The Family Café exists to provide individuals with disabilities and their families with an opportunity for collaboration, advocacy, friendship and empowerment by serving as a facilitator of communication, a space for dialogue and a source of information.
The Hyatt Regency Orlando and convention center were huge. It was a great locale for our community; it was very easy to navigate and the hospitality was top-notch. And I loved our room! We usually make this a weekend getaway but didn’t have anyone to watch Nic this time around so we wound up taking him with us. It was his first conference and he was a little overwhelmed with it all. It was a lot of walking for him as well as the first time he ever rode in a high rise elevator and he didn’t handle it well, moaning and groaning every time the elevator had to make a stop.
Every time I attend Family Cafe I’m reminded how many families there are like us and we’re not alone. It’s a relief to be around people who don’t stare and who understand the struggles that we go through. The need continues to be vast with 20,000 disabled people on the wait list who still desperately need support and services.
I decided not to overwhelm myself with too many conference sessions. We went to two of them on Friday and the Governor’s Summit. Saturday morning Nic and I went down to the pool. My husband took him after awhile so I got a bit of time to myself on the lounge chair.
The afternoon was spent watching a performance of Mama Mia and then listening to the Pyramid Players (probably one of the big reasons I go back when I can!) Then I wandered the exhibit hall, bought too much chocolate from a micro business and my own disability t-shirt from another micro business (Micro businesses are small businesses are run by people with disabilities and I like to support them when I can.)
In hindsight, I’m glad I took it easy on Saturday and found joy just hanging around the music and exhibit hall. Little did I know the horror that we were going to wake up to the next morning. Initially I heard 20 were killed at The Pulse, and by the time we got to the ballroom to hear Sunday morning’s keynote speaker, it was 50. I don’t think I’ll ever forget hearing that number for the first time. I’ve watched this video of the Pyramid Players performing “Stand by Me” over and over. I filmed it less than 12 hours before the shooting, and it is so poignant now.
Being around the disability community always teaches me a bit more about the importance of community, loving unconditionally, and acceptance. The world has much to learn from them.
One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way that we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.
–Jean Vanier, Community and Growth