by PATRICIA MILLER
Three-hundred-plus weight loss surgery patients gathered in Portland, Ore. to raise funds for the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America- a Peer to Peer fundraising 501c3 nonprofit that has saved more then 20 lives (including a surgery here in Bristol, thanks to our central Connecticut chapter).
Once a year, we gather at our conference in various locations around the country.
We refer to the conference as the mother of all meet and greets.
What started out as one woman’s desire to give back has now become a movement. We have patients, doctors, vendors ,authors, and volunteers who all come together to teach, inspire, and raise funds for grants.
Each year, there is a theme. This year, there was the Mad Hatter tea party, the annual bling contest , and of course our celebrity “Chopped” with our Ambassador of Hope, Carnie Wilson.
Every event is meant to raise funds, raise awareness, or raise the confidence of the attendees through awards, accomplishments or acknowledgment.
I think the biggest difference between our conference and the others out there is the community. There are lifelong friendships made at this conference. These are the only people who know exactly what you go through everyday and accept you for all your strengths, weaknesses, and struggles. They will check in through social media and they almost all have YouTube videos.
YouTube helped foster the beginning of WLSFA. Friendships were created via YouTube videos and then a group of friends met in Las Vegas. This was the very first meet and greet and the inspiration for the WLSFA.
This year, we raised $9,000 in just activities at the event. There are always a ton of things to participate in and raffles to win. The goodie bags are fabulous as well. (See the end of this article for a chance to be entered into a raffle for a goodie bag from Portland.)
This year Airen, my husband, once again donated his time photographing the four day event. This is something we both love being able to do.
This year was extra special because we bought our children Bowdi and Haven. As volunteers, they were able to do their part to pay it forward as well.
It was very eye opening for them to see exactly what we do when we travel for that trip each year. They were also impressed by just how many people were in attendance.
I am looking forward to this coming year and all the new stuff planned for the trip in 2018. The location is still being decided and the date is unknown. As soon as it is released I will let you all know and I hope you can join us in 2018.
Patricia Miller is a WLSFA volunteer, weight loss surgery patient, and advocate. Add her group on Facebook, www.facebook.com/group/new.trish.us. Join the group and make a $5 donation to the WLSFA and you’ll be entered into a raffle for the Portland, Ore. goodie bag.