Tag Archives: bullying

Nurturing a Legacy…

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

Inspirational quotes often get acknowledged, passed around but then soon forgotten-as though their purpose is for someone else to fulfill. I saw this one and felt compelled to share its wisdom as a remembrance of the amazing Maya Angelou who passed away in 2014. It represents much of how I view myself.

It’s a new year and my commitment to help five wrongfully convicted men is entering its sixth year. From the start of this journey, I’ve had supporters enthusiastically board the freedom train. Some who’ve ridden with me from the start are still with me and others have exited. Supporters come and go and I’m okay with that because this expedition is long and fraught with laborious uphill battles. I appreciate that we all have our limits and that it is easy to grow weary. All any of us can do is try our best which to me is priceless. My spirits remain high in this calling I was chosen for. I know my commitment will never falter. Knowing that my whole life has prepared me for what I now do keeps me steady and on course.

I think of how my spirit was silenced for most of my younger years. I remember feeling different and ashamed of who I was. I never thought of myself as a leader. Life was about keeping a low profile and walking in the shadows of everyone else. I was desperate to fit in, to be liked, to have nice clothes. But that never happens to poor kids. Poor kids are stupid, frowned upon, funny looking and different. Not worth the attention…at least, not nice attention. Because of those stereotypes, being different was not an attribute to be proud of.

It was a new experience and a blessing to finally realize my potential and to understand what I was meant to accomplish. When I was introduced to the plight of the wrongfully convicted I decided that my life was incomplete until I opened my heart to receive the gift of leadership. That was when it really became clear that being different was essential and that the characteristics I possessed were exactly what were needed to pursue this legacy. I am still seen by others as different but what is great about that is my own understanding that being different is not easy. It takes courage to stand out. It takes abilities and strengths that many don’t have. What I feel now is a strong sense of self pride because I know that I am valuable to myself and to others.

Our everyday actions become a culmination of our ethics…our biases which are cultivated through past experiences, observations and lessons learned. We generally call this influence, But I prefer to define it as inspiration. Inspiration to me suggests provocation which leads to action and I am certainly all about that. An example of this is when that lone red fox saunters through our backyard in broad daylight without a care in the world. He/she most definitely inspires the squirrels and rabbits to hightail it out of there with the utmost expediency!  In that respect, inspiration motivates amid the presence of chaos. This is an awesome revelation for me. It is one thing to be influential but we often forget about our capacity to inspire. It’s empowering to realize we constantly initiate and react to inspiration on a daily basis. How we develop over time heavily depends on interpreting the tiniest indicators of inspiration such as that subtle squeeze of reassurance in a handshake, the emphasis on a specific word in a sentence, or a subtle facial expression that speaks more effectively than the spoken word.

Most of us don’t appreciate the multidirectional highway on which inspiration travels in everyday life. It comes in many guises both positive and negative. If we are indecisive and ignorant to its true meaning, we risk sabotaging the benefits, and miscalculating who we are meant to become. Keep in mind that we all travel on that same highway but what differentiates our paths is our ability to effectively sort out and process all of those tiny subtleties, categorize them into some sort of manageable semblance and to accurately define who we are based on the importance we’ve placed upon each one. This is not easy. But it is vital if we are to succeed in leaving this place better than when we arrived, or encouraging any kind of a worthy legacy.

Each morning as I catch up on the latest news and learn about all of the tragic events that have and are occurring all around the globe, I welcome the solace of knowing I try to be as akin in my movements as that lone fox. My step is one of purpose and determination, done with an intent to rouse, to initiate change, abolish ignorance and to lead with good deeds rather than with empty words. I know that I am on the right path to gaining further knowledge and strength regarding my own potential. It is my wish that everyone experience the same in their lives because I’ve seen all too often, the anger associated with an unaccomplished and unfulfilled life.

There is so much I want to accomplish as I enter into this new year. I am hopeful that time will permit me to do at least most of it. Come along if you wish-stay however long you can-but know that I will not judge as I sit on that train for the duration of this ride!

This past year marked real progress in my mission to help free these men when the very competent and highly respected Minneapolis law firm of Fredrikson & Byron filed a motion on October 31st on behalf of Keith Kutska, the lead suspect in the case. This means that it could be heading back to court. Hmmm…not a bad legacy for an unknown suburban housewife from Blaine, Minnesota.

In the next few weeks I will elaborate on aspects of that motion.

May you all have a wonderful New Year…


The Power of One…

As I walked past a small grocery store on main street a woman exited carrying an impossible load of groceries. Also dangling at her finger tips was a six pack of beverages in glass bottles. It was obvious that she was struggling to contain everything. But I kept on walking. The sound of glass crashing to the cement behind me seconds later still did not compel me to lend a hand. Instead I chose to feel ashamed and embarrassed and I feared retribution from her because of my failure to come to her aid.

When I share this story some ask why she didn’t use a cart. I say, “Why didn’t I help?” When others suggest I should let it go and move on I say, “Not in a million years!”

Joan Treppa reading the forward* for her upcoming book Reclaiming Lives; Pursuing Justice for Six Innocent Men at the 2016 Walk for Truth and Justice in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

There are many problems too large for me to change but if I can at least make a difference in my tiny corner of the world hopefully it will filter up and affect the bigger picture. Five years ago I was given the chance to put that idea to the test in a big way. I learned of a real legal case in which six innocent men were sent to prison for a crime they did not commit. After learning more details, it became apparent that I cannot and should not walk away this time. I became a public voice for these people and I focused my efforts on seeking out legal representation for them.

Many in similar situations typically have no money to seek adequate legal help so they sit in prison, praying for someone to care about what has happened to them. Many of them write letters trying to find help but with very little luck which only serves to bottom out an already defeated soul.

I learned of an organization called the Innocence Project (IP), an organization that charges nothing to represent incarcerated people with legitimate claims of innocence. The great thing is, the IP is more than willing to help if they can. The bad thing is, they rely heavily on public donations to fund their work. Those funds are often inadequate forcing organization staff to turn away many desperate cries for help.

Late last year, an idea by my artistic son, Jared Manninen, to “get me out there” was the motivation to create this website to highlight what I do on behalf of six Wisconsin men, especially when things started to progress favorably for them. I felt I was taking a leap of faith and I honestly didn’t think that my site would solicit much attention. I could not have been more wrong!  Thanks to all of you for showing unbelievable compassion and for caring enough to listen to and share my message.

Update: Book was published in June, 2017. It won a national book award in November, 2017. Available on Amazon or through this website.

*Forward was written by one of the six men, Keith Kutska. View a recording of Kutska being interviewed by the Green Bay Press Gazette in 2009.