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The Story of The Hat

The tradition started in Toronto. During the closing session of the 1980 Annual Conference, a bagpipe was suddenly heard in the distance. All heads turned to see a kilted piper enter the room followed closely by Morris "Mickey" Milner and Douglas Hobson, co-chairs of the conference. In his arms Mickey carried a black "pilgrim's" hat on a blue velvet cushion.

From that day on, The Hat passed from one conference chair to the next as a symbol of the transfer of authority, the continuity of our dedication to the advancement of rehabilitation through technology, and the total relief that comes with knowing that someone else has to begin worrying about the conference!

The Hat, which is made of genuine beaver fur, is but another of the many contributions made to the field of rehabilitation engineering by Colin McLaurin. This contribution, unlike most of his others, was done impulsively. Walking into a Toronto haberdashery one day to buy some new silk handkerchiefs, Colin spotted The Hat and thought, "That'd be great!", and thus, starting a tradition that continues as a RESNA conference highlight.

Designed and developed by engineers and tested by clinicians, The Hat was accepted by consumers in a skit in San Diego. It has been delivered by a remotely controlled power wheelchair in Washington. Canadian and American dollars encircled the band of The Hat in Ottawa. Guru Resnic, our great spiritual leader, delivered The Hat to a solemn march in Memphis. The beautiful and mysterious loons of the North Woods personally delivered The Hat in Minneapolis. The Hat appeared and disappeared like magic in San Jose. The Hat was delivered by Cirque du Soleil with a trick rope in Montreal, in high style to a jazz band in New Orleans, and by masked US Presidents to rap music in Washington. In the Land of Oz (Kansas City, MO), Dr. Wizard delivered The Hat to the "Chairman in Waiting". Back to its origin, The Hat was passed by Toronto's "dancing skyline." In Las Vegas, a plethora of Elvis impersonators - young, old, male, and female - shimmied The Hat to the astonished chairpersons of the Nashville conference. In Nashville, their own "Kids on the Block" delighted the crowd as they passed The Hat to Vancouver, who roller-bladed through the ballroom to the ceremony. Vancouver's "Ms. Mountie" with her personal dog sled delivered The Hat to "Brigham Young," who returned at the end of the Salt Lake City awards ceremony and passed The Hat to Pittsburgh. Our Pittsburgh hosts scored with sports fans when The Hat was tossed, kicked, dunked, and finally passed to the Minneapolis team, all to the enthusiastic chants and drills of a full squad of cheerleaders. In Minneapolis, The Hat was passed along to Long Beach by a starlet from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Long Beach passed The Hat to Orlando with the help of "Mama Tucci", who wasn't actually a Mama, or a Tucci, or even a woman. Orlando foretold the success of the Reno conference by calling upon a fortune teller to deliver The Hat.

And then things changed. First, the Meetings Committee Chair became the de facto Conference Chair, which led to Jean Minkel, in charge of both the Atlanta and the Orlando conferences, to pass The Hat by putting it on herself. And then things changed again, and The Hat became a symbol of passing authority from President to President with a rededication to promoting the health and well-being of people with disabilities through increasing access to technology solutions.

Simon Margolis began the new tradition by reciting a poem to incoming President Rory Cooper while passing The Hat. Back in Washington, RESNA's own superhero, Ergo Man, emerged from a phone booth to transfer The Hat from Glenn Hedman to Greg McGrew. In Las Vegas, Jerry Weisman won the lottery, and The Hat, from Greg McGrew. How will The Hat be passed today?

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