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Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Vendors Assemble at Trade Show for the Disabled

Each year, the Abilities Expo in Los Angeles is to the disabled community what the Consumer Electronics Show is to the tech sector. Operated by 5Net4 Productions in Encino, the show caters to the disabled by bringing health care providers, caregivers, product manufacturers and nonprofits together under one roof. Attendees also get first views of the latest technology geared toward their special needs – everything from manual wheelchairs and electric scooters to battery-operated stair climbers and high-end mobility vehicles. This year, more than 6,000 visitors attended and about 180 businesses and nonprofits participated in the event, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 5 to 7. Visitors were able to attend free workshops, test innovative equipment and join in many activities. “Networking and education is as big a part of what we’re doing as commerce,” said David Korse, Five Net’s co-owner. “For us, this is the one chance these companies get to interact with their ultimate user – the consumer. They come to these (expos) to create brand visibility, to generate leads and to sell product.” Abilities Expo debuted in 1979, but Korse and his partner didn’t purchase the rights to operate the show until 2008. The pair runs the event in other locations, including New York state; Illinois; Texas; Massachusetts; and Washington, D.C. To afford the overhead that comes with hosting shows, the company rents booth space to for-profit vendors, such as Winamac, Ind.-based mobility vehicle and wheelchair manufacturer BraunAbility; wheelchair LED lighting provider ChairGlo by Lenpowers in Denver; and Restorative Therapies Inc., a Baltimore developer of electrical stimulation cycle for limbs. Ericka Bogan, social media analyst at Mobility Ventures in South Bend, Ind. and an exhibitor at the trade show, said participating allows the company to interact with consumers and educate them about services available to the disabled community. “One of the greatest assets of being able to be here for the community is being able to educate (visitors) on the funding resources and grants that are available,” Bogan said. “They’re looking at a $48,000 car and thinking, There’s no way I’m ever going to be able to afford that, and then they come see us and we’re able to give them the funding resources.” Korse said advertising is the company’s largest expense with the expo and it spends more than $110,000 to promote the event through broadcast channels such as NBC and KTLA (Channel 5), bus-stop posters and in community newspapers. “The thing that’s hard to write about is the energy and the spirit that you experience at Abilities Expo,” Korse said. “This is a building full of people who have made a conscious decision to make lemonade. For every person that comes here there is at least one person with an identical condition who … has accepted things as they are. The people here have not.” No Meat for Me Burbank’s Tony’s Darts Away is at it again. The craft beer bar and restaurant, known as much for its vegan offerings as it is for its charitable fundraising, is hosting its annual vegan chili challenge later this month. Proceeds raised from this year’s Vegan Chili Cook-Off will go toward supporting New York-based Farm Sanctuary, which protects farm animals from cruelty through its Acton operations. The chili challenge will take place Feb. 28 at 1710 W. Magnolia Blvd. and will be judged by a panel of celebrated chefs, including vegan guru Tal Ronnen, founder of Crossroads restaurant in Los Angeles. Five teams of L.A.-based chefs will compete for the title of the best vegan chili in the region. Tony’s Darts Away is selling $10 tickets and a portion of the money raised will be allocated to support Farm Sanctuary. “This is a really fun way to try a bunch of vegan chili, meet a bunch of really interesting and active people in the plant-based food community and support a truly wonderful organization like Farm Sanctuary,” said restaurant owner Tony Yanow. Valley Giving Oakland heath care provider Kaiser Permanente gifted 10 Santa Clarita Valley nonprofits with a total of $63,000 in grants in December. Organizations that received money include Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley; Bridge to Home, a health navigator for the homeless; and Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita. The money was part of a larger $450,000 donation that Kaiser made to nearly 50 San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valley organizations throughout last year. “Improving health in the communities that we serve is vital to our mission,” said David Wong, Kaiser’s physician-in-charge of Santa Clarita, in a statement. “Partnering with local community … ensures that we are making steadfast efforts to overcome critical health barriers.” Staff Reporter Champaign Williams can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or cwilliams@sfvbj.com.

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