2022 Birmingham National Conference Recap

2022 Conference Awards  | 2022 Conference Photos
2022 Conference Presentations  |  2022 Conference Sponsors

The 100th Annual AMBUCS National Conference took place in Birmingham, AL at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, August 23-27, 2022. Scroll down for the Conference Recap!

In honor of our 100th anniversary, we added a day to our typical National Conference lineup. Tuesday morning started off with Phase 1 of The Great Amtryke Build, as a dedicated team of volunteers worked to get over 100 trykes ready for our Saturday Giveaway. We hosted a packed First Timer’s meeting Tuesday afternoon, with our largest turnout of First Timers at National Conference in recent memory. We kicked things into high gear on Tuesday night with our Opening Night Decades Dinner + Dance, where we dined on Southern fare and danced through the hits from the 1920s to today. Guests enjoyed a photo booth, 360 video booth, and caricature artists to help commemorate the occasion.

Wednesday started bright and early with the National Big Hat Club Business Meeting. Next came the first General Business Session. Aimee Carter, #1 Superior Chapter President of Mountain Metro Chapter in Lawton, OK, posted the American flag. Great Plains Region Director Gordon Shaw, Immediate Past District 5-A, #1 Superior Governor posted the AMBUCS flag. An acapella group from local Mountain Brook High School performed the National Anthem.

CEO Jay Laurens introduced William “Bill” L. White, Jr., son of AMBUCS founder William L. White, who spoke about his father’s endless energy and passion for improving the world. Then Jay introduced Greg Echols, President of the Greater Birmingham Area Chapter, our National Conference hosts, along with his wife Gin and other members of their chapter.

Our keynote speaker for the session, Stephanie Holley, mother of a local Amtryke recipient John Wesley, shared a deeply moving story about the impact of the Amtryke program on her family. She also spoke passionately about the power of receiving help from strangers willing to give their time and money to help grant mobility and independence to people they may never meet. AMBUCS is proud to be part of her family’s journey.

We also heard from 2021 Therapist of the Year Valerie Trojan. Valerie is an occupational therapist nominated by the Enid AM Too Chapter, and she’s worked for over a decade to improve quality of life for individuals with neurological, physical, and cognitive challenges. She also serves as the Enid AM Too Amtryke Coordinator.

The session ended with a very special roll call, with all active AMBUCS Chapters being called in charter-date order. It took longer than usual, but it was impressive to see how many chapters we have! Then Big Hatters rolled right into the National Big Hat Lunch & Auction. At lunch, Wendy Bond became the National Big Hat President, Luke Jackson became the Vice President, and Fina Nett came on board as Secretary/Treasurer. The event raised over $14,200. Incoming Secretary/Treasurer Fina Nett also sold Big Hat coins on-site, raising over $2,350. Thanks to outgoing National Big Hat President Bill “Flick” Flickinger for a great year. His fundraiser for the 2021-2022 year, a Florida Trip Raffle, was drawn on Saturday night and raised $25,930. Please see the Big Hat page for Wendy’s fundraiser plans for this year.

The action continued Wednesday afternoon with an Amtryke Update from Jake Schumacher, Director of Amtryke Design and Technical Support, on the progress of the Amtryke redesign with our American-based manufacturing partner Bicycle Corporation of America. Jake even premiered a new prototype of the first redesigned bike, to great fanfare.

The afternoon remained busy, with Phase 2 of The Great Amtryke Build, as well as with a special feedback session on the new Membership HUB with AMBUCS Technology Committee members Larry Turilli of the Cornbelt and I Hope Chapters in Illinois, and Matt Trainor of the Augusta, GA Chapter.

Finally, the evening concluded with a special dinner and program recognizing Past National Presidents Vic Menendez (2019-2020) and Sue Haywood (2020-2021) for their service, which was not able to be celebrated in-person due to COVID-19. The program included special video messages, and remarks from Chief Operating Officer Jessica Wall and CEO Jay Laurens. Special guests included Shana Graves, a former client of Sue’s and the second ever recipient of an Amtryke. Finally, fellow AMBUCS came forward to share their reflections on Vic and Sue, which moved us to laughter and tears.

Thursday’s programing consisted of our second General Session, and Past National President Al Bedell of the Cornbelt, IL Chapter shared stories from his time conducting Amtryke Road Shows. We also heard from Sheetal Cordry, the parent of Amtryke recipient Eva, who spoke about how an Amtryke brightened Eva’s life.

Donors to the Mission in Motion Capital Campaign were recognized during our Wednesday General Session. Including funds raised during conference, the campaign has raised $512,640 of the $600,000 goal. To keep the giving train rolling, Patty Vannoy of the Big Spring, TX; Longview Too, TX; and Mountain Metro, OK Chapters shared remarks about the history of the Scholarships for Therapists Program. Don Smith of the Lawton, OK Chapter encouraged members to consider planned giving. National Conference sponsors were also recognized for their support, totaling more than $150,000 – a National Conference record.

