The National Gathering is a truly life changing event for adults living with arthritis and rheumatic diseases. It’s a weekend filled with both professional and volunteer led sessions on a variety of meaningful topics, but more than that, it’s a weekend spent with people who understand exactly what you’re going through. People you can share your triumphs and challenges with. And by the end of it, people that you will call your family.
This is the Gathering’s 10th anniversary and this year’s theme – 10 Years & Growing really symbolizes the past and present. To help explain the Gathering a little more to people that haven’t been, we put together a Top 10 list of reasons why YOU should come to this year’s National Gathering in Kansas City on June 9-11, 2017.
- Celebrate the 10th year of this inspiring event
A lot can happen in 10 years. Since our extended family first got together a decade ago, we’ve come a long way. Many things have changed – our hair styles, what we wear, the phones we carry. But one thing is the same: There’s still a group of people who understand exactly what you face daily, living with arthritis. And now there are more of us.
- Connect with a community of people living with arthritis and rheumatic diseases
Whether this is your first year, third year or tenth; you will be welcomed with open arms at the Gathering. So many people refer to their fellow Gathering attendees as “family”. Everyone “gets it”, there’s no need to hide or sugar coat your experiences living with arthritis. Everyone understands what you are going through, and wants to listen, help, and encourage you. One past attendees told us the Gathering “changed my outlook and life. I came out of my “disease closet” and became more comfortable to be open about my disease.”
- Learn from the sessions
From breakout sessions to hanging out with the experts, there is a lot to learn at the Gathering. Our sessions touch on a variety of topics – alternative therapies, emotional health, and more. Beyond the sessions, spending time with people who live with arthritis day in and day out, you are bound to learn a few tricks and tips from your new-found friends.
- Learn how you can make a lasting impact and difference
A staggering 54 million Americans live with arthritis. At the Gathering, you will learn how you can get involved in Arthritis Foundation projects in your local community – like starting or attending a local Arthritis Support Network, fundraising for Jingle Bell Run or becoming an Advocate. Says one past attendee, “For me, such fantastic education on so many levels and subjects from the medical world, learning about advocacy & so much more. I was so “lifted up” from attending the Gathering.”
- Learn how to become an empowered patient
How does one become empowered you may be thinking. Well it starts by helping you feel stronger and more confident. We do this through our educational sessions and by arming you with the tools and knowledge you need, but the entire Gathering is really one big, fun, and powerful learning experience. Arthritis Support Networks were created out of need to connect and empower people living with arthritis and rheumatic diseases, and the Gathering is an extension of that. To be in a room full of people that truly “get it” is a very special and empowering feeling.
- Hang out with your arthritis family
If you’ve been to the Gathering before, you know that you are now part of large, welcoming family made up of past attendees that are just like you. “It’s a place you feel comfortable”, “…an environment that you feel welcomed” and “It’s truly life-changing to find your tribe of people just like you. These people become FAMILY.” These are just a few of the many things past attendees have told us about spending time with their Gathering family.
- Provide support for your adult loved ones
In a lot of cases, we’re not the only ones living with arthritis. We are the ones physically impacted, but our family and friends certainly share in our experiences and pain. At the Gathering there are a group of sessions dedicated to topics for loved ones, including sessions on caregiving and how to cope with various issues if your loved one has arthritis.
- Go somewhere new, experience the culture – and eat KC BBQ!
Kansas City, the sixth largest city in the Midwest, is filled with history and culture. It’s also renowned for its barbecue – and if you haven’t tried KC barbecue you are in for a treat. “Kansas City style” barbecue means the meat is slowly smoked over wood and covered with a tomato and molasses based sauce. But barbecue isn’t all Kansas City has to offer – it’s one of the only metropolitan areas in the county that straddles two states (Kansas and Missouri), it’s situated on the beautiful Missouri River and has numerous cultural attractions. Did you know the nation’s 33rd President Harry S. Truman was born in Kansas City? You can visit his former home, his Presidential Library, and take in a game at Truman Sports Complex where Kauffman Stadium resides – home to the 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. (Get to KC on Thursday to watch a baseball game – the Royals start a 9-game road trip on June 9). For more about Kansas City click here.
- Relax, and truly be yourself
Have you ever gone somewhere and thought you wouldn’t fit in? Have you thought people would know you’re different? Maybe it’s your slight limp, or your splints. Perhaps you’re in a wheelchair or take pills with your meals. Whatever it may be, imagine now you are in a place where no one cares about that. In fact, imagine going to place were lots of people think just like you – like they don’t fit in because they have some form of arthritis or rheumatic disease. At the Gathering, everyone fits in.
- The Monday Excursion
Each year, the Monday after the Gathering, a large group of attendees go on what we like to call “The Monday excursion” and it is now a Gathering tradition. It’s an opportunity to spend quality time with your friends and loved ones after the action-packed weekend. This optional excursion will certainly include exploring the local Kansas City area – see #8 above! – and we will post the details on our website soon.