AMBUCS National Conference

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National Conference Recap

The 95th Annual AMBUCS National Conference took place in Lake of the Ozarks, Osage Beach, MO; at the beautiful Tan-Tar-A Resort.

Our Pre-Conference Event was a ride on a boat around the lake and a dinner in the hotel’s parasol ballroom. The ceiling of the ballroom looked like the inside structure of an umbrella and the windows overlooked the lake.

Wednesday was a busy day. Starting at 9 am was the Great Ozarks Bike Build where volunteers put together 49 Amtrykes, a crew of 5+ volunteers broke down boxes and picked up trash and another team assembled license plates. At the same time, other volunteers were off building a home access wheelchair ramp for a needy person in MO. Then, starting at Noon, was the golf outing at the Tan-Tar-A Oaks Course. The day finished with a Celebration Roast for Joe and Dannell Copeland who retired from service this year. What a fun evening that was!

Thursday started with the first business session, where the new executive director, Jay Laurens, did the traditional roll call to much hilarity.

Our keynote speaker, comedian David Harrell, was born without a right hand. He told us many stories about dealing with life differently. His father desperately wanted a son who could play baseball; he quickly changed his disappointment to a determination that his son could just be a lefty. Dave even showed us how he learned to pitch and catch by switching the glove from his left hand to his right arm so that he could throw. He also gave us a new perspective on how the best meaning people, like doctors and nurses, sometimes treat children with disabilities, and it wasn’t all kindness. Despite dealing with kids scared of his hook, and swimming with a prosthetic, Dave thrived with good support from his parents and has a great career as an actor, comedian and motivational speaker.

After lunch on our own Thursday, we heard from Patrick Ibarra, who gave us some good ideas for reaching younger people in today’s technology-driven world. Younger members are essential to an organization’s survival but it’s hard to get and keep their attention with traditional methods. We must change from a “know it all” mindset to a “learn it all” mindset. We need to be open to new ideas and make newer, younger members feel a part of our chapters, feel like they have a say in what’s going on. When we do what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always got, no growth, nothing new. Change is not easy but it’s essential. It’s not an event it’s a process and all processes need a beginning, so instead of saying, “Volunteers needed” how about, “Adventurers wanted! Help us change lives!”? Visit here to see Patrick’s PowerPoint.

Friday began with the Regional Caucuses where each chapter received their awards, we heard from candidates for national office and region business was conducted.

At the Foundation Program, we named the National Therapist of the Year: Shannon Wyle! She is an Occupational Therapist and a member of the St. Louis-based Gateway Tykes on Trykes Chapter. We couldn’t do what we do without great therapists like Shannon! We also heard that the national organization gave out $196,400 in scholarship money to 265 students this year. With this year’s gifts, we have given out $8,791,390 to over 15,000 students since 1955!

Educational Session topics included running a chapter scholarship program, raising community awareness of your chapter, a new fundraising option, navigating the AMBUCS website, a panel about some of the awesome missions our chapters have taken on and a new technology option coming to chapters. After the break outs, we all came back together to hear from Linda Garbe about the importance of storytelling. She instructed us on what stories to tell and how to most effectively tell them to get our desired results – awareness, new members and donations.

The Big Hat Luncheon & Auction once again featured the talents of professional auctioneer and Pekin chapter member David Craig. The event raised a total of $9,747. The Big Hat Lip Sync Video Contest was won by Mountain Metro and in total raised $12,442. The Grand Total between the two: $22,189!

Saturday, the final day of the conference, featured The Great Amtryke Giveaway, (they save the best for last), the final dinner and the installation of the new National Officers.

But the morning started out with Trek 4 Trykes. Here’s a note from Jan Ferris, this year’s committee chairperson. What she didn’t mention is that she hand made those gorgeous trophies!

It was a beautiful morning for the Trek 4 Trykes at this year’s National Conference at Tan-Tar-A. The course was a bit more challenging than in year’s past but it was as fun as ever.

The 1st Place Fundraiser was Heike Anderson, raising $698, and in 2nd Place was Donna Patocka with $535. Over forty people walked, ran or fundraised.

I would like to thank the Trek 4 Tryke Sponsors for their generosity and all the Trek participants for their fundraising efforts. This year’s total was $10,235 – the proceeds of which will all go to take riders off the National Wish List!

