National Conference brings us together, makes us feel at home.
It feels like coming home. If you are like me and numerous community members who pulled me to the side to say hello, this was a resounding and repeating phrase I heard throughout our week together. A place of belonging. A place of meeting each other where we are. Sometimes those places are of hopelessness, fear of the unknown, inspiration and drive, thriving and belonging, and sometimes pure survival simply to show up. The tone and emotions of hope, courage and resilience also found a place as we met at the National Conference. My hope is that we are finding ourselves in deep reflection of how far we have come, the miles we are willing to travel to greet one another, the openness to listen to each other’s stories, and overall the way we truly have elevated one another to hope for better days.
As we hold high to our vision–a world where our community thrives–and we commit daily to our mission to support, educate and advocate for people impacted by limb loss and limb difference, we know the way we engage, lead and partner is critical to our long-term impact and influence for the Amputee Coalition’s priorities in numerous spaces: policy change, insurance fairness, health and wellness, youth engagement, workforce development, inclusive and equitable opportunities in our world, multilinguistic and accessible educational materials for our community members and so much more. As the National Conference unfolded, our board of directors and staff had the opportunity to showcase the daily work being done throughout the nation and to earnestly listen, learn and engage with just under 1,000 of our community members who joined us in person.
Our National Limb Loss Resource Center facilitated informative educational presentations and one specifically dedicated to the Amputee Coalition Prevalence Study. Our government relations team hosted an advocate certification training, Advocacy 101, Advocacy and the Art of Speaking Up, and sat on panels and discussions to increase the effectiveness of the day-to-day work. We shared our newly developed Black, Indigenous, People of Color Support Group 2023 dates and a new initiative for professionals who serve the limb loss and limb difference community, Care2, and we engaged our first-time attendees throughout the week.
Our Youth and Workforce Development department engaged in panels centered on career growth. The Youth Engagement Program had a packed speaker lineup with Disney, Flint Public Health Youth Academy, Progressive Abilities, a professional BMX rider, a USA Paralympic soccer player, an athlete and Hanger Clinic representative, and a professional ninja warrior, a kickoff keynote from the AC board chair, and the offsite trips to the adventure park and SeaWorld during the week.
Our conference kicked off with Paralympian Mike Schultz, who has innovated and changed the way athletes around the world can compete and left us eager to push the limits in our own lives. Paralympian Amy Purdy left us with a remarkable closing keynote asking us to decide how our story will go.
I ask that we continue to go forth together as we seek more change at state and federal levels; grow our peer support, certified peer visitors and hospital partners; engage and leverage partnerships across the country; and grow to reach the millions of people who are living with limb loss and limb difference.
Thank you to our community who has stayed the course as the Amputee Coalition reflects on the founding members of a once-support group to a national organization for good. Our team is humbled by your willingness to share your stories which inspire. We hear you, we see you and we value you. We look forward to taking your input, ideas and feedback into our continued work and values to innovate, stay consciously committed, win as a team and have an unwavering commitment to serve.
President and CEO