2022 LPA National Conference 
was held in Spokane, WA from July 1 - July 8, 2022

2022 Group Photo

Early in July, more than 1300 people joined the 2022 LPA Conference in Spokane, celebrating 65 years of LPA! We learned, we laughed, we cried and we cheered together. The community buzzed with excitement, pride, & confidence; we rekindled friendships while welcoming more than 270 new attendees. Thursday evening, one of the strongest supporters of this community, Colleen Gioffreda, was LPA's keynote speaker. After giving the speech below, she was awarded LPA's Lifetime Achievement Award for her amazing work and years of dedication to LPA. In her words, "LPA is Love" and we couldn't agree more. #LPAisLove

Good evening, and Happy 65th anniversary, LPA!

A big thank you to Bailey O’Connell, our amazing and very fancy banquet boss…the person who made this place so sparklicious tonight. Also, one of my very best and dearest friends, who has put up with me for over half of our lives, which means probably around ten years or so.

I am unable to express to all of you how much it means to me that we can meet together again, in one room, all dressed up for our national conference banquet dinner. The smiles, the laughter, the drama… it’s just a beautiful concept to finally be able to sit back and take it all in… well, maybe not any drama, of course, but the everything else. And I’m here to talk about the “everything else” tonight – so it’s a good thing they gave me this three-hour slot.

When Mark had asked me to speak on this wonderful evening, I was a little surprised to say the least – not that I can’t talk, of course. We all know I can talk.

So after he told me that the dozens and dozens of people he had previously asked were unfortunately missing out on this banquet dinner with that promised-killer-house-salad, I said, well, sure – I would love to share my wisdom about LPA.
It turns out that wisdom is hard to buy last minute, even if you have Prime.

So I thought and thought and thought about what LPA means to me and to others, and what I should say tonight, and then I procrastinated and procrastinated (and procrastinated) because of the complexity of it all. How do I speak eloquently about such an important piece of what shaped my life, my personality, my self-esteem, my family, my outlook? How do I describe the happiness and pride I feel, looking around this room, seeing friends, family, and those I haven’t met yet…but with whom I already experience a kinship?

And the answer that kept coming back to me was more simplistic than I thought was proper for a night such as this. And yet, it was the only solution to this keynote thing I could think of.

And that is:
LPA is Love.

The words LPA and Love can be interchangeable in the next few sentences…

  • Love is a race down the hotel corridor when you’re ten years old, and realizing that you aren’t being left behind for the first time in your life.
  • Love is learning that you can advocate for that second set of books for your child to keep at home, without having to worry that you are just being a squeaky wheel.
  • Love is that very first awkward, yet very exciting, slow dance with that person you’ve been admiring all week. Or all night. Or for the last hour.
  • Love is that elevator door opening to a very loud lobby, filled with our people looking eye to eye and attempting to make dinner plans.
  • Love is seeing a dwarfism specialist for the first time who knows how to pronounce your diagnosis.
  • Love is realizing that dwarfism specialist is knowledgeable about LPA culture, and is there to support your journey and those medical choices within that journey, not necessarily to change them.
  • Love is not being the different one for a week. Being the same has its benefits from time to time.
  • But love is also learning to embrace your difference, or differences, because difference can be strikingly beautiful.
  • Love is empathizing with that first-timer, and remembering how hard it was to begin…but so very worth it when you did.
  • Love is that realization when you are thirteen that your thighs look like a lot of other girls’, and that your body is, in fact, beautiful.
  • Love is also the same thing when you are in your forties.
  • Love is a really tense boccia game.
  • Love is an elevator door opening to reveal a mixed, however smushed, picture of the diversity of conference – scooters and crutches, white hair and brand-new baby hair, DAAA medals and coffee cups, paper conference guides and mobile apps, salutations to new passengers, and laughter. Lots of laughter.
  • Love is… knowing you are not alone, whether you are in the older wiser generation, a teen trying to figure out why their parents are so embarrassing, a couple just starting your family, or a brand new, terrified parent your very first day here. You are not alone, nor will you ever be, as long as you are willing to come back to LPA.
And so, what is LPA / Love NOT about?
  • Love, or LPA, is not exclusionary. Even if Facebook / Twitter chats would like to make you think it is.
  • Love is not easy. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of investment. Hours upon hours of volunteer time, donor contributions, and grace. Yes, grace. Sometimes we don’t get it right the first time, or even the tenth time.
  • Love is not intuitive. It takes time to figure this journey out, and I’m still learning every day from my fantastic peers. I learn that maybe I was a little harsh on that last comment, or perhaps I didn’t think things through before I inserted that foot so deeply that I never need to go shoe shopping again.
  • Love is not judgmental or divisionary. Especially about banquet speakers…
The love and devotion of the leadership in this organization has been extraordinary. There have been peaks and valleys, sunny and stormy days, and I would venture that every person who has served LPA has done so out of love.

In 1957, Billy Barty bravely led the first LPA convention in Reno with twenty other LPs. I say bravely, because not only was he a great leader who was thinking innovatively since this had not been done before, but he put himself out there, and asked for other LPs to join him on a particular date. He risked failure. He risked ridicule. He risked disappointment. And thank goodness he took the risk…65 years later, this banquet house salad has never tasted so good.

Names like Lee Kitchens, Robert and Angela Van Etten, Gerald Rasa, Daniel Margulies, Dee and Bill Miller, Harriet and Al Stickney, Nancy Rockwood, the Dixons, Marge Carlisle, and Ruth Ricker, to name a few… the list goes on and on regarding great leaders who helped steer this LPA canoe into the cruise ship it is today. Ron Piro needs his own sentence, or his own book, really. For many years, he has been our quiet force behind the scenes; protecting our history, our elections, our conferences, and our financial stability.

Finally, I just wanted to talk quickly about a love story in our organization that has withstood the test of time, and for which so many of us are truly grateful. Without the brilliant, thoughtful and steadfast leadership skills of Jon North, along with the gifted, ever-so-patient and articulate way of Mark Povinelli – we would be in a very different place today; a much more negative place. Their friendship has stood the test of time, as well as has their character. And luckily, their fashion sense has improved. Thank you to both of you…you have risen to so many challenges in your many years of service, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the thousands and thousands of hours you’ve spent improving LPA.

My journey with LPA began in Detroit in 1986, where my average height parents spent lots of money and their vacation to watch their daughter essentially hang out in the hotel room, because she was too shy to make friends. Yes, that was me. But the one thing about that conference I learned that made a huge difference was that there was a girl there in a bikini, named Shoshana, who was self-assured, had achondroplasia like me, and was proud to be herself. And that started a life-long change in my perspective about my own body, my own worth, and how LPA was freaking awesome. Since then, LPA has helped give me lifelong friends, an amazing career, the opportunity to be a part of some unbelievable family moments because of adoption, true love, and my four incredible, awesome children – who I embarrass daily, if not hourly.

Thank you all. This has been one of the biggest honors of my life. Happy 65th anniversary to my favorite place / family / construct / organization / home.

I appreciate and love all of you.
-Colleen Gioffreda, District 3 and Honorary Lifetime Membership Awardee