Remembering Carol Beard, UOD Founder

Carol Beard PhotosmUnderstanding Our Differences mourns the recent passing of our beloved founder, Carol Beard, and celebrates the many achievements of a life well-lived. Carol had the amazing ability to always fill those who met her with a sense of being loved and valued. She made a difference in the world each and every day that she was in it. Carol devoted her life to serving others. She was a visionary advocate for the rights and needs of people with developmental disabilities.

We would like to share reflections about Carol from our Board and Advisory Board members, and friends:

“On this peaceful, quiet day up here in Gloucester, I am staring at the cove and fog, thinking of Carol.  I was so saddened to hear of her death.  In her quiet, unassuming way, she was a particularly strong leader and voice for  community (both for those with differing abilities and for Newton too).  She impacted so many people, most of whom had no idea who she was. 

“First and foremost were multiple generations of children (and their parents) who have gone through the Newton schools  and participated in  UOD. Back in the 1970’s, when MA and federal law first mandated the inclusion of all children in public schools, Carol felt the need to do what she could to make sure her sons, and all other children with disabling conditions, were understood and appreciated by their peers in  school. Through the volunteer organization she developed with a group of like-minded friends, children learned to look beyond the superficial differences between people, to see and appreciate their special qualities that make them who they are.  They came to understand the obstacles their peers faced everyday and to realize they were more the same than different.  Taking this a step further, they also learn to become advocates.  These have been lasting lessons.  I see them continuing to play out with my children, who are now in their 40’s.  Parents who got involved in the program have been similarly impacted.  UOD also brought the City of Newton together creating community; a way for parents to become involved in their children’s classrooms and schools, a community who realized the importance of UOD’s message and were even willing to rally on its behalf when the program was facing elimination by previous school administrations. The project Carol began has a continuing ripple effect beyond what she could have imagined.  UOD has expanded beyond its impact in Newton to communities throughout the Commonwealth, and is gearing itself up to do that on a much larger scale as it gains a digital presence.  Carol was also a tireless advocate for her sons and people with cognitive challenges. 

“My thoughts go out to her family and to all those she touched.  I am proud to have known her.  I know I am preaching to the choir but her leadership is even more valued in the current climate.” -Fran Osten

“Carol was indeed one of those rare and special people whose energy, creativity, determination and positivity made such a lasting impact on all of our lives and  the thousands of families in Newton and beyond who have been reached by UOD.  She will be missed.” -Carol Kanin

“In addition to all she did for her family, the entire UOD community and Newton at large, she was an incredible warm, generous and appreciative person one on one. I will always remember that about her.” -Barb Day

“I am so sad that Carol has passed away. Carol was my mentor and an inspiration. I hope that we all help to ensure that Forest and Lincoln Beard feel the support of the amazing UOD network.” -Beth Mendel

“Carol was my mentor, also. I observed her whole program at Oak Hill in order to be very prepared before I started it at Countryside. I learned from the best! She was supportive, kind, and understanding, but she always remained very humble. Carol started UOD, and her achievements and gifts are monumental. She was a dear friend, and I will miss her.” -Linda Hiller
“Carol was a very special visionary and leader who along with all of you from the past and present have made such an impact on Newton and beyond. I feel fortunate that I learned so much as a parent volunteer in the 80’s and 90’s and have had the opportunity to be part of the organization Carol founded.” -Marcia Herrmann
“I write to express loving memory of our founding leader, Carol Beard. Working with her to help grow Understanding Handicaps in its early days was a blessed opportunity which I cherish. She was, and will always be, an angel among us.” -Bonnie Rosenberg
“In memory of Carol Beard who brought light to Newton and way beyond.” -Anne and Bob Larner

Citizens Bank Names UOD a Champion in Action®

We are thrilled to announce that Understanding Our Differences has been named a 2020 Champion in Action® for Inclusion & Equality by Citizens Bank and necn.

Click here to view a news clip about this award:

The award includes $35,000 in unrestricted funding, as well as promotional and volunteer support for “the organization’s outstanding work to educate children to see the whole person and better understand various disabilities.”

Champions in Action is part of Citizens Helping Citizens, the bank’s initiative designed to help local communities prosper. It provides support for nonprofit organizations to recognize their contributions to communities throughout Massachusetts.

The Inclusion & Equality award is given to an organization that addresses the many factors that contribute to discrimination and inequality, and that ensures all perspectives and diverse viewpoints are heard and contribute to innovation and success.

As a Champion in Action, Understanding Our Differences will receive: a $35,000 unrestricted contribution from Citizens Bank; media coverage from necn, including features and public service announcements; volunteer support from Citizens Bank colleagues; complimentary membership to the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network; promotional support highlighting the organization in Citizens Bank branches; and exposure on the Citizens Bank and necn websites.

New Video: About UOD’s Growth and First Online Unit

We are very excited that UOD has completed a marketing/informational video about our strategic growth initiative. This video includes general information about UOD and the urgent need to increase our reach to more schools and communities, as well as a description and preview of an online version of our Autism unit. 

Here are links to the video on both YouTube and Vimeo. 

Vimeo –

YouTube –

We welcome you to share this video with anyone who could be interested in supporting this project, and to send us your comments, suggestions and ideas. Please email Director of Development Patricia Salic at [email protected] or call our office at 617-559-6075.

Free film screening, Intelligent Lives, Feb. 4

Understanding Our Differences is hosting a free screening of the wonderful documentary film, Intelligent Lives, by filmmaker Dan Habib. The screening will take place on Tuesday evening, February 4, 2020, at 7:00pm at Newton Free Library. Pre-registration is strongly advised at this link:

Intelligent Lives stars three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer, and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college and the workforce.

Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver Headlined UOD’s 40th Gala

Tim 1 sm

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, addresses crowd at UOD 40th Gala

Over 250 people came together on April 12, 2018 in Newton, MA, to celebrate the first 40 years of Understanding Our Differences’ history and hear about the exciting vision UOD has for the next 40.

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics and son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, delivered the keynote address and received a Leadership Award at the Gala. Shriver spoke movingly and inspired the crowd as he connected UOD’s work with an exciting worldwide movement to foster inclusion.

Since 1996, Timothy P. Shriver, PhD, has grown Special Olympics into a respected global organization, serving 5.6 million Special Olympics athletes in 172 countries, transforming it into a movement that focuses on acceptance, inclusion and respect for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Before joining Special Olympics, Shriver was and remains a leading educator focusing on the social and emotional factors in learning. He co-founded and currently chairs the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the leading research organization in the field of social and emotional learning.

A graduate of Yale University, Shriver earned a master’s degree in Religious Education from Catholic University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Connecticut. He resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and five children.

UOD Welcomes Summer Intern


Nathan Persampieri

We’re so pleased to welcome Nathan Persampieri, rising senior at Newton North High School, as our summer intern. Nathan is part of the pre-employment program sponsored by Easter Seals Massachusetts and is working on a project with us to design and implement a high school disability awareness campaign. He hopes to launch them at both Newton high schools in the fall.

Nathan’s overall goals are to make a difference and serve the community and people with disabilities through disability advocacy. He has already led an event called “Beyond Kindness” at Newton North High School through the NNHS Center for Civic Engagement, and hopes to do more this year. He certainly lives his core values of Inclusion, Diversity, Kindness, and Making a Difference.

He’s got great ideas and we are lucky to work with him this summer (and beyond)!

Matching Gift Challenge Will Double Your Donation

We’re excited about a challenge UOD has received from an anonymous donor. Between now and August 31, we need a total of $10,000 in donations from people like you. If we raise that $10,000, we will receive a $10,000 matching gift from our generous donor.

This challenge match will allow you to double the value of your donation and also assist UOD in reaching our ambitious program and financial goals for 2019. The need for disability awareness education is greater than ever, and UOD is responding by moving our ten disability units online, starting with Autism. 

When you donate to UOD, you are connecting to an organization that provides the knowledge and teaches attitudes essential for our increasingly inclusive 21st century world. This is especially true now – when people with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the U.S. Your support for Understanding Our Differences’ comprehensive disability awareness program is a vital way to demonstrate that inclusion and respect matter!

Your gift will ensure that we “make the match!” Please be generous. Click here to double your gift!

UOD’s Disability Awareness Book Club

Join Understanding Our Differences for our Disability Awareness Book Club. It generally meets the first Monday of each month at Newton Free Library, 7:00 pm in Meeting Room A.

The purpose of the club is to engage in thought provoking discussion centered on books with a disability theme: fiction that portrays a character with a disability; nonfiction about living with a disability, and biographies, autobiographies or memoirs about living with a disability.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact our Program Director, Jenni Acosta via email. We welcome you to join these lively and thoughtful discussions. You may even come away with a new take on a book you’ve already read for another book club.

Upcoming Meeting Dates and Titles of Books:

Monday, May 6, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, Have Dog Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey, by Stephen Kuusisto

Have Dog

Monday, June 3, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, Census, by Jesse Ball


Books are available through the library or you can support UOD by purchasing through Amazon Smile!

Past Titles (2018-2019 academic year)

Monday, October 1, 2018, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair, by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb

book cover that shows a young Syrian woman, Nujeen Mustafa, smiling







Monday, November 5, 2018, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison

Revised Fundamentals

Monday, December 3, 2018, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal, by Jonathan Mooney

Short Bus

Monday, January 7, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, The Hands of My Father, by Myron Uhlberg

Hands of My Father

Monday, February 4, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

Kiss Quotient

Monday, March 25, 2019, at 7pm in the Trustees Room

Nonfiction, Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life, by Harriet McBride Johnson

Too Late

Monday, April 1, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, So Lucky: A Novel, by Nicola Griffith

So Lucky

Past Titles (March 2015-Spring 2018)





About UOD – A Radio Interview

UOD Executive Director Rebecca Lubens was interviewed recently about Understanding Our Differences on WNTN Radio 1550 AM, Newton’s radio station. The interview was conducted by host Paul Roberts on his show 1550 Today, WNTN’s weekly public affairs program featuring local news and issues.

Click below to listen to the interview podcast, which describes the history, mission and activities of Understanding Our Differences:



Kids Making A Difference

My Great Story
Recently 5th graders at Newton’s Memorial Spaulding School had the chance to meet some real-life video stars – Trent and Megan Briggs.  The students were learning about our Intellectual Disabilities unit, which features a special video called “My Great Story.” It is about the action Trent took to help eliminate the R-word from our vocabulary, on behalf of his sister, Megan, who has Down syndrome.

Trent and Megan visited the school in person, and shared their story. As a 9-year-old, Trent wrote to the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary, asking them to change the definition of Down syndrome to remove the R-word – and they did!

Students were incredibly enthusiastic to meet this brother and sister in person, and were captivated by Trent’s successful advocacy and Megan’s hip-hop dancing. At the end of their talk, students gathered around special “End the R-Word” posters and signed their names.

What a great lesson in kids making a difference.

To view “My Great Story,” part of UOD’s Intellectual Disabilities unit, click here.


1 2