When the national conference of Little People of America comes to Dallas in 2012 -- the location was just announced -- it's expected to pack the downtown Sheraton with 3,000 members for a week in mid-summer. This weekend at the Sheraton, the LPA's Texas-Louisiana chapter drew a lighter crowd of about 100 for talks on staying healthy, a round of bocce ball and a Saturday night dance.
"It's a time to get together as one, and not stand out as the one in a group," says LPA Region 8 Executive Director Leigh Ann Breen.
"We want to get the word out that we are people first, that dwarfism affects a person's physical, but not the mental function," Breen says, pointing out that this weekend's meeting falls right in the middle of LPA's October Dwarfism Awareness Month campaign.
The LPA was outnumbered by a handful of larger conventions at the hotel this weekend. Still, Breen said this weekend's gathering was a deliberate nod intended to recognize the place where the national conference will be held in three years.
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In one room perched in a Sheraton tower Saturday afternoon, kids learned to play bocce -- a staple of paralympics competitions. They lined up behind a strip of tape and rolled red, white and blue balls across the carpet. Much of the weekend is geared toward kids and parents, including a panel talk among teachers, and kids' play rooms. "It is very family-focused," Breen says. "It's a time for them to interact with each other and to make friends with kids their size."