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2017 Family Gathering

After a successful Fall Family Gathering, planning is underway for The Family Gathering 2018.

Click here for 2018 Family Gathering Information and Registration

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In 2015, Innovative LIFE Options Inc. embarked on a project to see how we could reach out and support families who have not yet found services for their son or daughter with a disability, or whose children were not yet old enough to qualify.  Throughout the months in 2015 we met with dozens of parents around the province for what we lovingly called “Kitchen Table Talks”.  From the Kitchen Table Talks outcomes we were able to identify an objective of bringing families together by organizing a family focused conference. Our goal was to bring people together over a weekend to share, talk and to be heard in a small scaled gathering. The hope of the gathering was to create a comfortable atmosphere for families to have the opportunity to discuss their concerns, share their stories and learn from one another. We have to say we believe this was a great success!!!!
In mid-October sixty parents came together from across Manitoba, with the intent of learning, growing and connecting with others over the shared vision of a good life for their family member. Parents explored the themes of Vision, Relationships, Support Networks and Self-determination, as well as Advocacy. Presenters shared about each theme from a theoretical standpoint which was followed up by lived experiences from families and self-advocates.
Family members jumped at the opportunity to come together in smaller groups after each theme presentation. This gave parents the chance to share each other’s experiences, and learn from one another. We quickly saw this as one the most beneficial portions of the weekend, as parents came to life in their discussions and left feeling “nourished and nurtured”. The parent lead conversations offered a unique learning opportunity to families; a chance to hear each other’s stories, from all stages of life and diverse experiences.
The Gathering was a wonderful opportunity for parents to come together and feel connected to something bigger; beyond this there was also the chance to learn new concepts and skills developed around the themes. One parent stated “there were lots of actionable ideas in listening to the presentations, loved ideas for specific actions that I can take away”… “Learning how a network works and how we need to expand our network” was one example shared by a parent.
Organizer Rose Flaig stated “there has not been anything like this offered to parents for a while now” and organizer Laura Schnellert commented, “The conference provided a good blend of helpful, relevant and specific information. There was great interaction among parents and participants. Many shared their experiences and stories and I heard them acknowledge situations that demanded their best efforts which often brought positive results. I smiled as I heard parents saying "I understand, I have been there too"
Hearing feedback such as “eye opening and inspiring, empowering parents to help empower family member“ as well as “It opened my eyes to my son’s life more” were powerful statements that drive us to keep initiatives like this happening more into the future and let us know we reached our goal.
As you can see the feedback we received from families was extremely positive! Many families indicated this gave them time to reflect on what a good life means for their family member and there was a shared appreciation for the opportunity to connect, grow, and feel heard. We are so pleased at the outcome of our Family Gathering and are encouraged to ensure families are given this opportunity more often! 

"There are two ways of spreading light - to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

Edith Wharton