JA Conference- 4th and Final Day

The last day of conference is a little sad. In a very short time, we found a “safe” place, where everyone really understood where we were coming from. In the closing mother’s session, one mom summarized it so well- she said that it wasn’t awkward introducing yourself and trying to explain that yes, your child had arthritis…it was always “what type of JA does your child have?”  Everyone here gets it. They are going through (or have gone through) the same things, have the same fears, and the same hopes and dreams for their children. Our kids were able to go to their group activities and not explain why some of them had thinning hair, a “funny” walk, or were too tired to participate. All their conference friends innately understood as well. For four days we were in a bubble…a place where we could let down our hair, and just be ourselves.

 

Its hard to let that go, and re-enter the real world. Breakfast, despite the freebie table with pick your own swag and Arthritis Walk T-shirt exchance, was definitely a more subdued than the previous mornings. The breakout sessions were a little teary. We all wanted to linger just a little longer. But just like an amazing summer vacation, all good things must come to an end. Before we were completely done, we were treated to one last general session.

Wow.

Jeffrey Gottfurcht, the founder of Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation (granting wishes to children with JA) and the FIRST person ever with RA to reach the peak of Mt. Everest, gave us the most inspiring speech about what our children could do. He is living proof. The feeling of hope resonating through the ballroom after his conclusion was palpable, it was real. We came away from the the conference better informed, better connected and  after this speech, with a much better mental attitude. If this man, with the same type of disability as our kids, could manage to do what he did despite the disease, anything could be possible for our children as well.

Thank you Arthritis Foundation, Pacific Region, and all the numerous volunteers who worked so hard to make this happen. I feel lucky to have attended, and better prepared to deal with my own children’s challenges. We have come away with new friendships, and strengthened the “old” ones. It was an intense extended weekend, but it was also a much needed mental break, fraternizing with so many just like us!

I would encourage any and all of you (even grandparents and extended family) to come to next years conference so you too can share in this amazing experience.

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