Recap: The 12th Annual SPADD Conference at Callaway Gardens

Happy Friday to you! I hope your week has been a good one.

This past Sunday, I traveled with Mary, our CEO, to Callway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA for the 12th Annual SPADD Conference. It was the perfect time of year to visit such a beautiful, beloved place, and we had a great time. The conference was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, so when we arrived on Sunday we walked around the Mountain Creek Inn and visited with some of the other attendees. It was a wonderful chance for me to get connected with people who have the same kind of passion we do about supporting individuals with disabilities. It seems like Mary knows just about everyone!

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On Monday, we got up bright and early for coffee and breakfast, and then we visited with the vendors, some of whom we’re already working with here at GCRC. Afterwards, Mary and I sat in on the Keynote Session, which was given by Joseph MacBeth. He was passionate about equipping direct support professionals (DSPs) with the tools they need to help individuals with disabilities make their own choices. Which seems like a no-brainer, but, unfortunately, there is still a good deal of ignorance – some of it simply a lack of knowledge and some of it an outright refusal to acknowledge the truth – about what rights these individuals should be given. Or, rather, what rights they inherently have.

“We have to allow people the dignity,” MacBeth said, “to make bad decisions.”

In other words, it’s not up to us, or to DSPs, to make their choices for them. It’s up to us to help individuals understand information, options, and consequences. And, like in any relationship, we have to trust that the people we care for will choose what is wisest.

Mary and I did have a few breaks during the conference where we were able to visit the butterfly garden and the country store. The butterfly garden is absolutely breathtaking! It’s like being in a fairytale.

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On Monday evening, during the General Session with the DD Services Panel, Mary did what Mary does best: she asked the tough questions. She told the panel that while their words and intentions were appreciated, she wasn’t hearing anything new. Their words were just rhetoric. And then she asked what the panel actually planned to do with the words they spoke.

Over the next 24 hours, I lost count of how many people approached her to say thank you for speaking up.

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My role this at SPADD was to get connected and serve on a public relations level. But, as always, there is so much more to it than just taking pictures and notes. In the end, SPADD was an opportunity for me to see what it’s like, on a personal level, to support individuals with disabilities long-term, and to experience, by proxy, how frustrating it can be for these organizations to hope for change when their own support is limited. It made me that much more thankful for Mary and for the incredible team we have at GCRC.

Until next time, I hope you have a great weekend!


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