The Arc’s 2014 National Convention – A Rousing Success!

Thank you to all of the nearly 800 attendees who made it New Orleans for The Arc’s 2014 National Convention. We could not have pulled it off without the support from chapter staff, self-advocates, family members, and professionals in our network. You all help us make this event bigger and better every year. A lot of work went into designing a program that featured not only, educational opportunities and inspiration, but also the passion that brings The Arc’s mission to life.

Ron Suskind

Author Ron Suskind speaks with a fan at his book signing

The convention got started with an engaging and captivating opening session. Award winning author Ron Suskind gave an impassioned speech about his new book, Life Animated, that details the remarkable journey that his family went on to reconnect with Owen, their son who is diagnosed with Autism. His speech brought the audience to tears and to their feet. Ron truly felt at home in The Arc’s network and spent more than an hour ensuring everyone who wanted to get their copy of his book signed, talk to him, or even give him a hug was given the chance.

Director of National Partnerships for Comcast/NBCUniversal, Fred Maahs, spoke about his desire to use his position to bridge corporations and the non-profits that service communities. Fred also shared his personal story of his physical disability and how it has impacted his career and the goals he has for Comcast.

Throughout the convention, attendees were able to network and interact with chapter staff, sponsors, and national initiative partners. Self- Advocates showcased their products and services in Entrepreneur Alley. This year featured our biggest showing of self-advocate entrepreneurs yet!

But the convention wasn’t all work and no play. Early risers were able to “Wake and Shake” with Eruption Athletics. Chris Engler and Joe Jelinski of Eruption Athletics (EA) are able to bring physical fitness to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through informative work out sessions that feature the EA patented Volcano PADD and specially designed music to help inform participants of the specific exercises they have to complete.

With the convention going off without a hitch, everyone was thrilled to participate in the local host event, which involved a second line parade from the Marriott hotel to The Presbytere. Onlookers from neighboring stores and restaurants waved the parade on, as everyone marched through The French Quarter. At The Presbytere, everyone was able to enjoy jazz music, light refreshments, and view the ongoing exhibits on Hurricane Katrina and the history of Mardi Gras.

Peter and Nancy with Local Hosts Barry Meyer and Kelly Serrett

(L to R) Barry Meyer, The Arc of Baton Rouge; Nancy Webster, President of The Arc Board of Directors; Kelly Serrett, The Arc of Louisiana; Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc

One of the highlights for many of the participants were the powerful self-advocates who shared their stories. During the opening session Betty Williams spoke about the importance of employment for individuals with I/DD and how The Arc has given her meaningful employment. Shaun Bickley had the crowd cheering as he spoke about his personal journey as an individuals with autism. In fact, his speech was so powerful he has already been booked for another gig. And finally, during the closing general session, James Meadours, a nationally-known leader in self-advocacy and a sexual assault survivor shared his personal story about his journey through the criminal justice system and how his lo­cal chapter of The Arc supported him along the way

The convention drew to a close on Thursday afternoon with a sneak preview of the documentary film Children of the Dumping Ground, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Chip Warren, led by The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability Director, Leigh Ann Davis. Board President Nancy Webster presented the President’s Award to Dr. David Braddock for his research regarding long-term care, health promotion and disease prevention, and public policy toward people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and Jim Ellis was presented with The Arc’s 2014 Advocacy Matters Award.

For more pictures visit The Arc’s Flickr, and don’t forget to share your photos as well!

Disability Advocates and Professionals Join in New Orleans for The Arc’s Annual Convention

2014 Convention ArtworkNew Orleans, LA  – Next week, The Arc’s National Convention will kick off in New Orleans, Louisiana with more than 800 disability advocates, professionals, and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) coming together to learn, forge connections, and energize the disability movement. This year’s theme focuses on three key goals– To Network, To Improve, and To Lead, three simple ideas that embody what The Arc stands for.  This year’s event will have a strong focus on criminal justice issues and the I/DD population.

“The Arc’s convention is a once a year chance to bring our network of nearly 700 chapters, their members and professionals, and people with disabilities together for a unique experience.  This year, in addition to our usual activities, we are turning a national spotlight to criminal justice and disability. The Arc has a long history of standing up for the rights of people with disabilities who find themselves involved in our legal system as victims, suspects, or offenders.

“We are thrilled to be honoring James Ellis, one of the leading lawyers in the disability community. Additionally, we are excited to have two award winning documentary film makers who will be exposing the difficulties facing children with intellectual disabilities involved in our criminal justice system,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

This three day event, which will take place at the New Orleans Marriott from September 30 – October 2, will include:

  • a keynote address by award-winning author Ron Suskind, whose latest book, Life Animated, A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism shares his family’s 20 year journey with their youngest son Owen’s autism;
  • an exciting and inspirational presentation from Fred Maahs, Director of National Partnerships for Comcast Corporation and Vice President of Comcast Foundation, that touches on his personal story, his commitment to community service, and the benefits of corporate/nonprofit partnerships;
  • honoring Dr. David Braddock with The Arc’s President’s Award for his lifetime of work for individuals with disabilities including his invaluable research regarding long-term care, health promotion and disease prevention, and public policy toward disability;
  • a panel discussion with documentary film makers Karen Grau and Chip Warren of Calamari Productions, and a sneak peek at their latest film, Children of the Dumping Ground;
  • honoring James Ellis, one of the greatest legal minds in the disability community; and
  • an exciting event hosted by The Arc of Louisiana and The Arc Baton Rouge, which includes a second line parade down the Chartres Street to the Presbytere, and a scheduled guest appearance by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne.

