UMKC IHD welcomed over 200 participants to Independence, Missouri, May 31 – June 2, as a co-sponsor and organizer of the first of its kind Midwest advocacy and leadership conference: Seeking Opportunities for an Advocacy Revolution (SOAR). People with disabilities, their family members, and disability system professionals traveled from Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas to attend.  

The conference provided a mixture of fun, networking, and learning. Festivities kicked off Friday with state meetings followed by an outdoor mixer, complete with live music, dancing, and a fire pit.

Saturday and Sunday events included a variety of learning opportunities. Attendees heard from:

  • National Disability Leader and self advocate, Ollie Cantos
  • MMA fighter, fitness champion, and self advocate, Garrett Holeve
  • Comedian and self advocate, Michael Beers
  • leadership expert Ed O’Malley
  • 10 breakout session choices, one of which featured UMKC IHD’s Georgia Mueller speaking about Charting the LifeCourse™ principles and tools
  • Exhibitors from each of the four states, including UMKC Propel program

Participants also enjoyed a dance with disc jockey, paper airplane flying contest, and photo booth/selfie station. The conference received overwhelmingly positive verbal and survey-based feedback.

SOAR Conference is an outgrowth of UMKC IHD’s leadership of the Heartland Self advocacy Resource Network, an AIDD-funded Self-Advocacy Project of National Significance. The grant was active from 2014-2017 but continues to provide ongoing dividends.

More information and a photo gallery can be found at