For the third year in a row, F.E.A.S.T. representatives attended and staffed an exhibitor’s table at the National Eating Disorders Association Annual Conference. This year the location was Brooklyn, New York. In response to a call to our membership and the parents on the Around The Dinner Table online forum, dozens of parents attended the conference and many volunteered at our table.
Four of our Board of Directors were there, as well as six of our Advisory Panel (all of the latter were also invited speakers). Our Science Blogger, Carrie Arnold gave a seminar on avoiding relapse with our Advisor, Stephanie Milstein.
Special thanks to our table decorator, Denise, the F.E.A.S.T. table was beautifully arranged and presented a warm and inviting display. We had our conversation-starting crocheted food created for us by the mother of one of our Advisors, Stephanie Milstein. Our “Magic Plates” were on display as well and one of our artist members created quilted keyrings with our website on one side in gorgeous colors and "Families are Key" and "Parents are Key" on the other side - a huge hit as a giveaway. We had copies of our brochure on hand of course, and also draft copies of the new AED handbook: “Critical Points for Early Recognition and Medical Risk Management in the Care of Individualswith Eating Disorders” a project that our Medical Education Task Force chair, Mary Beth Krohel, has actively participated in since it was proposed.
This year we also played host to a developing international project shared by several eating disorder organizations: “Erin’s Sock of Hope.”
Led by June Alexander, this project was inspired by a moment of grief and friendship among a group of eating disorder activists earlier this year in Austria. Erin’s mother, Joan Reiderer, is a F.E.A.S.T. member and brought Erin’s real sock to the display as did several other members, including one mailed by Shannon Cutts, head of MentorConnect, who was unable to attend the conference this year. A special tri-fold display for the project included pictures of Erin and her art and was surrounded by fuzzy and sparkling socks. During the conference many parents wore tiny sock pins as well. Again, Denise’s artistic skills brought the project alive.
The weekend started on Friday when members started to arrive for our table decorating party. Board Member, Leslie Feder, brought Brooklyn cheesecake and other delicacies as well as her houseguests, Susan Ringwood of B-eat, and husband, Gary. Mary Beth Krohel brought chocolates, in a tradition started in 2008 by board member Sarah Krevans. We took a break for lunch at the hotel restaurant and what started as ten of us grew to twenty by the time we finished.
Friday evening most of the families went to the first NEDA event, an orientation meeting. Russell Marx, co-chair for the conference, introduced June Alexander who spoke movingly of her life before and after recovery.
A reception followed, where F.E.A.S.T. members met other families and treatment providers and researchers attending the conference. As people recognized one another from their name tags an exciting series of “Are You? and “I’m !” ensued.
That evening many families attended the NEDA PFN dinner at a nearby restaurant, on the water overlooking Manhattan. Another group of F.E.A.S.T. families and friends had a late middle eastern dinner at a local diner where the management thought nothing of “can you seat 15?” Conversation ranged from brain science to the taste of Bald Eagle, and much between.
The colorful F.E.A.S.T. table became a meeting place from breakfast on Friday through the rest of the conference, where volunteers greeted people and conference attendees came for discussion and raffle stamps. Since many members know one another only as pseudonyms online there were many moments of recognition and friendships cemented. F.E.A.S.T. members were very active all day attending general sessions, seminars, and touring the exhibit hall.
One evening after all the events ended a group of 25 F.E.A.S.T. attendees and their spouses and other NEDA friends walked to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with several pizzas and various beverages for dinner by the light of the Manhattan skyline. The weather was wonderfully mild and a lovely time was had by all. Another night it was robust sit-down fare at a Brooklyn Heights Cafe with local beer and windows overlooking the neighborhood.
During the conference weekend we tried to experiment with videocasting, with mixed success, available on the website (members only). The videos include interviews with authors June Alexander, Jenni Schaefer, and Harriet Brown.
A number of F.E.A.S.T. members attended the Professional Teaching Day on Monday as well. Enormous praise was expressed for the high quality of science information at several of the sessions, and in particular the Sunday general session presentations.
On return to homes across the country and across oceans, many F.E.A.S.T. attendees continue their discussions about the conference content and controversies on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, the Around the Dinner Table forum, and by Skype and email.
The F.E.A.S.T. board seeks member input on participation in future conferences in the US and elsewhere, as well as a proposal to hold a parent/carer focused F.E.A.S.T. conference next year. Please let us know your thoughts.