Two and a half years ago the conference committee started planning for 2024 District Conference. It was to be held in Ithaca the first weekend in May. But less than 6 months before the conference, I received a call that the facility would not be ready to host us. Our team had to pivot and come up with a plan B. Calling all around trying to book a conference 6 months out proved to be very tedious. We finally found a location that had availability and we went with it. Saratoga was going to be the location. 

As I take time to reflect on the District Conference in Saratoga the last weekend in April, I am reminded about the incredible power of Rotary. We each spend a lot of time working together in our clubs for the benefit of not just our communities but, in service to those around the globe. And together, we expand the reach of Rotary. I am truly humbled to be able to represent not just Rotary, but International President Gordon McInally as well, and champion the cause of mental health and well-being to as many people as possible. As Gordon has said, we must break the stigma around mental health and I know that in our District, the conversation has been started and will continue for many years to come. 

This past year, as part of my message, I also spent a lot of time telling clubs that this conference would reflect on and celebrate individual Rotarians, the unsung heroes if you will, who make a difference in their communities day in and day out. Thanks to the bright spots, and Mark Sheppard for announcing , I was able to highlight just a few of the people who make a difference in my eyes. Congratulations to Sam Cepulo, Albert Cohen, Janet Walker, John Haynes, and Carrie and Bill Grove. 

A special thank you must also go to our Master of Ceremonies, Bruce Amey. You showed us that, everyday, laughter sometimes is the best medicine. You sharing your story about you and Diane, and the effects of Alzheimer's, definitely had an impact. By sharing our own stories about struggles and successes, we definitely break the barrier and show that Mental Health is a priority. 

There are many opportunities for Rotarians to get together and make a difference, the conference a few weeks ago was no different. We heard from Linking Hands for Learning and the impact that their message had on the Rotarians present was astounding. They had a goal of raising $1,000 by dinner time and they exceeded that and raised approximately $14,000. I know! That’s amazing, over $14,000 in less than one day! Another incredible example of “The Power of Rotary”. Thank you to those who donated and to the Schaffer’s for their matching donation. 

The breakout sessions at the conference were very well received. Thank you to ROC City Rotary for showing clubs that things can be done differently yet still be fun and engaging. Thank you to Paul Minor from the Northwest Rotary Club for his presentation about making sure that everything we do in Rotary has an impact moving forward. All projects should not be one and done, but they should be a continuation building upon each other. Thanks to the Saratoga Historical Society for their presentation on “Women in the Revolution.”.

We held a service project to make 10,000 meals to donate to the Saratoga County food pantry. Thank you so much to Cat Jensen for coordinating this and making my vision of giving back to the communities a reality. We also did about 200 “Party in a Bag” to donate to the local food pantries so that children and families can celebrate a birthday! 

Thank you to Jack Fredericks and the Naples Rotary Club for a very successful golf outing at the Saratoga Spa Golf Course. There were lots of fun stories and the camaraderie of Rotarians was definitely a “hole in one”! 

The outings around town were greatly appreciated by attendees. We had a very successful Poker Run where we were out and about in the community and helping support the local economy. The tour of the race track was, unfortunately, not what we expected when we booked it and for that, we apologize. Thank you to Mark and Robin Sheppard on organizing a bike tour. 

Thank you to the Youth Exchange students, Interact students and vocal and oratorical students who participated in the beautiful flag ceremony. Youth are the reason I began in Rotary and I thoroughly enjoyed having them be a part of this conference. Their dedication and hard work to not only learning new languages and cultures, memorizing music and speeches, and leading Interact clubs, speaks volumes as to Rotary's future. I know for a fact we are in good hands. 

We were also able to recognize two amazing women at the conference, who make a huge difference in the Rotary world. Congratulations to Karen Parkhurst on her Meritorious Service award and Wanda Martinez-Johncox for receiving the Rotary International Service Above Self award. 

Over this past year I have shared my mom's and my daughter Hannah's stories and our families’ journey through adversity and mental health issues. It was such an honor to be able to recognize the strength of my mother and the courage of my daughter by presenting them each with a Paul Harris Fellow award. 

Price Finley, the RI President's Rep assigned to our conference, did a great job conveying not just Gordon’s message, but the importance of all we do as a district to move forward the goals of Rotary. 

And finally, I am grateful to my friend, Pauline Perrault, who served as our keynote speaker on Saturday night. As I mentioned before, youth were the reason I originally joined Rotary. Pauline did a fantastic job, explaining to all who were there, why every club should consider sponsoring/hosting a youth exchange student; sending a student to RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Award); or sponsoring an Interact Club. Pauline, involved with Rotary since her time as a high school interact student, made it clearly evident that the youth ARE the future of Rotary and we must engage and support them as much as possible.

Finally, I personally want to thank all who Converged, Connected and Celebrated in Saratoga and I hope that each and everyone of you learned a little more and grew a little more in your Rotary Journey.

DG Julie M. Carney
Rotary District 7120
District Governor 2023-2024