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Red Boa Society CT bash in the news, May 16, 1997 - see reprinted article below
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Courant Staff Writer
Maybe Dennis Rodman could walk through the Holiday Inn in a red feather boa without risking asnub, but not Tom Cote. Not even if he helped found the Red Boa Society, a wackysupport group for computer buffs with multiple sclerosis. Cote - an electronics technician from West Hartford who swears he doesn't usually dabble in suchexotic garb - recalled getting a real cold shoulder last year from a woman he greetedin the hotel lobby at last year's Red Boa gathering. Later, it turned out the two knew each other through cyber-chats on the Internet. There was anobvious explanation for her chilly gaze: She had never seen him; nor had she imaginedthat the Red Boa Society literally means boas - for men and women. It also means spontaneous races through the lobby on the three-wheel electric "scooters" used bymany afflicted with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative nerve disease that afflictsmore than 300,000 Americans. Severe fatigue, poor vision and loss of balance are common symptoms. More than 100 society members from across the United States and Canada are to converge Fridayand Saturday on the Holiday Inn in Windsor Locks for their fifth annual Connecticutgathering. "We don't do too much drinking because most of us are on too many drugs, but we laugh and wecry," said Sharon Brown of South Bend, Ind., an award-winning health reporter whowas forced to move to an editor's job when the disease limited her mobility. She is flying to Connecticut to attend the party for the first time. "It's the best bash there is," shesaid.
Cote said the weekend would start with a NewEngland-style clambake at the hotel Friday evening. He predicted that jokes and general sillinesswould prevail. "Laughter is the best medicine," he said. That's an old cliche, but it hasdeep roots. And the love and support that we get from each other are amazing." Dr. Tim Vollmer, a neurologist at Yale University and a leading researcher on the disease, has beeninvited and agreed to answer members' questions, Cote said. The international, but informal, support group was born through a bulletin board offered by theProdigy on-line service. The red boa tradition originated in January 1993 when twodozen participants arranged to spend a weekend at Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City to cement theirfriendships. Fitting the words "The Prodigy Multiple-Sclerosis Support Group" on a sign outside the meetingroom proved impossible, but friends who had met only m cyberspace neededsomething to rally around, Cote explained. Gail Keller, the New Jersey woman booking the room,planned to wear a red feather boa the night of the party, so she had the hotel label theroom "red boa." Keller bought extra boas to hand out. A few months later, Cote booked the first Connecticut boa bash at the Holiday Inn, and it has grownyear by year. Inevitably, a Red Boa Home Page appeared on the World WideWeb. Helen Kokoszka, senior sales manager for the Holiday Inn, said the hotel gives the support groupdiscounts on rooms and meals, and nearby Roncari Valet Parking uses a specialvan to ferry arriving guests from Bradley International Airport. "They're a wonderful group," she said. "Our front-desk staff so looks forward to their coming." Asfor their racing scooters through the lobby, she added, it may be against houserules but the carpet is built to take it.
Once upon a time there was a group of people who met on a BBSin Prodigy. They cared about each other and became very good friends. Astime went on some of them met in Prodigy Chat. They formed a group calledThe Red Boa Society. Once a year they meet in Windsor Lockes Connecticut.This tradition of people helping people has grown and now there are Boameetings all over the country.