Portland Preparations Forge Ahead

by Christina Hitchcock

Something is definitely amiss if potential attendees of the BVA 64th National Convention August 18-22, 2009 are not looking forward to the event with the greatest of anticipation and excitement!

Portland, Oregon, offers something for almost anyone. In addition to the usual business meetings, social functions, and opportunities to relax and renew old friendships, this year’s gathering has all the elements of a week filled with immense fun and enjoyment! More day trips than usual, temperatures virtually unheard of at past conventions, and the best in the arts, food, and entertainment will all highlight our stay in the City of Roses.

Portland in August is beautiful with an average temperature of 79. Start your week by joining us for the President’s Reception, the convention’s first official event, or come a day or two early so that you can enjoy a cruise on the Columbia River Gorge or the Portland Spirit Tour Boat. Maybe you are up for some adventure and are interested in learning how to kayak just before your first visit to the Exhibit Hall on Monday evening. The latter visit will consist of a Wine and Cheese Reception mixed with technology demonstrations.

Beautiful gardens, a vibrant downtown, and a nearby tax-free shopping mall are also in the offering for any and all who may be joining us at any point throughout the week.

Pittock Mansion, an architectural wonder nestled in the west hills a thousand feet above the city’s skyline, is a century-old symbol of Portland’s transformation from a small lumber town to a bustling city. Photo courtesy of Bob Woodward, Travel Portland.
Pittock Mansion, an architectural wonder nestled in the west hills a thousand feet above the city’s skyline, is a century-old symbol of Portland’s transformation from a small lumber town to a bustling city. Photo courtesy of Bob Woodward, Travel Portland.

The aforementioned President’s Reception features an opportunity to meet our current National President and other officers. Local and national dignitaries have been invited to join us for the evening as well. As has been the case the past three years, we also look forward to meeting service members and veterans participating in the meetings and activities as part of Operation Peer Support.

For our Opening Business Session the following morning, BVA has invited newly appointed and confirmed VA Secretary Shinseki to attend. Schedule permitting, the Secretary will speak prior to regularly scheduled business later in the morning. Guests and spouses not participating in the business meeting may wish to scope out the merchandise at the Auxiliary Silent Auction or converge on a nearby shopping enclave.

The Oregon Columbia Regional Group is this year’s host, led by Chairman and longtime group officer Frank Armstrong. The group has tirelessly worked to put together a Thursday trip to the Oregon Wine Country with a stop at The Spruce Goose, the largest airplane ever built. Also organized is a Friday Triple-A baseball game featuring the Portland Beavers and Iowa Cubs, followed by a post-game fireworks show within PGE Park.

Friday morning presentations constituting the annual BVA Forum will address contemporary issues of concern to blinded veterans and their families. The Father Thomas J. Carroll Memorial Luncheon will follow immediately after.

Saturday Morning kicks off with the Closing Business Session. As usual, the meeting will include voting on the adoption of new bylaws and resolutions for the coming year, election of national officers, and convention city sites for 2011. Three regional groups have currently submitted bids for consideration: Greater Houston, Puerto Rico, and Northern California. All current BVA members and delegates will vote on the location of the 2011 site.

Following the business meeting, BVA officers and members interested in becoming more active are encouraged to attend the Legislative Update given by Tom Zampieri and a session on Leadership Training moderated by Sam Huhn.

The final event, also the capstone of the convention week, is the Reception and Saturday evening Awards Banquet. The Golden Gavel, Silver Gavel, David L. Schnair Award, Irving Diener Award, and Major General Melvin J. Maas Award will all be announced and presented.

For the most adventuresome and energetic, the City of Portland is a master at mixing productive business with enjoyable entertainment and cultural experiences. For complete information on popular August activities and destinations in and around the city but outside of the convention routine, call Travel Portland at 877-678-5263 or visit the bureau’s website at www.travelportland.com.

About the Doubletree


The hotel is perfectly situated on the edge of “Fareless Square,” a region encompassing much of the downtown area. Fareless Square provides free public light rail transportation to downtown Portland, assuring easy and accessible access to hundreds of shops, restaurants, and cultural activities.

The Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center is conveniently located between the light rail station and the renowned Lloyd Center Mall, the latter of which includes more than 200 stores, 18 movie theaters, a multitude of food outlets, and an ice skating rink.

Additional activities adjacent to the hotel consist of the Rose Test Garden, The Grotto, Chinese Garden, and the internationally known Saturday Market, which is the nation's largest open-air market for handcrafted goods. The hotel itself houses Multnomah Grille (open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and Eduardo’s Mexican Grill (open for lunch and dinner).

