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Rosewood Services Members Learn Advocacy at State Conference

Pelster Wins “Support Staff” Award

All-Conference Swim Trio – Rosewood SACK Conference participants Cole Morin, Destiny Thomas and Josh Trimmer (back) cool off from Conference activities and enjoy swim time at the hotel pool.

Seventeen members of Rosewood Services, along with four sponsors traveled to Wichita last weekend and participated in the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas Conference. It was the largest contingent of members Rosewood has ever brought to the annual conference. This year’s theme for the SACK Conference was “Taking Care of Business.”

Attending the conference for Kansans with disabilities were Rosewood’s Charles Bortz, Darren Brown, Stacy Buchwald, Kurtis Coleman, David Edwardson, Rae Griffin, Shae Griffin, DJ Johnson, Shaun Ledesma, Michael Manka, Cole Morin, Samantha Purcell, Ivan Smith, Abbey Stanley, Destiny Thomas, Josh Trimmer, and James West. Also attending this year’s conference were Rosewood sponsors Frankie Pelster, Tonya Burton, Tahcoa Strachan, and Dylan Yott.

The SACK Conference, held June 30 – July 2 at Drury Plaza Hotel, Broadview, provided an opportunity for people with developmental disabilities to meet, share and learn from each other, as well as learn from experts in the field. Participants of this year’s annual conference had opportunity to choose from 16 workshops during four learning sessions that were held last Saturday.

Most of Rosewood’s SACK Conference attendees are members of Rosewood Miracle Workers AKTION Club. Serving as the Club’s sponsor, Pelster said the impact of SACK Conference has a long-lasting positive impact on the AKTION Club.

“What’s nice is that our members want to take on more leadership roles in AKTION Club, following their training at SACK Conference,” she explained. “They start recognizing opportunities where they can lead and make a difference in their organization and community roles. SACK Conference isn’t associated with AKTION Club, but attending certainly has a positive effect on our Club throughout the year.”

Another development from the conference was that Pelster was nominated and received the “Barbara Bishop Support Staff of the Year Award.”

“Winning that award was awesome,” said Pelster. “I couldn’t have won without so many of our Rosewood folks voting for me. I told them that I truly support them, but they, in turn, truly support me. It means more than anything that they rallied for me in that way.”   

Among the sessions offered, Pelster said that “Legislative Advocacy” was an important one for several Rosewood clients. Kurtis Coleman already completed the first session of advocacy leadership training in Topeka, and organizers are encouraging him to advance further at the state level. Members Cole Morin and James West have voiced their interest in completing the first session of training, too.

Poem Power – James West reads his poem, “Advocating,” to the crowd during SACK Conference closing ceremonies on Sunday, July 2, in Wichita. Fellow Rosewood member Charles Bortz provided West moral support during his poem reading.

West wrote a poem in the “Take Charge and Lead” session, titled “Advocating.” Presenters of the session liked his poem so much that they had West read his poem at the closing ceremony on Sunday.

Those that are working to take care of themselves,
Work with open minds and open hearts,
Work to be true advocates for themselves and others.
They are true advocates in life without strike.
The advocates are spiritually and mentally strong in many hearts.
Life is not lost nor truly challenging,
Because they are strong.
James West 7/1/2023 SACK Conference.

Pelster said it was a new experience having the conference in Wichita, instead of Topeka. She said hotel staff went through special training to better-serve the members, and the effort showed in their hospitality. Beyond the break-out sessions, members participated in fun activities like a patio party, dance, bingo, swimming, photo booth, paddle boats, and an evening boat ride. However, it was the time after the busy activities that proved to be valuable to them, explained Pelster.

“At 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, they had a fire-pit where people could go have fellowship and make S’mores together,” she said. “They got to meet other self-advocates in a fun and relaxing environment, other than just interacting with them at the break-out sessions. This fellowship opportunity was a really special time for them.”

Taking a Break – Rosewood SACK Conference participants Michael Manka and Abbey Stanley take a break between SACK Conference activities.


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For more information, contact Frankie Pelster, AKTION Club Sponsor,, 620-603-6502.

July 7, 2023
Story by: Michael Dawes, director of PR, Rosewood Services, 620-639-0407,