I would also like to thank my Trek Committee:  Donna Carlton-Vish and Kisha Horne.

What a great 2017 Conference!!! Please take the time to thank the National office employees for all their hard work and dedication. See you next year in Reno.

Jan Ferris,
2017 Trek 4 Trykes Chair
Decatur Lincolnland Chapter

At the second business session we heard the Annual Report, several awards were given and eighteen new life memberships were sold.

There were 52 trykes given away Saturday’s The Great Amtryke Giveaway: sixteen went to veterans and the rest to children of various ages. The veterans moved so fast around the indoor track that it was hard to get their pictures but this man (top right) was captured riding our latest model, the Tadpole. The bottom left picture was one of the cutest little girls who came in with a huge pink flower in her hair and she wouldn’t take it off even to put her helmet on. She couldn’t have been happier!

The President’s Dinner began with the President-Elect’s Reception followed by the parade of national officers. It’s a dressy affair so AMBUCS decked themselves out. The three highest AMBUCS awards were given out. Past officers were thanked and new officers were sworn in.

Kevin Sheehan (left) and Eric Oschwald

Eric Oschwald became the Immediate Past National President and Kevin Sheehan of the Savannah, GA, chapter became National President. Randy Cloud of the Oklahoma City Chapter became National President-Elect.

In his acceptance speech, National President Kevin Sheehan unveiled the tagline for his year “It Begins with You” and then sent out the national officers and staff with a pen for everyone while Tina Turner told us “You are the Best, Around!”

What a great conference!

Greenebucs #1 Chapter

-Adapted and expanded, with permission, from Sally Denhart’s
Greater Champaign County Chapter Newsletter.

Next year, National Conference will be at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, NV from October 3 – 6! Save the date now to join us then!


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lowessmThe Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is a natural jewel set in the Sonoran Desert right outside Tucson, AZ. The buildings are designed to harmonize with the beauty surrounding it. Various attendees saw roadrunners, a bobcat (on their patio!), geckos, humming birds, and large rattlesnake.

tucsonanimalsWhen the snake had the impudence to rattle at one of our members, she shook her glass of ice right back at him – not to be outdone.

Somehow the arrival of Ambucs from all over the country seems to have messed with Tucson’s weather. It rained (in the desert) off and on for the first several days – at times, quite hard. Some of Tucson’s residents were truly discombobulated by the precipitation.

The Early Bird Event, Under the Western Stars, was supposed to be outside by the old west town façade and include guided star gazing. The weather conspired against us but we still had a grand old time in the ballroom. The western themed buffet was very good and attendees enjoyed catching up with friends and meeting new ones.

gtbbsmOn Wednesday morning the Great Tucson Bike Build wheeled dramatically onto the scene. Around 80 Ambuc volunteers and 100 local Tucson volunteers worked together to build out 88 Amtrykes. Teams of around five people, including one Amtryke lead mechanic, worked at 19 build tables. Another table of volunteers assembled the license plates, while runners shepherded finished bikes to a final inspector and the clean-up crew worked feverishly to break down boxes for recycling.

Two television crews came out to film a story. This one from KGUN was particularly good.  Denny Strauss, Cornbelt member, also filmed a cool time-lapse video.

That night, the rain stopped just in the nick of time for the Opening Night Celebration: Fiesta! to be held in its original free-flowing indoor/outdoor location. At the beginning of the event, five salsa making teams had 20 minutes to create a masterpiece with only the ingredients provided. Their creations were judged by team name, salsa name, salsa slogan, taste and presentation. The ‘spicy’ team and salsa names caused particular hilarity in bystanders. The panel of five judges had a hard task, as all five submissions were very good. In the end they chose the salsa made by a team made up entirely of First Timers (people attending National Conference for the first time).

The Fiesta-themed buffet, the red signature margarita – the ‘Ambucsarita’ – and the fantastic roving mariachi band added fun flavor to the evening.


