WAGR Weekend 2005 – Review
By Kimberly K. Pillow
On July 29, 2005 we held the official WAGR Weekend in Manassas, Virginia, USA. We were excited about the large number of families who turned out for this event! On Friday evening we had a Meet and Greet at the hotel which was the first time many of us had met. That night we quickly began to put faces to names and I got the opportunity to see several families that I only see every couple of years or so, including some of the “original” families with what are now the older children. It was great to see them again and to also get to meet the “newer” families as well. I met our newest baby, Marc (who only lives about 90 minutes from me) and our family that came from the farthest distance, Bryan and Louise with Cerys and Megan and everyone in between.
As the families trickled in, we enjoyed a light dinner together, and everyone chatted and laughed and just enjoyed. Everyone was amazed at each others’ children too… how well Ethan signed… how funny it was to have three little blonde haired boys all about the same size roaming about (Ethan, Nathan and Hayden) and how chatty some of the little girls were… Jenna asking specific questions about the food and Kelsie taking orders for drinks. We noted how some of our older kids had lost weight or had gotten so calm or were just looking so good in general… and watched as parents casually monitored their children’s behavior. Everyone knows they can just relax at a WAGR Weekend… that’s what it’s for. Dr. Fan and his family arrived as we were cleaning up for the night. We chatted with them a bit and rounded up some sandwiches for them to take back to their room as they were tired from their trip. We knew we would have more opportunity to meet with them the next day.
Saturday was a full day! We listened to a presentation by Dr. Fan and awards were presented to Gorilla Mom, Becky and to Dr. Fan for being our new hero with his research. A special thanks was given to our absentee sponsor for WAGR Weekend, Ian Gittlitz, who aided us in being able to have such a wonderful gathering. We were joined by Single Volunteers of DC who helped us with the children by taking them to the pool and entertaining them at the far end of the ballroom. We all came together for lunch (barbecue so good that everyone remarked about it, no matter whether they were from Texas, Tennessee or Northern Ireland!) and then in the afternoon, enjoyed a video presentation and some small group sessions on medical issues, family issues, educational issues, behavior concerns as well as planning ahead for our children’s future. We were grateful to have a young lady with us named Cammie who has aniridia and she was kind enough to join us with a table presentation of her own. Parents had lots of questions to ask and lots of information to seek and to share.
Dr. Fan answered questions about his upcoming research and was kind enough to even go over many medical records and genetic reports that parents had brought with them to the weekend. He truly became a part of our family over the weekend, having brought his own wife and daughter to join us and they not only participated fully in all of our events, but shared hugs and photographs with us and just spent time with us as friends. It was a very special time for everyone.
By Pizza Night on Saturday night, we all knew each other fairly well and were ready to just relax and hang out together. Lots of families were now pulling out their own cameras and taking candid shots with other families, Dr. Fan and his family (they learned to pose and smile while eating that night) Later Saturday night we had our official “Gorilla Moms Night Out” and this year it was a W(h)ine and Cheese Night at the hotel. We wined… we whined… we ate cheese… we chased off young men who wanted us for our wine… and we did what Gorilla Moms do best… we talked and shared and got honest about some of the hardest parts of being a Gorilla Mom… and then we laughed about some of the things we do to save ourselves and our sanity. It was wonderful. This momma wore pajamas, and while I couldn’t stay for the PJ party Helen had planned for me, I will always be grateful for that offer.
Sunday was a free day for families, and the officers and board members had a business meeting at my place. Later in the evening the families who still remained had one last dinner together and one last opportunity to talk and share and spend that special time together.
We all missed each family who was unable to attend. We were all so grateful to Bev for sending little handmade WAGR photo albums for each family who was there. I personally want to thank each dad who carried heavy things for me, helped me unload my truck and kept me sane and out of pain for the weekend.
I also want to thank the moms who helped me out with the details and the dirty work of the food service and the clean-up. I especially want to thank all the families who traveled to join us and I think, from the looks on all those faces, the pleasure was worth the trip. Each little face is burned into my heart now… Nathan and his Haagen Daaz… Braxton looking so much like Annie’s Nicholas that I just wanted to squeeze him, but I would have had to catch him first! Joseph with his beautiful blue eyes, not realizing that his new friend Dalton was determined to marry his sister before the weekend was out! All the new babies are now in my memory with all the “old” babies and having faces and personalities to recall when I hear their names now is just priceless to me. My parting thought is that I noticed that most of our parents appear to be either in education, health care or law enforcement. Go figure – lol! Thank you one and all for some great memories, and I look forward to many more Weekends.