A free conference on disabilities next month promises an extensive program with everything from depression to caregiver burnout covered at the one-day event hosted by River of Life Christian Center in Riverview, 6605 Krycul Ave.
“We wanted to have a little bit of something for everybody,” said Tammy Turner, who is organizing the ‘Soup to Nuts’ conference with her husband Tim. “All the way from our newborn babies that might be born with disabilities to our elderly population; an event that would cover everyone from the start to the finish.”
The Turners are co-directors of HisAbility, a disability ministry at River of Life. They have been involved in disability issues across Florida for 18 years. They have also been regular attendees at a major disability conference held annually in Orlando that draws 8,000 to 9,000 people.
“We wanted to bring something here for people who may not be able to attend that conference,” said Tammy Turner, who worked two years with the Hillsborough County School Board as a parent advocate for those with disabilities. “We are marketing our conference to Hillsborough County and hope to draw at least 200 people.”
The conference sessions will cover:
• The Steps in Early Steps: USF Bay Area Early Steps Program
• Vocational Rehabilitation — Your Winning Ticket: Making Work Pay — Understanding Vocational Rehabilitation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
• Special-Needs Trusts
• Child Find
• Disaster Preparedness
• Caregiver Burnout
• Turning 18, Guardianship and other options
• Covering Florida: Getting Consumers Enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace
• Is Disability in Your Diversity Toolbox?
A session on Social Security has not yet been confirmed for the event.
Attendees can take in up to three sessions during the event, which also includes an exhibitor fair. So far, more than 30 groups, mostly state and local agencies, have signed up for the fair.
The sessions on depression and elder issues will have an appeal to a broad spectrum of the public, not just those with disabilities, Turner believes.
“Almost everyone in America either knows someone, has a family member or has dealt with depression,” she said. “We also have a lot of elderly people, and one of the issues there is caregiver burnout, so I think that session will be highly attended.”
Turner’s own pet session — “Is Disability in Your Diversity Toolbox?” — teaches how to be more sensitive and aware of those with disabilities. “It will be great for people who want to learn more about disabilities and how to be more aware,” she said. “I am hoping that is well-attended because the more awareness there is, the better it will be for the whole population.”
Turner hopes those who attend the conference come away with a greater understanding of disability-related issues.
“Our hope and goal is to educate, inform and empower people with disabilities and their families and give them hope. We also want to give people an opportunity to network,” Turner said.
Check-in time for the Oct. 11 event, which includes a chance at door prizes and a light lunch for all who attend, is 8 a.m. River of Life pastor Johnny Honaker, a strong supporter of the event, will give opening remarks. County Commissioner Al Higginbotham will give the keynote address. Counseling pastor Tom Smith is slated to give closing remarks on cutting down on stress at the conclusion of the event, expected to be in the late afternoon.
Tickets for a door-prize drawing — one of the prizes is four tickets to Sea World — will go to each attendee. Those who register before Sept. 30 will get an additional ticket for the drawing.
The direct link to the conference registration is tinyurl.com/lekcftr. You can also register by calling River of Life at 813-677-4453.