Convention and Hotel Registration


BVA National Headquarters mailed convention announcements and registration packets to all Association members in mid-May. If you did not receive a package and would like one, please contact me, Christina Hitchcock (800-669-7079, Ext. 3303, chitchcock@bva.org) to confirm that we have your correct address and information.

You may also visit the BVA website to download the registration package and additional registration forms. The fee is $90 and $55 for each child 12 years old and younger.

Please note the early convention and hotel registration deadline of June 14 and the final deadline of July 14 for both registrations. After that date, attendees can no longer be guaranteed the convention room rate of $106 per night and a $10 late fee will be assessed to convention registrations. Participants are urged to reserve rooms as far in advance as possible.

Reservations can be secured by calling toll free 800-996-0510. Please remember to indicate affiliation with the Blinded Veterans Association to receive the group rate.

Air Travel to Portland


Airlines continue to cut back on their overhead and no longer offer the group discounts that were available to BVA convention attendees in the past. Those flying to and from the convention should check on military and veterans discounts, senior citizen discounts, and other factors that could influence fares. The following airlines, accompanied by their reservation contact information, currently serve Portland International Airport.

American Airlines—800-433-7300, www.aa.com
Continental Airlines—800-523-3273, www.continental.com
Delta Air Lines—800-221-1212, www.delta.com
Frontier Airlines—800-432-1359, www.flyfrontier.com
JetBlue Airways—800-538-2583, www.jetblue.com
Northwest Airlines—800-225-2525, www.nwa.com
Southwest Airlines—800-435-9792, www.southwest.com
United Airlines and United Express—800-864-8331,www.ual.com
US Airways—800-428-4322, www.usairways.com

Arrival and Ground Transportation


The Doubletree Hotel-Lloyd Center is located 10.8 miles, or about 20 minutes, from the Portland Airport (PDX). The regional group will coordinate complimentary ground transportation for BVA members.

The airport in Portland is easier to navigate and smaller than those we have encountered in convention cities of the recent past.

Whenever possible, volunteers will assist arriving passengers with their luggage and provide them with details about the transportation options at peak arrival and departure times. Every effort will be made to have volunteers at gates to meet individuals traveling alone. Please remember to send arrival and departure information to me four weeks prior to the convention.

The airport advertises “Wheelchair Service and Assistance for Sight-Impaired Travelers.”

For either or both services, which may include the term “blind assist,” please contact the airline in advance.

A wheelchair aid or blind assist can also assist passengers with luggage. There is no charge for wheelchair assistance but gratuities are appreciated.

If traveling without such assistance and without volunteer help, ask an airport employee from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. for the location of the white courtesy phones located throughout the terminal to determine transportation options to the Doubletree Hotel-Lloyd Center.

A service dog relief area is located outside the baggage claim at the north end of the terminal on the lower level.

Remember These Dates


Sunday, June 14—Early registration deadline for receipt of hotel reservation and convention registration. Convention attendees meeting this deadline will be eligible to receive a $50 rebate for the five-night stay during August 17-22. We recommend that you make your reservation early to guarantee space.

Monday, June 15—Deadline for BVA members and regional groups to submit convention program announcements and ads. Please contact me for information.

Tuesday, July 14—Final deadline for mailing in registration form and payment to BVA National Headquarters without incurring a $10 late fee. Late registration is $100 per person. Tuesday, July 14—Deadline for receipt of hotel reservation form or phone reservation at the Doubletree in order to receive special room rate. Due to Portland’s popularity, the room block may fill up quickly. Early registration by telephone is recommended.

Tuesday, July 28—Deadline for receipt of the completed regional group delegate credentials form and official proxy form for non-attending members (credentials form was mailed to regional group officers by the BVA Administrative Director while the proxy form was included in the individual convention package).

Saturday, August 1—Deadline for cancellation of pre-registration in order to receive a full refund.

BVA Convention Trivia


Gene Bottenberg, wife of BVA Past National President Bob Bottenberg, recently sent BVA National Headquarters two written convention programs that she had, fortuitously, held onto for several decades.

The older of the two programs outlined the activities at the 2nd National Convention at Hotel Continental in Chicago September 5-7, 1947. The other contained a schedule of events for the 17th National Convention held at the Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia August 7-11, 1962.

Cost per person of the Saturday evening banquet in 1947 was $4, including tax and gratuity. A final meeting of members and visitors included a luncheon party the following day that cost $3 per person.

Food prices and other ticketed items were not revealed in the program 15 years later. One scheduled event, however, looks nearly identical to one scheduled 47 years later in 2009—“Father Carroll’s Luncheon,” held Thursday, August 9, 1962. The one difference: Father Carroll’s introduction of Arville L. Ebersole, Director of the Bowlers’ Victory Legion, followed by a discourse by the National Chaplain himself.