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Self-Advocacy at The Family Cafe

Although some people associate The Family Cafe conference with catering mostly to families and youth with disabilities, each year the Cafe offers ample opportunity for adult self-advocates to learn about, network with, and mentor and train others in self-advocacy. The 19th Annual Family Café was quite the productive weekend for Florida Self-Advocates Network'D (FL SAND) members, and self-advocates from across the state.

Enjoy this photo essay of the excellent self-advocacy opportunities afforded by The Family Cafe and put next year's dates on your calendar (June 15-17).

Arizona Jenkins and Natalie Horne of the New Horizons Support Group for People with Disabilities in Tampa

Arizona Jenkins, leader and founder of the New Horizons Support Group for People with Disabilities in Tampa, presented a session on the importance of healthy living to people with disabilities. Central to Arizona’s presentation was the importance of advocacy in a medical context and “bridging the gap” in relationships with professionals.

Amanda Baker, FL SAND officer and founder of Elephant Herds self-advocacy group in Panama City, led a session on the grassroots self-advocacy process and how to start a a local group. Information included how to reach out to lawmakers, raise funds, coordinate local advocacy projects, and lessons learned through both the victories and setbacks of grassroots self-advocacy. Amanda mentors new FL SAND group leaders.

Malcolm Harris-Gowdie of FL SAND's Stand-Up for Independence group (SUFI) shared his continuing journey toward his dream of becoming a sportscaster, including a recent trip to the ESPY Awards and broadcasting opportunities gained through the Special Olympics. Malcolm also discussed his personal journey with Autism. According to Malcolm, perseverance is key.

FL SAND board member, Moira Rossi (not pictured) and her mother Bernadette Moran shared their experiences in starting Moira's business, Moira’s Ventures, which produces and sells training videos targeted to individuals with disabilities.

Representatives from Project SALT’s

leadership training -- including FL SAND's People First of South Florida member Denise Prehay -- were on hand to discuss their experiences and advocacy journeys since completing the 8-week program, which will begin again in August. Project SALT -- Self-Advocate Leadership Training -- is a joint project of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and the University of Miami's Mailman Center.

Friday night brought one of the hallmarks of Family Café, The Governor’s Summit on Disabilities. Attendees heard from several state agency heads, including the Director of Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Barbra Palmer; state Senator Bill Galvano; and Governor Rick Scott. Each of the Summit’s governmental participants highlighted areas of progress that have been made, legislatively or otherwise, by or on behalf of Floridians with Disabilities. Gov. Scott and Sen. Galvano pose here with "The Transformers" self-advocacy group from Santa Rosa County.

Members from around the state helped staff the FL SAND booth in the exhibit hall all weekend and the FL SAND Board of Directors had a board meeting on Saturday.

Regardless of their affiliation with FL SAND or any self-advocacy group, The Family Cafe affords a great opportunity for self-advocates to learn about and practice disability advocacy. See you next year!

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