This annual conference lasts about a week and is always loaded with events ranging from social to educational. With over 2200 attendees, Boston was no different. People had the opportunity to sightsee (Duckboat Tours anyone?), to attend one of three Red Sox games, go to nightly dances, watch or participate in a fashion show or a talent show, play sports, etc. But serious business was also conducted with a large number of workshops, many of which focused on medical issues related to various forms of dwarfism.
Here are some interesting facts about the LPA and dwarfism:
- There are over 200 distinct forms of dwarfism and skeletal dysplasia
- The typical height range for a dwarf is 2’8” to 4’5”
- It is estimated that 30,000 people in the United States have a type of dwarfism
- In July of 2009 the term “midget” was declared inappropriate and offensive
- The LPA has 6,500 members across the U.S.
Three days of the event also include an Expo, where various vendors and non-profits can sell products. This is our third year exhibiting at the Expo, and it felt like home. We can’t begin to express how rewarding it was to see so many of our bags from previous years being used on scooters, wheelchairs, power chairs and just carried, especially as a cross body bag. It was special that so many people came by to show us their bags and many times to buy an additional one. Here are a few of these special moments in the show.
At the previous show we sold a bag to a blind young woman who wanted a pretty bag even if she couldn’t see it. She wears her Demi Paisley Blue purse every day as a crossbody bag. She came by the table to buy one for another blind little person in Texas who wanted to look stylish too. How special is that? Heartwarming to say the least!
Last year we met two lovely vivacious women with scooters who both bought bags. They had so much fun together and with us. When one of them, Angie, came by this year, we immediately asked about Trish, and were devastated to find out she had passed away at age 39 from pneumonia. Trish’s mother made sure Angie got Trish’s scooter bag. In addition to the 3 bags she now has, Angie fell in love with the Jet Black Polka Dot – Turquoise and purchased it as well.
One family had purchased a bag for their daughter each year we’ve been at the Expo, and this year was no different. She now has Mulberry Criss Cross to go with her Princess Damask and Zebra Daisy Dot Pink. But the son was never able to get a bag until this year. He was excited to get a Universal Black bag for his scooter. He was particularly excited to pick out an additional band of a different pattern that can change the look of the bag. He chose the primary colored strips with dots – very cheerful!
One evening, two kids and their respective parents came to see Abby, our mascot. After an extensive conversation about why Abby was in a wheelchair and did the chair really work, etc., Abby went to play with the two kids. They all had a ball! There is a large age range of our LPA customers with a diverse spectrum of issues. But they all spoke about how they had been coming to the conferences for years. As one of our customers explained, “In this week, I am the norm. I don’t get stares or questions or jokes. The average sized person is the one who is not standard here.” The conference is also the place where people establish friendships that last for years. After every major event, people just gathered in the foyer of the ballroom, or the lobby or the bar and got caught up on lives, etc. The noise level was a solid wave of sound.
We had our first male winner in our daily drawing. Although not officially launched, we had our Universal Black Bags and Stylish Bands available. So when Glenn won the drawing, he came to pick up his walker bag and was invited to select an additional band for his new Universal bag. He was shocked to see “we had the McDougal Plaid” which was his heritage! To be honest, we just liked the design and were clueless that it was a clan’s tartan. He was thrilled to have it on his bag. The other bag winners were a Mom with an older child in a stroller and a woman who bought a bag last year and was using it at the conference. She now has a new waterproof bag!
We were blessed to have a number of people spend time at our table just hanging out. One evening, I noticed someone walk by that looked like Amy Roloff, the mother on “Little People, Big World” TV Series. I turned to one of my visitors and commented, “That looked just like Amy Roloff.” “It is,” she said. I’ve known Amy since we were teenagers coming to these conferences.”
Shortly thereafter, the woman brought Amy to meet me. We had a delightful conversation and she was extremely personable, thoughtful and helpful. She seemed impressed with our products and that they worked so well for Little People to use. At her suggestion, I took a picture of her with one of the bags she liked. Thanks Amy for modeling our Demi – Espresso Combo.
The next afternoon, another celebrity stopped by to look at our bags. Dr. Jen Arnold appears on “The Little Couple” series on TLC. She is a pediatric doctor and in the hospital uses a Permobil Power Chair to get around. She loves handbags (which her husband, Bill Klein, jokingly verified) and asked us if we could make a larger, waterproof bag for her to use on her mobility device. Not surprisingly we said “yes”. She was fun, gracious and even expressed an interest in designing bags. She was drawn to our waterproof, laminated cotton bags featuring black with white polka-dots – hence, the picture.
I was particularly struck by her retweeting a comment at the conference - "It's an incredible feeling to walk into a room and, for the first time in your life, have no one notice you" from @markpovinelli. Not surprisingly she was noticed as a celebrity; not as a little person. But this surely echoes why our customers love this conference and come annually!
Both Amy and Jen were so willing to take pictures with people, to interact, to share opinions, have conversations, etc. We were so very impressed with them both. We saw Jen and Bill’s kids several times – playing, petting a service dog, in the fashion show, etc. Just kids being kids! We then saw Zach Roloff later that night and he was having a great time with buddies from past conferences. Nice to see celebrities as just people enjoying the conference, their friends, and doing their part by conducting workshops, speaking and participating in events.
Thanks everyone for making HDS Medallion feel like part of the family, and we can’t wait to see you all next year!