Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ShootUp at #NHF2012

As another annual meeting for the hemophilia community approached, I was encouraged to put together a pickup basketball game. This would be the 2nd official pickup game I would hold at an annual meeting. The first ShootUp basketball event took place in Santa Clara, California, on the final day of the HFA Symposium in March, earlier this year.

Please read my previous post Ball So Hard(ly) to see how that went down.

The response to the get together was undoubtedly a positive one. Guys that attended wanted to make this an ongoing tradition. Most of those that attended the outing are guys that tend to travel to the annual meetings every year. So the planning for the NHF Annual Meeting in Orlando in November 2012 started almost immediately as I got home from California in March. Eight months was our deadline.

I was lucky enough to have some support in planning the second event. We wanted to grow the event, encouraging more guys to attend, but also to get the word out that this event (that started with the idea of a pickup b-ball game) was going to happen at every national meeting from here on out. The road to tradition was in the making. We really wanted to establish the brand of the event. I really wanted to get jerseys ordered for the guys that were definitely going to be attending the second annual game. I also knew that with the annual conference being in Orlando, there were several other events happening at some pretty amazing locations, so I needed to find a venue that would have enough draw to encourage guys to come out to the event.

The NHF Annual Meeting kicked off in Orlando with much anticipation. The largest gathering of hemophiliacs every year, this year was no exception. Over 3,000 attendees from all over the world descended upon Orlando and a melee of social networking, reuniting with lifelong friends, and informative educational workshops and breakout sessions followed - nothing short of spectacular, in my humble opinion. I chose the final day of the conference to be our game day. I felt obligated to let all the guys be able-bodied and uninjured for the meeting, because nothing slows you down more at an annual meeting than a hemophiliac swagger limp. For that reason, I encouraged everyone that I knew was going to attend ShootUp to do their prophylactic treatments before we played. The event was just for fun, but some guys consider competitive sports as their fun, and I wanted to ensure that everyone enjoyed themselves and we prevent any serious injuries.

Saturday morning arrived with sun in the sky and a cool breeze. As we gathered in the hotel lobby, I was happy to see a group of guys gathering looking like they were ready to go hard... well, as hard as one can expect at 8:30AM on a Saturday morning after two days of constant walking and NHF-ing (as I call it). The players that gathered consisted of some returning faces from the 1st pickup game in March. Others had heard about the talk of a game being put together and showed up that morning. Others were there simply to show support and come along for the ride. We traveled about 25 minutes to the courts we had reserved for the event. As we pulled up, we discovered that the recreational center that we were using was also a sponsored Orlando Magic practice facility. We broke up into teams, handed out our event jerseys and hit the courts. I had hoped that the guys that attended the event would have fun, but I had not anticipated the connections that these guys were going to make with each other. We were all from different parts of the country: the states of Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Wisconsin were among those represented in the group. The guys bonded with each other on and off the court that day. They showed great sportsmanship and camaraderie amongst the group. Some guys were nice enough to take video and photos of the day's event. Before we headed back to the hotel, the group all signed the “game ball” for the 2012 ShootUp event as a memento for use at future ShootUp events.

Looking back, I can honestly say that it took a group of people that were really committed to this event for it to have the success that it did. New ties were formed and old ties were reinforced. And my whole mission – to encourage physical activity amongst our community – was established. My sincere thanks goes to all of those who helped organize this event and to all those who came out and supported our little dream.

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