Little People Of America Celebrates 50 Years

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha Alvarez

Matt Roloff accepts the Audacity Award at his seat after LPA pulls out at the last minute from being a part of the presentation.

Going to the Little People of America conference wouldn’t be too far of a stretch for me. I am a little person, too. Being little doesn’t bother me in the least. I love being tiny. It’s cute, adorable and very diva!

I was very excited to present the award in person to Matt Roloff, the father in the reality show “Little People, Big World”. I was impressed with his observation regarding the way the disabled community helps each other or rather ignores each other. In his interview (January 2007 issue) with me, he said that the disabled community should help each other out and not act like crabs in a bucket trying to pull each other down.

He basically said what I had always felt was going on in the disabled community. How much more powerful could we be as a culture in all aspects of society if we helped each other out?

I decided at the last minute to go to the 50th Anniversary National Conference of the Little People of America because I knew that I could see Matt in person and properly present the award to him.

There is a yahoo group for little people and a few of the members advised me to contact the president of LPA or anyone in charge of the conference to see if I could present the award to Matt at one of their luncheons or gatherings.

I arrived Saturday morning at 3:30 am and by 9:00 am I was talking to several people at the registration table to see who could best help me find out whether I would have the opportunity to present the award at their function.

I figured if I couldn’t do it with LPA then I would at least give it to Matt in person and thank him and his family for giving such a positive and realistic look at what little people and people with disabilities do in the real world.

I found myself playing, “Who’s the Boss?” for the next two days with the LPA. One person told me to speak with Dawn Spencer but Dawn couldn’t be found. Another person told me to speak to her husband, Tim but he said I should speak with Lois L., president of LPA. But no one knew how to contact Lois. So this went around until Sunday evening.

I was exhausted from the plane ride, nursing a broken finger, and overwhelmed with the many new friends I had met at the conference.

My friend, Claudia P. and I decided to relax in the front of the hotel lobby and enjoy the calm. It was fine until she saw Martin Klebba, an LP actor and a friend of the Roloffs. She wanted a picture with him. Who could blame her? He is a cutie.

Martin was very kind and we snapped away with the camera. A few minutes later, he came back to us to tell us that Matt had arrived and was getting out of his car. He knew I was looking for Matt and I was much obliged by his kindness.

The goal was to introduce myself to Matt and find out when he wanted me to give him his award because I didn’t want to intrude on his personal time

at the conference. How long could it possibly take to give him an award?

I saw him entering the hotel with his scooter, I introduced myself and he quickly said he needed to speak to someone and went off.

Slowly, I turned my wheelchair around and looked at Claudia with a face that could kill a thousand ships! She told me to calm down and that we should go walk/roll it off.

Walking it off worked for a short time. When I saw Matt later that evening, I had to let him know what I thought of his behavior. I reminded him about his crabs in a bucket philosophy.

He was very apologetic and explained the weirdest situation to me. He said that the LPA didn’t allow the televison cameras into the hotel. He said when I came up to him he was already very upset about the situation and was trying to find out more information about it.

I couldn’t understand why LPA would forbid Matt and his family from filming them. Many of the first time conference attendees where there because of his show and the positive feel it leaves in the minds of little people and everyone else.

If some of the conference attendees had a problem with the camera they could simply not be near the cameras or perhaps LPA could stipulate that the cameras narrow their filming to those people interacting with the Roloffs at the time.

I couldn’t understand how LPA could have that much power that they could stop a television crew from filming in a hotel lobby or even Matt’s own hotel room. Perhaps I didn’t hear him correctly but I wanted to let him know that I was still trying to find out if I would be giving him his award at an LPA function or privately.

That’s when Lois L., the LPA president, came into view. She told me that she would get in touch with me and see if I could present it at Monday’s reception celebrating 50 years of LPA. I told her I only needed five minutes of their time. We all understood that Monday would be the only day to give the award because I was leaving on Tuesday.

The following day, 15 minutes after the reception started, Lois called me as I was on my way to the ballroom with the award in my hand and kudos from many LPA conference goers who knew the exhausting work it took to get to this point, to tell me that I would not be able to give the award after all.

I went to the ballroom because I needed to hear this personally. She told me that tonight’s celebration was a solemn event. Celebration and solemn? Oxymoron. She said it was in honor of Barty. I told her I thought it was in honor of the work of LPA for the last 50 years. She said it was. I said what do you think Matt has been doing with his show? What about me and my magazine? We are products of Barty and the LPA’s work in the last 50 years.

She said it wasn’t her decision. She said it was a scripted event and there was no room for a five minute presentation. She said I needed to talk to Dawn Spencer. I told her I was tired of playing ping pong with them.

I would have preferred if they would have told me from day one that it couldn’t be done. Instead, they had me chasing them around and then after giving me the green light, pull out the NO!

Another member joined the conversation, Randy B. and he told me that Matt doesn’t represent LPA.

I told him, “No, he doesn’t represent LPA. He represents little people everytime he airs his show. I represent little people everytime I am teaching in the classroom. You represent little people everytime you go to the grocery store or anywhere else. So for you guys to not let me give him the award tonight after you said you would gives a bad impression.”

I was upset and I admit it. I gave Matt the award when I found his table. He thanked me. We took pictures and then I wanted to leave. However, I stayed to see this solemn celebration. There was a slide presentation and many people were honored. Nowhere did I see why I couldn’t have presented the award.

In fact, it’s not that I couldn’t present the award that bothered me as much as the way I was treated.

I believe that giving Matt the award for which many little people participated in the voting as well as the nominations would have given LPA something more to celebrate.

I have to be honest but it seems as if LPA doesn’t really like the attention that Matt and his family are getting. I am not sure why.

If anything, the show has given other little people the motivation and drive to chase after their dreams. I saw people approach Matt and thank him for his work with the show. People asked him for advice.

Amy, his wife, was approached by average height mothers, who were happy to see that their children might have the same crazy and fulfilling life as hers.

I saw Zack, Matt and Amy’s little person teenage son, stop talking to his friends and very maturely and kindly take pictures with other lp kids who enjoy watching him on television.

Wouldn’t it really be great if all the little people in the world could share their lives with the rest of the world and then touch their lives in such a positive way?

Wouldn’t be even better if the present leadership of LPA could embrace everyone’s achievement and realize that it’s because of Billy Barty and LPA that for the past 50 years little people have gone from being freak show events to reality shows that show us like real people.

I have nothing against LPA. I am only upset at the way they handled this situation.

This article is really long because I would hate to have written a short story about a short stature organization when the little people of the world have such a tall order to fill in the eyes of our big world.

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