I am so excited that we all will meet in person for Amputee Coalition’s National Conference in Palm Desert, California. It has been far too long that we have not been able to come together and visit with each other face-to-face.
I applaud the efforts each of you have made to stay connected through social media channels, Zoom, Microsoft Teams calls, or whatever avenues you have found to advance the mission of the Amputee Coalition.
My name is John Register, two-time and two-sport Paralympic Athlete, combat army veteran, and now the interim President and CEO of the Amputee Coalition. For the past several years, I have served as a board member for the Amputee Coalition. I have also served as a board member for the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics.
I have attended National Conference at least seven times, but the most memorable conference for me was in Tennessee. I was working as an employee of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and had taken a special assignment to support the United States Department of State as a Global Sports Mentor Ambassador for leaders who build sports programs for people with disability. At that time, I was mentoring Yerlan Suleimenov, who happened to be an above-the-knee amputee. I made it a point to bring Yerlan to the conference because I wanted him to see an organization focused on and thriving in “showing metal.”
Yerlan is the secretary-general for Paralympics Kazakhstan. When Yerlan first arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, home of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and now Olympic City USA, he wore his pants down to the top of his shoes.
Of course, there is no shame in that at all. I did it too when I first became an amputee. When he walked the conference hallways for the first time and saw 1,100 amputees showing their metal he was forever changed.
That evening for the opening reception Yerlan changed his outfit and came to the event wearing shorts. He also removed the cover-up on his leg. He told me for the first time in his life he felt truly free to be who he is.
This testament is true for many of you. It is an important reason why we have the Amputee Coalition National Conference. It is a chance for us to meet, to share our experiences, to share solutions, and, of course, to boogie on the dance floor. Can I still say boogie on the dance floor?
The amazing thing with Yerlan is that his growth did not stop at the Amputee Coalition conference. He took his newfound confidence back to his home in Astana, Kazakhstan, where he walked with his wife and daughter through one of the biggest malls in the area while wearing shorts that exposed his prosthesis. Once this conference is over, you will do the same. You will go home empowered to change limb loss in your sphere of influence for everyone you meet. The conference will inspire you.
For those of you who are reading this magazine article right now, I have a call to action for you. If you know someone who is living with limb loss or limb difference, or a caregiver for these individuals, then spread the word and get them to this conference. It will change their lives.
If you are seasoned person living with limb loss and/ or limb difference, we need your voice at the table. You are the guides, the sages, the ones who shift the mindsets of those who are new to this community. We need your voices.
As a professional speaker who works with leaders in the conference and event space, we will remain strategic and flexible when it comes to delivering the conference.
Do you remember the disruption that happened in your life when the pandemic arrived in March 2020? We thought it would be here for maybe three or four months and then it turned into two plus years.
Meetings and event planners are working to regain their footing in this ever-changing environment. Sometimes this change can impact what we are able to deliver. We ask for your patience and understanding knowing that our focus remains on the mission of this organization first and foremost, which is “to reach out to and empower people affected by limb loss to achieve their full potential through education, support and advocacy, and to promote limb loss prevention.”
This is our charge, and we will not stop until every person affected by limb loss and limb difference and their support communities know the Amputee Coalition continues to raise awareness about our national efforts to increase practices to prevent limb loss; to ensure every amputee lives life to the fullest after amputation; and to support amputees through pre- and post-amputation and recovery so no amputee feels alone.
To say I am excited to see you all is an understatement.
Now, go forth and inspire your world. Because go is your command, forth is your direction, and inspire is your vocation. You are here because only you can do this work, and because the work you do is in your sphere of influence.
See you in Palm Desert, California! John F. Register, CSP
Interim President & CEO Amputee Coalition