This is my recap of the Helping Hands Foundation’s Winter Outing. Read about Friday here.
Saturday arrived a bit early for my taste, but I got downstairs in time for breakfast and a couple of great speakers.
Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa 2013, was first to take the stage and she owned it. It was so cool to finally meet Nikki (I had interviewed her last year) and see her in action. She was positive and encouraging and challenging, all at the same time. It was fun to see all the kids lined-up to get pictures with her and to see her interacting with them all. Nikki gives speeches all the time, but this was different than usual. You could see her eyes twinkling as each little girl and boy came to her and showed her what made them different. She made them each feel special.
After a brief intermission and some technical difficulties, Rebekah Marine took to the stage and delivered her message like a champ. I know how thrown-off you can get when things don’t go as planned and she did awesome. Beka’s story is one of coming to terms with her difference over time, to a place where she embraces it and encourages other to do the same. Such a valuable message for parents and kids to hear. I was (and am) super proud of her!
After the main session, I had the opportunity to participate in a session Annie Garofalo ran for any students who were interested in becoming “disability advocates.” The room was packed! She gave a presentation about how to get involved in their own or surrounding schools and her strategy for giving talks. It was amazing to me to see so many young people who wanted to help others understand and relate to those who might look or act differently. It made me really proud. It also made me wonder if I would have been in that room 20 years ago.
Several of us then had lunch with just the HHF kids and got to interact with them on a smaller scale. Many of us also made plaster models of our arms/hands…which I’ll tell you a story about in tomorrow’s post. Nick led a training session for a bunch of the kids, which was rad, too. After that we had the youth meeting.
The youth meeting is for students, I believe in grades 4-12. Initially we broke into five groups with a mix of grades and boys/girls. We discussed questions like, “What do you tell people if they ask why your hand is like that and you don’t know?” and “How do you deal with people staring or saying rude things?” Then we switched it up and made groups of same aged kids. I was with the group of high schoolers and we talked about driving and things like that. I always look forward to hearing their perspectives and input.
After dinner, we had the annual talent show. There were kids who danced, played instruments, sang, told jokes, performed karate routines…it was fantastic! And then I went up there. Pretty sure I was the only adult. It basically turned into a comedy routine; me playing piano and singing/saying one-liners. I had fun and people were laughing, which is really all I generally care about, so I consider it a success. At the time of this writing I am unaware of a recording of said “performance.” Which, I think, is a good thing.
To wrap-up the day, all the parents gathered in the ballroom and those of us who helped lead the youth meeting gave a “report” of how things went. We don’t say names or anything, just general feedback about what the kids are talking about. Then we broke-up into five groups and just talked until after 10pm. This is often an emotional part of the weekend, but one of my favorites. As a person who grew-up with a limb-difference who is also now a parent, I feel like I have a unique perspective and can give some good insight to the group. A lot of the questions had to do with school and staring. “What do you do when…” It’s so interesting to me to hear the different philosophies and approaches. Ultimately, it’s all about loving your child, telling them they are lovable and worthy of love just the way they are, and making decisions for your family situation. Such a valuable time.
After the parents meetings, many among us went to another room and cultivated our friendships. For a long, long time. I would like to take this opportunity to say that Tony Memmel and I (and his sister and brother-in-law) were the last ones in the room, which means – WISCONSIN SHUT IT DOWN. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
Saturday was long, but so amazing. A day of being inspired and encouraged, of learning about and from each other, of laughing and smiling together…just a day full of life and love.
Which is what makes Sunday morning so difficult…
If you were at the outing, please share your stories in the comments section below!