Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Florida "Family Cafe" Article

ORLANDO, FL - The 10th annual Governor's Summit on Disabilities completed on Sunday from Disney's Coronado Springs Resort on the Walt Disney World compound. According to the conference program, "The Family Café Annual Conference is a statewide event designed to meet the need for information and networking among people with disabilities and/or special health care needs and their families from all regions of Florida."

During the event, participants were given the choices of up to 20 concurrent sessions, with topics ranging from issues for siblings, financial management, advocacy, medical challenges, involvement for fathers, motivating the faith-based community, recreation, to how to work with the proper government agencies without losing your cool. Practical parenting information was shared in other sessions. Several state, local, and federal government agencies were also on hand to direct participants to the appropriate system as citizens attempt to cut through the proverbial red tape.

State Representative Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) delivered the keynote summit address. After addressing the capacity crowd in a candid speech, Rep. Galvano allowed for a "Q&A" session, where participants asked direct, often pointed, questions to the state representative.
Featured between nearly every breakout session was the famous "Pyramid Players." This lively group provided entertainment during the breaks between sessions for all passers-by. The youth participating may not be seen on the next season of American Idol, but their brand of song, dance, and demonstration was a certain crowd-pleaser.

Over 100 exhibitors were on hand to showcase their products and services. They ranged from national advocacy groups like Paralyzed Veterans of America and AARP to local art vendors. Also present were various industry experts helping the disabled with products to enhance their lives with improved wheelchairs, practical shower stalls, and usable, attractive cars that are fully accessible.

Some of the exhibitors were given the opportunity to share detailed information in the concurrent sessions. This enabled interested individuals to hear the full range of services and products offered by the exhibitors.

Even Ms. Wheelchair America 2008, the lovely Kristen McCosh of Boston, was present to autograph photos and discuss her exercise program for the disabled. Her personal story of overcoming the obstacles of both disabilities and the challenges of fitness give her the motivation ("Lead by example") to help others in their quest to enrich their own lives.

At the end of the second evening, guests were treated with a special presentation by the "Dueling Pianos." This crowd pleaser has become a staple for those who want wholesome entertainment during a very intense program.

Present for the conference were families of all political stripes. But politics were set aside. Each family had their own story to tell. Some disabilities were not always apparent, such as8 mild autism. Others were quite obvious in the form of a wheelchair-bound child, unable to perform the simplest of tasks. Parents of children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, blindness, missing limbs, and countless other issues all shared a common purpose on that weekend: Helping and encouraging each other through government, church, charity, community, and family.

A seemingly balanced mixture of all facets of community was showcased on Disney property.
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