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THE SAYWHATCLUB CHANGED MY LIFE BY LORNE SMITH

My first SayWhatClub convention changed my life. It was 15 years ago but the memories haven’t faded.

Though I was relatively new to SWC, I had read the glowing  accounts of people who attended the 2002 convention in Alexandria, VA., and how they bonded and laughed each day and well into the night. I knew the 2003 convention would be held in Seattle, just two hours away from me, and I had to be there to see what it was all about.,

Since I couldn’t get time off work to attend the full 2003 convention, I made the best of the two days I had. On Friday morning, I got up early and drove to Seattle in time to attend the second day of workshops. I didn’t know many people there, but that changed fast. During the morning break, people welcomed me, introduced themselves and chatted as if we’d been longtime friends. One group invited me to go for lunch with them. Another invited me to join them on an afternoon boat ride. I felt so overwhelmed by these generous offers that I turned them all down and spent a quiet lunch alone, in my usual comfort zone. I’ve regretted that decision ever since and vowed never to repeat it.

“People I had met online and others I had never met became instant and lasting friends at that convention.”

For the next two days, I spent as much time as possible in the company of other SWCers at workshops, social activities, the banquet and in the hotel bar, which has become a traditional gathering place for SWCers at the end of each day. People I had met online and others I had never met became instant and lasting friends at that convention.

Hearing loss is a powerful bond. Many of us don’t have family, friends and coworkers who understand the struggles we face each day. At SWC conventions, we have a lot in common, even though our hearing losses vary. We learn together, share our experiences and use whatever methods we can to communicate with each other, without fear of being left out.

“I’ve always liked to say, ‘Hearing loss brings us together; friendship keeps us together.'”

Lorne hanging with friends at a SWC convention

The motto of the SayWhatClub says it all: “Friends with Hearing Loss.” As I’ve always liked to say, hearing loss brings us together; friendship keeps us together. The strength of the SayWhatClub is what we learn from each other and the support we receive from our friends with hearing loss.

Since my first experience in 2003, I haven’t missed a SayWhatClub convention. It’s one of the highlights of my year. I look forward to bonding with old friends and making new ones at the 2018 SWC convention  from Aug. 1-4 in St. Paul, MN.

I hope to see you all in St. Paul.

For more information on upcoming conventions, visit

59 thoughts on “THE SAYWHATCLUB CHANGED MY LIFE BY LORNE SMITH”

  1. Thanks for commenting Cheri! I love what Lorne wrote too. Lorne and I joined the SWC about the same time. One thing that has always stood out in my mind was how we were sitting around a table having lunch with about five people. (It might have been the lunch Lorne turned down– I can’t remember.) Jazzy was there and she had just gotten her cochlear implant. Anyway, I think the others were probably Susan, Cathy and Kate. Maybe Maurice. We were chatting and one of us didn’t hear what was said. The comment was patiently repeated three times, then someone whipped out pen and paper and another one signed it. They all went above and beyond to include everyone. In SWC, no one is ever treated like they don’t matter. That left a big impression on me.

  2. Nice post, Lorne. You are so right about hearing loss bringing us together, and friendship keeping us together. I am a much happier person from being in this group since 1999. Hearing loss can be isolating. Reaching out to others soothes that isolation and helps make us all stronger.

  3. Thanks for sharing how much the SayWhatClub Conventions, and our club, mean to you. I wish I had found this group much sooner! My first convention was in 2011 and I was nervous to meet everyone. That lasted about 5 minutes, and afterwards I felt like I had known the group for years. You all made me feel so welcome and I learned a lot about myself that year in Baltimore. You and Joanne are among my favorites, and you know how I feel about you as an SWC Volunteer — there’s no one I’d rather work with. Can’t wait to see you and Joanne in Saint Paul! ~Michele

  4. My first convention, and certainly not my last I hope, was last year in Savannah. I remember getting there the day before and that night going down to the lounge area. When I finally found the “SWC section” I think there was only two or possibly three of the ladies present. I remember thinking, “This sure isn’t going to be a very big convention.” Well, I was wrong! The next morning a huge crowd was present for breakfast with the SWC badges, and we were immediately welcomed into the group. Both Rhonda and I learned so much from attending the conference. We look forward to learning even more this year. The thing I liked also were all the extracurricular activities that were available. It wasn’t just the workshops, but the socializing with others who were familiar with the daily challenges we face that was liberating. It was relaxing to know that if you didn’t hear something the other people understood. Even Rhonda, who can hear, appreciated the captions during the presentations. So my advice to anyone is this: attend a conference, learn, socialize, and just enjoy the experience!

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