Thursday morning began with the Big Hat Business Meeting and flowed right into the first General Business Session. The roll call was as light-spirited and funny as usual. Each chapter with a member registered at conference has its name called to establish voting rights. Instead of ‘here’ chapters usually share a fun fact about their city or chapter or give some silly response. So much so that our Keynote speaker, Oz Sanchez, quickly rolled up his sleeves to fit in with our fun-loving attitude!

ozsanchezlongviewtooOz, a multi-medal winning Paralympian, wowed the audience with his unconquerable spirit and advice to Know No Limits. He spoke with such honesty and grace about truly harrowing life events and the truths that became apparent by living through them. He explained that he is most proud of his bronze medal just won at the Rio Paralympic Games. He adopted his newborn niece immediately before the games…along with experiencing several other big distractions. He won the bronze medal in his favorite event despite a three week training break! After the session, Oz further charmed his admirers by allowing them to hold his gold, silver and bronze medals while having their picture taken with him.

Daniel Billingsley, VP of External Affairs for Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, taught two fundraising-focused educational sessions on Thursday afternoon. Attendees could also learn how to leverage social media, tips for making your chapter Amtryke program run smoothly and advanced mechanics techniques.

Thursday culminated in a grand finally, the Veterans Ride and Dinner. Chapters and individuals from all over the United States purchased 29 Amtrykes for local Tucson veterans and active duty personnel. After introductions, an honor guard from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base conducted the flag ceremony. The Manhattan Dolls’ harmony-driven WWII era sound steeped everyone in nostalgia, flirty fun and a few tears. They gave a rousing tribute to each branch of the military, announced each veteran as they took their ceremonial first ride and closed the evening with a lovely acapella version of the national anthem. It poured rain outside but the ballroom was full of warm goodwill and patriotic pride.


Friday morning started with the traditional thank you to William L. White and Amtryke Ambassador members at the Foundation Coffee. This year, it was really more like a full breakfast! Also new this year, the Regional Caucuses moved from the afternoon to the morning and included more awards and recognition.

daniel-billingsleyThen the Foundation Program began. Daniel Billingsley capped off his two ed sessions with a keynote address at this event. He blew everyone away with his tough love, humor and heart for our mission.

Daniel urged chapters to know WHY they do what they do (not just what or how) and to share that with community members. For example, not ‘we give away therapeutic tricycles’ (what), not ‘we work within the community to identify riders who would benefit from an Amtryke and fundraise…” (how) but, instead, ‘we save lives by giving our riders the mobility and independence of riding an Amtryke along with all the vital physical and emotional benefits this freedom provides’ (why).

He also reminded us that the vast majority of charitable giving comes not from corporations (5%) or foundations (16%) but from individuals (71%).

coclasuresntoty2At the Foundation Program we also heard from Marc & Kim Colclasure, Therapists of the Year nominated by the Greenebucs, OH chapter. This power PT couple were clearly full of passion to serve kids with disabilities as well as the child’s whole family. They are also huge fans of the Amtryke. Their clinic, Synergy Family Therapy Specialists, is an Amtryke Evaluation Site and they also work to fundraise and create buzz in the community.

namedamtrykeendowmentThe event wrapped up with recognizing all the donors from the past year, including the members of a new Giving Society for Amtryke Ambassadors who have given over $10,000 – Named Amtryke Endowment.  Alan & Sue Eakle, Carmela Davis, Fred Sammons & Barb Rider, Al LeMieux & Cheryl Phillips LeMieux and Jack Spurlock are the inaugural members of the new society. And then there was an opportunity to make new contributions or pledges to the nationwide programs – William L. White, Amtryke Ambassadors or Cornerstone.

therapist-training2Friday afternoon was full of great Educational Sessions. Attendees could learn how communities were impacted by AMBUCS chapters last year, how to start a ramp building program, about governance issues, planning a regional conference and beginner mechanic tips. More than 30 therapists (both members and locals) attended the very first Level II Amtryke Evaluating Therapists training. The training required eight hours of participation – four hours in the classroom on Friday and four at the Amtryke Rodeo on Saturday!

trek-groupSaturday morning started with the Trek 4 Trykes walk-a-thon. 35 participants walked through the resort grounds and on its nature trails. One more stalwart trekker, who could not attend conference, walked at home. A t-shirt with her picture was carried in her honor (far right). Participants made personal donations and raised pledges from family and friends before the event. Vicki Faulkner of the Longview Too, TX chapter was the #1 Top Fundraiser; with Heike Anderson of Noon Network, KS coming in second and the Enid AM Too Walkers’ team (Hazel Kampschroeder, Jody Vogt, Karen Holland & Nellie Martin) took third. The prizes were lovely glass plaques. This year, walkers could participate in a photo scavenger hunt by taking pictures of five specific objects as they walked. David Craig of Pekin, IL won the drawing of those who completed the hunt and received a $25 Visa gift card. Altogether the event raised over $10,400 to take riders off the National Amtryke Wish List!

