back. "If I can't hold a mike I won't wear one. Do you have a makeup lady?"

"No," she nervously asked, "Do you need one?"

"All the other shows have them!" he retorted.

Had I been his mother I would've stuffed him into one of those Chicago snow banks he was so interested in. All the bravado turned to panic when the set director walked in with several stopwatches around her neck. Mickey thought she was there to take blood and began to react accordingly. It was a glimpse of the trauma of the "special child" who has endured constant medical examinations.

In my opinion this was Phil Donahue's finest hour. In that green room, before the show began, with no audience, no cameras, he met with a little spitfire and bantered with him to the point where Mickey was eating out of his hand.

And when the little boy turned into a shaking of fright, he took him into his arms with genuine concern and affection. He kissed Mickey on the top of his head and massaged his tiny back until his fears melted away.

Needless to say Mickey got his own mike to hold and even his own make-up lady, but the demanding little boy we first met was nowhere to be seen. He followed Donahue around like a puppy.

The taping went off without a hitch. We went back and talked for a little bit and took pictures of each other with the "star" for everyone back home to envy.

I'm recognized everywhere I go now. Women in department stores come to me and say, "You're her, right? I knew it. Merv Griffin!" Dinner gets paid for me in restaurants by strangers who call me by name. Bar tabs for my entire party been picked up anonymously. I get fan mail from all over the country. I get asked for my autograph (they're serious!). It's done wonders for my salesmanship abilities. The crew on a plane I took to England last March knew who I was because they saw me on the Donahue show. I couldn't take enough coffee, tea, or milk to suit them; they drove me crazy.

Every race, creed, color and financial bracket views that program in the morning. I know. I've met them!

Donahue is dynamic and even better looking in person. He Is every bit as charming on camera and off. He had my number to the second he laid eyes on me because he never let up. As he helped me on with my jacket he flicked my lapel with his forefinger and asked "What radical cause is this pin for?"

Phil Donahue was a very nice man.

My life hasn't been the same since we met.

Outside of his show, Phil Donahue's connections to helping children through his wife Marlo Thomas. She is the daughter of Danny Thomas that founded Saint Jude's Children's Hospital. She produced "Free To Be, You and Me" that taught children they can achieve anything while also showing tolerance for those that are different. Meg was on many talk shows including the Sally Jesse Raphael Show. She was 1 out of 7 children and Sally wanted to know if they were all normal. Meg said "No, they're just taller than me!"

White House Letter

June 22, 1983

White House sationaryThe White House Washington
Dear Meg:

Each day newspaper clippings are placed on my desk to read. As you can well imagine, it would be impossible for me to go through all the papers that are published daily throughout America, and so I rely on my staff to bring bring items of great interest to my attention. That's how I learned about you. As I read the news story, I had mixed emotions, but the first reaction I had was one of great pride in you. You are very special Meg. Your family and friends love and admire you and you bring out love in all who know you.

Meg, Mrs. Reagan and I want you to know that your courage and acceptance of your health problems give others hope that life can always be rich and rewarding. It is how we go forward and love each day that really counts.

God bless and keep you. You have gladdened our hearts just by reading about you.

Sincerely,
Ronald Reagan

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© 2015 to 2017 site design by Daniel Ortoleva
photographs and other content courtesy of the Casey family unless noted
blog posts and art by Meg Casey
originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper