Returning to Kansas for the 10th annual Arthritis Introspective (AI) National Gathering was, for me, a double pleasure. Not only is Kansas my home state – I was born there some 52 years ago – but being together with so many amazing people in the AI community is something I need and appreciate. Walking into the large meeting room on Friday, June 9, and seeing so many other Arthritis Support Network (ASN) Leaders from all across our country, really made me value how much Kevin Purcell’s dream of creating Arthritis Introspective over ten years ago has blossomed into a life-enriching reality for our members.
For a 2nd year in a row, I was able to attend the ASN Leader Training that occurs on the opening day of the annual Gathering. I had successfully completed all of my prerequisite training a year earlier, before attending the Nashville Gathering in 2016. During these valuable times together, ASN Leaders get to interact, share, and learn a host of best practices and technical tools that make us all more effective and empowered leaders in our various communities. The Friday agenda consisted of a thorough interactive breakdown of the many online tools provided through the Arthritis Foundation, learning about the psychological adjustments to disabilities, Arthritis Foundation volunteer engagement opportunities and afternoon workshops including role playing sharing our stories as engaged patients and practicing group facilitation techniques.
Much like the ASN meeting I had attended a year earlier, there was a hands-on demonstration on CiviCRM. The biggest advantage for me as our day came to a close was how much more confident, capable, and engaged I was than a year ago. In Nashville, I was so fresh, enthused, and wide-eyed but also incredibly overwhelmed trying to learn a new software reporting system, meet deadlines, and self market my group in a city of almost 2.5 million people!
Overall, our ASN Leader training at the Kansas City Gathering was a resounding success, just like the entire weekend. Valuable information was shared. Relevant technology and resources from the Arthritis Foundation were highlighted. And perhaps the best thing of all is that a room filled with arthritis patients were willing to transform themselves into reliable leaders making a difference in their communities. I love being an ASN Leader because not only do I get to help other active adults with arthritis in my own backyard, but I do so with the solace and satisfaction of knowing that I've got priceless resources behind me and I'm doing it alongside some of the toughest, most determined, and compassionate individuals I've had the privilege to know.
Vince Santos is the Arthritis Support Network Leader for Houston TX.