rodeowebImmediately afterwards, the Amtryke Rodeo began. Chapters and individuals purchased 60 Amtrykes for local Tucson children with disabilities. If you’ve never been to the Rodeo at National Conference, it is something to see. It’s a beautiful dance of controlled chaos. About ten children come in every half an hour to be fitted to their new Amtryke, announced along with the donor of their tryke and cheered on boisterously as they ride by all the Ambucs surrounding the track. There are few totally dry eyes when witnessing that much joy from so many children!

bhc-luncheonThe Big Hat Luncheon & Auction followed the Rodeo. Big Hatters got an unexpected treat! David Craig, a member of the Pekin chapter and first time conference attendee, acted as their auctioneer. Man, you could sure tell he’s a professional auctioneer! His stellar performance inspired Big Hatters to even more than their usual giving fervor. The auction raised over $10,000, the gun raffle fundraiser a little under $19,000 and regional conferences almost $14,000 for a net total of around $40,000! In other BHC news, Carmela Davis was voted in as the Big Hat Club’s new Secretary/Treasurer.

guy-noirSaturday’s General Business Session featured Executive Director Joe Copeland’s annual report. He reprised his role as Guy Noir with Hazel Kampschroeder as his sultry secretary (Isabelle) and Vic Menendez on voice and sound effects. Fans were particularly fond of Vic’s helicopter sound made by beating his chest.

Michael Pegg, a grad student in Winston-Salem State’s OT department under the direction of Cindy Bell (a member of the Amtryke Advisory Board), gave a presentation on the results of the 2016 Amtryke Parent/Rider Survey. Ed Farabaugh, Scholarship Committee Chairperson, gave a report: this year 264 scholarships were awarded with an average amount of $755. Chapter Sparkplugs, Blue Chip Award winners and several Achievement Award winners – Newsletter, Visibility, Local Charities and Community Service – were recognized. The event also included the sale of 20 Life Memberships and the ever popular Sargent at Arms’ member roast.

This year’s President-Elect’s Reception was less formal and more free-flowing than in years past. There was no formal receiving line but all the National Officers were there and available for a hand shake and a few words.

presdinn_0870The President’s Dinner immediately followed. The Raffle Ticket Crew – Anna Blubaugh and Terri Clingenpeel – drew the winning ticket for the $500 prize. Krista Cummings, a Danville chapter member, won! Gene Waldrum, BHC President, gave his report. Superior Chapter Presidents were recognized as was Sue Haywood, the PT who inspired the Amtryke, for her 17 years of service on the Amtryke Advisory Board as she retires from it. Our highest honors, Ambuc of the Year and Project Manager of the Year, were announced to much fanfare.

Ambuc of the Year, Claudette Burch
Ambuc of the Year, Claudette Burch

Project Manager of the Year, Linda Mask
Project Manager of the Year, Linda Mask

albedell_20152016npAl Bedell, 2015-2016 National President, didn’t want the organization to spend money on a commemorative ring. So, instead, Iris Lobel received her Amtryke at the Rodeo in his honor and he also received a small commemorative plaque in thanks for his service.  The retiring Regional Directors and District Governors were also thanked for their service and the new directors and governors were installed. Kevin Sheehan of the Savannah, GA chapter was sworn in as National President-Elect.

eric_webEric Oschwald of the Springfield, IL chapter was installed as the 2016-2017 AMBUCS National President. Eric’s acceptance speech started with a simple Amtryke frame. He compared it to the deep-rooted legacy of AMBUCS. He then installed the wheels, comparing each to the Amtryke program, Scholarships for Therapists program and Community Service; explaining how all three are vital to keeping our legacy strong and meeting the AMBUCS mission.  He encouraged all of us to approach these initiatives with understanding, support and compassion.

As Past National President Al Bedell retired the flag and this wonderful National Conference came to an end, Cliff Bauerle led us all in singing God Bless America.

Hope to see you next year at Tan-Tar-A Resort October 18-21 in Lake of the Ozarks, MO!