Last week I attended the 33rd annual NFED Family Conference, which was held in Columbus, Ohio. There was a record number of people registered for conference – over 400 – but it did not feel overcrowded at all.
This was my 5th conference (including the one I went to way back in 1996). Every one I’ve been to has a different “feel” to it. It’s almost as if the conference itself is a living thing – made up of all the people who attend and the atmosphere of the hotel and even the weather, I guess it also depends on your perspective and what role you’re playing in it.
For me, the “feel” of this conference was very calm and down to earth. I was really looking forward to just relaxing and catching up with people, and connecting with new people. I guess that’s my goal every year, but this year it seemed more so.
Some of the highlights of this year’s conference were:
The liaisons hosting a pep rally and game night for the first evening of conference.
Being a “buddy”, which meant that I was assigned to a new family and tasked with helping them feel comfortable at the conference. My buddy this year was a young woman named Mallory and her son Hudson.
Catching up with old friends – and seeing how my “young” friends have grown since I last saw them.
Meeting new friends and making connections with people I had already “met” online.
Participating in a panel for one of the sessions. It was a general Q&A session for people in the audience to ask affected adults, or parents of affected children anything they wanted to ask. I was one of six panel members, and I enjoyed being part of it. I just wish people had asked more questions!
Each evening, hanging out with the other adults, either at the bar or in the courtyard. Really, the social aspect of the conference is what draws me back year after year. This year I got to spend a lot of time with Suzanne and her husband Will, which was cool!
Having dinner with one of my mini-me’s the evening after the conference ended.
By the end of the conference, I was exhausted and sick (I must have picked up a bug on my travels), but happy that I had the opportunity to connect and re-connect with my extended NFED family.
Next year we’ll do it again in Colorado Springs!