World's Largest Marriage Conference Held in Orlando
ORLANDO - Over 1,600 attendees gathered for the "Smart Marriages" conference, the world's largest annual gathering of marriage educators. This was the unprecedented second year in a row the conference has been held in Orlando in part due to the statewide campaign of Strong Marriages Florida. The event was held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando.
According to Diane Sollee, the Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. based Smart Marriages organization, this year's conference had attendees representing all 50 states and 12 countries around the world. The state of Florida again lead the conference in attendance with over 291 persons from Miami to Pensacola. The conference was held from Thursday, July 8, to Tuesday, July, 13.
Over 100 attendees represented various branches of the U.S. Military social service personnel, chaplains and other commanders. Divorce and marital issues hit U.S. military and their spouses particularly hard, and representatives from the U.S. Air Force and Army bases around the world were in attendance as well.
Opening the plenary session of the Smart Marriages Conference was Howard J. Markman, Ph.D, one the world's foremost marriage and family researchers from the University of Denver. Dozens of other national researchers, professors, social scientists, clergy leaders and marriage and family counselors and authors also spoke. Post conference certification seminars were provided, and "Strong Marriages Florida" also held a special meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the strategy for the five year campaign which has as its goals, reducing the divorce rate by 10%; making marriage education readily available and accessible to every region of the state; training 10,000 marriage mentor couples; and saving taxpayers 100 million dollars a year as result of family fragmentation. Also discussed was a pilot "spirit campaign" with Chick-fil-A operators in Palm Beach and Martin counties called "Take The Check Up" which has the ability to reach one half million people coming into contact with the stores with marriage education during the month of August.
John Stemberger, President of the Florida Family Policy Council, stated, "This is an extraordinary privilege to have a worldwide conference of this caliber here in our state, specifically designed to offer resources to strengthen marriages. I am thrilled we were able to promote this event as part of our statewide 'Strong Marriages Florida' campaign and that the event itself was brought to Florida a second year as a result of and to assist our unique and innovative statewide campaign."
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