Last year at OAC’s in-person event, the OAC Board of Directors unveiled the Rob Portinga Memorial Scholarship Fund, honoring a long-time volunteer and beloved Board Member best known for creating and fostering meaningful connections within our Community.
The Scholarship Fund allows recipients to find a compassionate and inclusive space to learn and grow, which is essential in their journey toward improved health and well-being. It has proven to be a life-changing initiative for individuals in need, providing unlocking a powerful opportunity to experience in-person events like the annual Your Weight Matters Engage Convention (YWM-Engage) that they otherwise would not be able to attend.
For some people, receiving a scholarship to YWM-Engage means learning how to take control of their health to have a better quality of life for themselves and their loved ones. For others, a scholarship to YWM-Engage means finding a community of support to root for them when they feel like they have no one else. Sometimes, a scholarship simply means someone can put themselves first after spending time taking care of others.
Meet Donna, Yolanda and Anita, three OAC Members who were awarded the Scholarship to attend past YWM-Engage Conventions. The three share how the Scholarship has transformed their lives in this heartfelt interview.
The three of you were previously awarded the Scholarship to attend our Your Weight Matters Engage Convention. How did receiving the Scholarship and attending Convention change your life?
Anita: Without the Scholarship, I would not have been able to attend the YWM-Engage Convention. Having this program and offering financial assistance is something I haven’t taken for granted. I am forever grateful for the OAC and the Scholarship program.
The Scholarship allowed me to attend the Convention, where I was able to learn more about myself and understand the complexity of obesity as well as the stigma attached. It doesn’t hurt that it’s allowed me to meet some pretty fantastic people, too!
Donna: My receipt of the Scholarship to last year’s YWM-Engage Convention allowed me to reconnect with my heart for advocacy and with my friends. Attending also opened the door to tell my story to a pharmaceutical company which my obesity medication is supplied through. I would not have had that chance had I not been in Las Vegas, where [another attendee] could provide the introduction.
Yolanda: I returned home from the OAC’s YWM-Engage Convention fortified with knowledge and the strength that comes from sharing similar lived experiences with fellow attendees. Convention gave me the desire to make circumstances better for people experiencing obesity. Before Convention, it would have seemed that equity for me and people experiencing obesity was impossible. But now, I know I am one of many voices working towards that goal.
When you think about OAC’s YWM Convention, what comes to mind as the best part?
Yolanda: Convention is a form of self-care to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. The speakers are amazing, and there is something so special about attending in person. It is the excitement of the group, when we all have an ah-ha moment as a lecturer is speaking. It is Community and making meaningful connections to carry you through until next time. It is all that and so much more! I am blessed to have received a scholarship to attend last year’s event.
Donna: Convention means the world to me as it helps ground me in my treatment of obesity and my advocacy. Recently, I was brave enough on social media to give a bare bone [look into] my disease and why phrases like “Walking – it’s the magic pill” could be a conversation ender in a provider’s office. The YWM-Engage Convention is my annual chance to reconnect my heart for advocacy with my own body and mind. It’s my emotional reset for the year.
Anita: The OAC’s Convention means so much to me because it is a welcoming group of intelligent, passionate individuals who are accepting and, like me, concerned about their health and want to learn science-based strategies from experts. The Convention has taught me so many tips, including the importance and impact of mental health, weight stigma and bias, advocacy, and so much more. It’s been a great way to connect with others and meet new people. The energy in these Conventions is such a positive and motivating energy.
For Donna, Yolanda and Anita, the Rob Portinga Memorial Scholarship unlocked powerful opportunities for education and support. It’s our goal to ensure all those who aspire to attend our national in-person Convention, Your Weight Matters Engage, are able. Happening this year in Orlando, Florida, YWM-Engage is the nation’s leading conference dedicated to bringing together individuals who desire to learn more about their weight and health, delivering science-based strategies from the country’s leading experts. Attendees gain immense support and a sense of Community from others who understand the challenges of living with obesity.
Give Today to Transform a Life
Can we count on you to help us ensure that financial hardships do not define someone’s ability to access the knowledge, support and guidance offered at Convention? Your donation, no matter the amount, will make a difference in someone’s life and empower them to take charge of their health and well-being.
Please click here to make a donation to the Rob Portinga Memorial Scholarship Fund. Together, we can give someone the support they need to transform their life.