“We are excited to serve as the local host committee for The Arc’s national convention. With so many changes at the federal and state level including managed care, the CMS home and community based setting rule, and wage and hour issues; I think the timing of this event in New Orleans is ideal. My hope is with hundreds of advocates and the leading experts in the disability community in our backyard, we will push forward with the necessary conversations to continue to move our state in the right direction,” said Kelly Serrett, Executive Director of The Arc Louisiana.

“The Arc’s national convention is the premier event for disability advocates in our network, and we are thrilled to have everyone in New Orleans this year.  Our program covers a number of key issues facing communities in Louisiana as well as nationally, from public policy to early intervention services for families with a loved one who has a disability. We are so pleased with the line-up of speakers that will be joining us, and look forward to showing our colleagues from across the country what our great state and the city of New Orleans has to offer,” said Barry Meyer, Executive Director of The Arc Baton Rouge.

How to Make the Most of This Year’s National Convention

2014 Convention ArtworkMy name is Jill Egle, and as a self-advocate ambassador of The Arc, I enjoy welcoming new attendees to the annual convention. This year is extra special because it is being hosted in my very own hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. The Big Easy, as they like to call it!

As someone who has attended The Arc’s National Convention in the past, I like to offer new attendees some tips on how to make the most of the convention. Some of my favorite things to do at the convention are to check out Entrepreneur Alley and The Arc Store. Entrepreneur Alley is where other self-advocates showcase their businesses and products. And The Arc Store is a great place to pick up new gear and gadgets. I also recommend you come to my session, on September 30th, from 2-3 pm, as well as the Self-Advocate Symposium that’s being held on Wednesday, October 1st, from 9:00 am until 12:00 pm.

There is a lot of information to take in and a lot of events and programs to sign up for. Some general tips for attending the national convention are:

  • Stay safe and be aware of your surroundings
  • Let others know where you are going
  • Keep your cell phone handy at all times
  • Always keep your bag or backpack close and closed. Keep your wallet or purse zipped up

With this year’s convention being held in New Orleans, you’re definitely going to want to go sightseeing, check out cool places to eat, and do some shopping. One of my favorite things to do is just walk around New Orleans. You could view the old mansions on St. Charles Ave or hop on a street car and go to Audubon Park and see the zoo. There are also several tours you can take part in:

And when you’re looking for good food and a fun time, I suggest heading to Mulates! Besides providing tourists (and locals) the best of New Orleans, Mulates also employs members from a local chapter of The Arc! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of being in a new city and attending the convention, but it’s better to be smart about where you’re going and what you’re doing. As you’re out, enjoying the nightlife of NOLA, remember to pay attention to where you are and always be alert.

If you follow these few tips, you’ll have a great time in New Orleans and at the convention.

Take care and enjoy NOLA!

Jill Egle

“Come Pass a Good Time with The Arc Mon’ Amie”

2014 Convention ArtworkYou’re invited to enjoy the classic Southern city of New Orleans with The Arc as we network, learn and lead the movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the future!

The Arc’s annual National Convention is set for September 30 – October 2 in New Orleans, LA with more than 600 people who share your passion for disability issues. Absorb the energy of committed volunteer leaders, chapter professionals, family members and advocates. And keep your skills fresh by learning from the best in the field and sharing experiences with colleagues from across the country. Add your voice to those who are shaping the future of The Arc. Then take that energy and enthusiasm back to your community and lead the way to change.

Self-Advocates working togetherVisit our newly redesigned Convention website to find a little something for everyone:

  • For professionals:  Sessions dedicated to your professional and volunteer leadership development. New ideas, inspiration and networking opportunities, plus National Conference of Executives (NCE) training and activities!
  • For the grassroots: Sessions dedicated to advocacy and strengthening The Arc’s grassroots network, plus the hottest topics in the I/DD movement.
  • For people with I/DD: A symposium planned by and for self-advocates plus educational sessions with opportunities to learn, grow and connect with each other.
  • For everyone: Fun events and networking opportunities, a celebration with our local host, The Arc of Louisiana, plus shopping at microbusiness enterprises run by people with I/DD.

Visit http://convention.thearc.org to register now to take advantage of early bird discounts, Chapter and Family Passes and special room rates at the Marriott in New Orleans, LA.

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors: Comcast NBCUniversal, MetLife, Special Needs Alliance, DirectCourse, Hammer Travel, Mercer, Mutual of America, CARF International, Apostrophe Magazine, Wellpoint, Relias Learning and Insurance Benefits & Advisors.