Grateful for Fall
Cooler temperatures, digging out sweaters and wool blankets, and the turning of our beautiful aspens are always a few of my favorites. And there’s the start of football season, for all you Broncos fans. Fall has also brought something else that I am grateful for – the opportunity to see our friends and colleagues from around the state at the 24th Annual COVA Conference.
I became COVA’s Chief Deputy Director a little over two years ago and I didn’t truly understand this fine organization until I had attended my first conference, which is held each year in Keystone, CO. The conference is arguably what COVA is best known for and everyone who has attended has a story to tell about their experience. By the time October 2010 rolled around and thus began the final countdown to my first conference, I had no idea what to expect. I had learned that it is the largest statewide victim services conference in the country, with more attendees than most national conferences. Executive Director, Nancy Lewis always likes to refer to it as, “throwing a party for 1,100 of our closest friends.” Our office would periodically be overtaken by a group of dedicated volunteers who could be heard debating and laughing as they helped to plan everything from the theme of the conference to choosing the 72 workshops in 12 different educational tracks. Our staff offices became filled to the brim with registration packets; props and goodies to hand out at the annual President’s Reception and Dance; program books detailing each workshop topic and presenter’s background; and donations to the Silent Auction, which funds conference scholarships for the following year. Once we arrived in Keystone and the conference began, I understood that that this is a truly special gathering that speaks to the sense of community and collaboration that defines the victim services field in Colorado. This is an event that showcases the expertise of Colorado’s victim services and our professional allies. The workshop topics are difficult, but the pristine mountains help attendees to relax and rejuvenate. Opportunities abound to reconnect with old friends and network with new allies. And, as conference veterans know, everyone gets a chance to get down and funky at the dance on Tuesday night!
I am looking forward to this year’s conference for all of those reasons, but also because this was a tough summer for Coloradans. Wildfires devastated parts of our state while lightning storms and scorching heat left many of us wondering if our communities would be next. The shooting death of Officer Celena Hollis at the City Park Jazz Festival and the other gang related shootings in the early part of the year made Denver residents fear this would be the next “Summer of Violence.” And, of course, the tragedy in Aurora was one the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history and has forever changed the lives of thousands of people. These major events were on top of the other crimes that unfortunately happen every single day.
While I am grateful for all of the things that fall brings, right now I am most grateful that the 24th Annual COVA Conference will bring the opportunity to connect with all of you who work so tirelessly on behalf of crime victims. We’ll see you in Keystone.