Meet Kim Burdick and Alicia Herring
On the surface, one might think that 37-year-old Kim Burdick and Alicia Herring don’t have all that much in common. Kim lives in an Indiana town that “may have more cows than people,” she says, while Alicia—15 years her senior—lives across the country in a bustling city of nearly 203,000. Yet, their friendship has continued to stand the test of time and distance ever since their meeting at the SBA National Conference more than 10 years ago.
That First Trip
Kim: I went solo to my first National Conference 11 years ago. It was also my first time on a plane! I’m not afraid of meeting new people but I wondered if everyone would know each other. One of the best things about this conference is that we all have similar issues and you meet great people who understand you. Someone always has a solution or suggestion they are willing to share.
Alicia: After meeting Kim, we learned we actually had a lot in common. We both have service dogs, we drive the same type of van, and we have similar health issues. It’s been fun over the years to visit each other and have new experiences. I took her to her first Farmer’s Market and to Disneyland. One year I flew to her town so we could drive to conference together. It was a strange experience to visit a town that doesn’t have any stoplights!
Kim: All of the friendships I’ve made at Conference are special. When you return the next year it’s like no time has passed; we all pick up right where we left off.
Kim: We’ve roomed together at the National Conference for the last 10 years. It saves money and it’s more fun! Money can be an obstacle for people to get to Conference, but there are ways. My local Lion’s Club helped me with the fee and asked me to give a talk to their group.
“Cut the Umbilical Cord!”
Alicia: I went to my first SBA National Conference as a teenager and have gone many times since. I know so many people who need to get to Conference—adults with Spina Bifida who think they are alone, that no one knows what they are going through.
Or they think, “I could never get there” because they’ve never been on a plane, can’t drive, or don’t transfer independently. I tell people they would be surprised to meet so many people who get by, who have their own lives, and who don’t live with mom and dad forever…people who have jobs and are married. I’m always amazed at how many people with Spina Bifida don’t want to drive or to go to college. I tell parents: Cut the umbilical cord! My mom made sure I knew how to do laundry, how to do banking. And I went to my first National Conference when I was a teenager. It was healthy for me to meet Spina Bifida couples who were parents and to meet people who worked full time. Later in life, I took my daughter to Conference with me so she could attend Kids!Camp.
It Takes a Village
Kim: It’s enjoyable to talk with parents of children with Spina Bifida at Conference. Hopefully, they look at Alicia, myself, and others and see that we are able to travel, to live independently, and that we have a good life. I have been married, live on my own, and have an associate’s degree in business administration.
Alicia: I am married and have a 24-year-old daughter and a 16-month-old grandson. I’ve had a couple of different careers and over the years have been a volunteer with the Humane Society and the Red Cross. And I’ve been super-involved with my daughter’s life—attending soccer games, chaperoning field trips, and volunteering in class.
Kim: We try to reach out to parents and give them pointers. For example, we let them know that it’s very typical for pre-teens with Spina Bifida to have the attitude of “We’re done with Spina Bifida. We don’t want to cath….why should we? No one else has to.” We reassure parents that this will pass.
Friends for a Lifetime
Kim: Alicia and I talk or text each other every single day. She keeps busy watching her grandson during the days. My parents live close by and my 18 nieces and nephews keep me busy on the weekends. But it’s nice to hear each other’s voice and check in with one another. I had a major surgery recently with an eight-week recovery. Sometimes it’s tempting to isolate yourself because you think people don’t want to hear about your day or your problems or your pain. It does me good to talk to Alicia and be reminded that surgical pain will go away.
Alicia: Kim has a good outlook on life. I like that positive influence in my life.