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By Joanne Carroll

No one could have imagined that a decade ago a mini-conference envisioned as an opportunity to educate a small segment of Pennsylvania, would grow to be a conference that in ten years the premier transgender event in North America and perhaps the world.

KS 2018 in a word used by so many attendees as they checked out of the Sheraton on Sunday, March 11, 2018…..fabulous.

Other words…”wow, I can’t remember ever having this good a time in my life”…“the last few years have been great, but this year was the best yet”…I cannot wait to be back in 2019”.  These are just a small sample of the excitement this conference generates.

If you have never given yourself a chance to experience four days of authenticity, friendship, great food, sense of community, a multitude of learning experiences…and of course “fun”; then you have denied yourself one heck of an experience.

To make it a success it requires a lot of hard work by a number of people and I will extend my gratitude to them in a moment, but first I must thank and congratulate all who attended.  This conference could never be a success if it was never attended.  The idiom…”if you build it they will come” is a good theme for a movie, but it takes so many of you that may read this column to allow us to be successful.

You risk leaving someone out when you begin naming names of those that step up to work on the conference, and the first people I must recognize are my two Co-Chairs, Dr. Jeanine Ruhsam and Kristy Snow, the founders of the Keystone Conference   You will never know how hard the three of us work before the doors even swing open.  Kristy as most of you know is the Vice-President of TransCentralPA and even as the conference winds down she is already working on KS 2019.  Jeanine, I must thank you for our over twenty years of friendship, your commitment and efforts and for including me in the “triumvirate”.  Kristy, all I can say is that your make me look good, both as a Co-Chair and as my left brain in the day to day operations of TCPA (TransCentralPA).

Next I cannot say enough about Katie Ward, as the Secretary/Treasurer, “the Hostess” of TransCentralPA, and the Registrar and Volunteer Coordinator…what an outstanding job!  Then there is Deanne Canfield (the Special Assistant to the President of TransCentralPA), you did it again girl, your oversight and management of the check-in process was again exemplary.  Jenny Jensen (the Bingo Queen and the Director of the First timers Program) we thank you for your efforts.   Nic Miller, our TCPA Family and Youth Program Director as well as Karen Lehman, TCPA  Spouse and Significant Other Program Director …thank you ladies for a job well done.

Certainly, we could not have had success without the dedication and contribution by the volunteers that stepped up to assist.  These obviously are the many members of TCPA, the Vanity Club, friends, and the Harrisburg Office of New York Life insurance Company.

We cannot leave out our Sponsors, Vendors and Advertisers; these entities truly allow us to conduct the Keystone Conference.  Their more than generous financial contributions have allowed us over the years to make the conference affordable for all of you that attend.  I do not have enough words to express the gratitude of a grateful organization.  I hope that the conference will prove to be a successful experience.

To those that gave of their time and wisdom to conduct a workshop, thank you.

Finally, in the thank you department…thank you to the Staff and Management of the Sheraton Harrisburg/Hershey.   Ten years have gone by so fast; it only seems like yesterday that we descended upon you, but your exemplary service standards, the quality of your products, and certainly your friendship cannot be accurately measured in words…thank you.

Keystone 2019 is already in the planning stages, in a few days, we will be meeting with the hotel staff to work on the details for next year, which by the way will be March 19-24, 2019.  We look forward eagerly to working together toward another successful conference.

As I bring this column to a close, let me say this.  If you have never experienced the Keystone Conference, I wholeheartedly suggest you plan to attend next year.  It is a transformative experience for so many…

By the way, for any of you that are interested, identifying as a transgender person or residence in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not a requirement for membership…dues are only $20.00 per calendar year for everyone, and anyone, especially allies can join.  It is easy to become a member.  Just find the tab marked “Membership Info” on our website (transcentralpa.org) and follow the link.

See you next time and all your footsteps lead you to your best life!

Hugs ‘n Stuff

Joanne Carroll is the president of TransCentral PA. TransCentral PA is committed to providing advocacy and caring support for transgender individuals, their significant others, families, friends and allies.