In the afternoon, attendees could either join the annual Golf Outing at Highland Park Golf Course, or spend the afternoon enjoying Birmingham, reconnecting with old friends, and making new ones.

Friday began with Region Caucuses, where chapters received many awards, conducted region business, and heard from candidates for national office.

At the Foundation Program, attendees heard once more from Bill White, Jr., son of AMBUCS founder William L. White. He inspired with his words about the power of individuals to change the world. Following his remarks, Tami Forwood-Tubell, Chair of the National Scholarship Committee and member of the Huntsville Tennessee Valley Chapter in Harvest, AL, reported that National AMBUCS gave out $215,325 in scholarships to 269 students this year. With this year’s gifts, we have given over $9.8 million to more than 16,700 students since 1955! William L. White donors, Named Scholarship donors, Amtryke Ambassador donors, and Chapter Advocate donors were acknowledged for their generous contributions.

At the Foundation Program, Kathryn Coltrane was named the National Therapist of the Year. Kathryn is a physical therapist and a member of the Greater Birmingham Area, AL Chapter who has gone above and beyond to get Amtrykes into their community by building relationships with school systems, Special Olympics, and more. Finally, attendees heard from Julie Ryle, parent of Amtryke recipient Luisa, who spoke movingly about the importance of school interventions and community support for her and her family.

Following lunch, attendees poured into our Education Sessions. Topics included a panel about strengthening chapter engagement, building a scholarship program, the new Membership HUB, different ways for chapters to fulfill the AMBUCS mission, fundraising, and strengthening Amtryke programs.

Immediately following the Education Sessions, everyone joined together for a high energy Awards Ceremony. It was a great way to honor the accomplishments of another stellar AMBUCS year. Some Merit Awards were presented earlier in Region Caucuses. The Achievement Awards given at this event included: Tyler Area, TX won for Newsletter and Visibility; Ponca City Charity Angels won Community Service; and Lititz, PA won Local Charities, with over $7,045 in giving per member!

On Saturday, the final day of the conference, started out with the 17th annual Trek 4 Trykes Walk-A-Thon to provide Amtrykes for riders on the AMBUCS National Wish List. Over 60 walkers enjoyed a segment of Birmingham’s beautiful new City Walk Trail, sporting festive tie-dye t-shirts in honor of our 100th anniversary and our decades theme – the multiple colors representing the many successful years of Trek 4 Trykes! The event raised over $10,000!

This year, our top fund raisers were:

  • 1st Donna Patocka, Enid, OK ($770)
  • 2nd Vicky Strauss, Cornbelt, IL ($751)
  • 3rd Dave Tangeman, Salina, KS ($437)

At the Saturday General Business Session, we heard the Annual Report from Chief Executive Officer Jay Laurens. Special guest Amos Benjamin joined us to talk about his experience as a Marine Corps Veteran who received a traumatic brain injury in the line of duty and the power of finding community and healing.

We were also treated to remarks from Debbie Bailey, an adaptive PE teacher and a member of the Greater Birmingham Area Chapter who has been instrumental in getting the Amtryke program into Birmingham area schools. Donna Hingtgen, Ponca City Charity Angels, OK was elected as the incoming President-Elect.

Then, the afternoon so many had been waiting for arrived. The Great Amtryke Giveaway started at 12:00 p.m., and over the course of the next several hours, over 100 Amtrykes were given away at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex to riders of all ages, including many Veterans. It was a great day, with dozens of volunteer therapists, mechanics, and runners working to fit so many riders, and AMBUCS donors, families, and community members there to cheer everyone on!

After a short break, the evening got going with the President-Elect’s Reception, followed by the procession of national officers, and the President’s Dinner. Ambucs were dressed to the nines for the occasion.

The National Conference Raffle winner was announced. Flick Flickinger, outgoing National Big Hat Club President, shared highlights from his year of leadership and pulled the winning ticket for the National Big Hat Club Raffle.

The two highest AMBUCS awards were given out: Dr. Rose Lepien (Mountain Metro, OK Chapter) won Project Manager of the Year, and Dr. Jimmy Roggenbuck (Great Plains, OK Chapter) won Ambuc of the Year.

Outgoing national, region, and district officers were thanked, and new officers were sworn in.

Then, Sergeant-at-Arms Danny Blubaugh of Enid AM gave his report to much fear, trepidation and laughter. Outgoing National President Scott Buckelew was recognized for his year of service and made his farewell remarks, becoming the Immediate Past National President. Donna Hingtgen of the Ponca City Charity Angles (Ponca City, OK) was sworn in as National President-Elect. Carmela Davis of the Longview Too Chapter (Longview, TX) was sworn in as National President.

For her acceptance speech, National President Carmela Davis made her final costume change of the conference (the last of 29 ensembles) before she pledged to faithfully carry out her office.

It was a fantastic celebration of our 100th anniversary!

See you next year at the Galt House in Louisville, KY – August 2 – 5, 2023! The third time’s a charm!