I’ve got to admit it, I was a fierce and vocal critic of WELCOA for many years.

I thought that they were trading in old ideas and that new thinking was required. After a while, I stopped even taking notice of their work, making an assumption that it was more of the same. Note to self, remember the danger of making assumptions!

When two good friends whom I trust, Sara Kidwell and Rachel Druckenmiller, both introduced me to Ryan Picarella, I suspected that maybe I was missing something.

Ryan and I spoke on the phone and, as they say, he “had me at hello”. An hour later, I knew I had to meet this guy. Only weeks later, we made it happen and I went to see what all the fuss was about at WELCOA these days. In reality, change has been afoot for the last four years since Ryan began to lead the organization and I wish I had been paying attention earlier.

WELCOA is now my vote for most likely to change the face of wellness in this country, and beyond (I remember checking them out when I lived in South Africa, so I know their reach is global).

I left that visit convinced that I wanted to work with this team and honestly, a little sad that I couldn't be a part of the speaker line-up for their annual summit (but I did agree to go, breaking my usual rule of only going to conferences where I’m speaking).

Three things happened since, one on that visit, and two at the summit.

I met Sara Rauch on my first visit to Omaha. She is wonderfully warm and, with the rest of the team at WELCOA, is responsible for putting on the best conference in wellness bar none. Thank you, Sara and the entire WELCOA team, for having a warm smile and a helping hand in every interaction we’ve had since.

The second thing that happened is that I got a call from Ryan a few weeks before the summit to say, “My opening speaker can't make it for a good reason, and how would you like to take his spot?” I pretended to be cool about it and thankfully Ryan couldn’t see my happy dance on the end of the line. It’s not pretty to see. He may have had to ask again to shake me out of it to then sputter something like, “Hell, yes!”

I’ve got to say, that was one of my favorite talks of the year. Part of the reason for this was being among an awesome line-up of speakers, such as Vic Strecher, John Perkins, MJ Shaar, Rachel Druckenmiller, Dr. Daniel Amen, Reggie Hammond, Mitch Martens, Jesse Gavin, Rosie Ward, Jon Robison, Barbara Zabawa, Dr. JoAnn Eickhoff-Shemek, Dr. Donald Hensrud, Andrew Horn, Laura Putnam, Paul Scialla, Laurel Mellin, Aaron Hunnel, Geno Church, Brett Powell and Brian Passon, to name a few.

WELCOA Speakers pic.jpg

The third thing that happened is the other part of why I loved the summit, which was getting to meet a lot of very cool, new people (and of course reconnect with old friends like Sara and Rachel who were the reason I was there in the first place). Board members like John Kizer, Steve LaCagnin, Richard Ollis, Linda Andreae and Don Hensrud. Many fellow attendees whom I either had great conversations with or even agreed on new alliances: Mim Senft, Deb Smolensky, Rachel Knapp, Denise Normandin, Jeff Skelton, Jennifer Pitts, Samantha Thomas, Chetan Bagga, Amber Baker, Emily Elrod, Jessika Jake, Susan Benigas, Ed Buckley, Emma Maurer, Dana Janney, Bryan Noar, Rex Miller, Dee Eastman, Kathy Nellor, and Marisa Young.

Ryan, Sara and the WELCOA team, you have our absolute support, our loyal friendship and our deep gratitude for all that you do for the world of wellness. Thank you for trusting me to be a part of your summit. I can't wait to see what our partnership brings in the future.

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