Monday, Oct. 12, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.
Some say life is short, but 6-foot-11 John Allen isn't.
Allen is the social co-chair of the Las Vegas Tall Club, and the tallest member in the organization.
“It’s become a way of life,” Allen said. “For the most part it doesn’t bother me, but when people ask me how tall I am, I say 211 centimeters or 83 inches. If they want to know that badly they can figure it out.”
The Las Vegas Tall Club chapter of the international organization started in 1983 and has been recruiting members ever since. It's one of about 65 such clubs in the United States and its 50 or so members meet on a regular basis for everything from bowling to bikes rides to picnics.
This past weekend the group met for its semiannual garage sale to raise money for a scholarship it offers to a Las Vegas-area high school student.
The $1,000 Tall Awareness scholarship is given each year to one high school student who has applied to colleges and meets the height requirement.
Scholarship chair Lydia Garza said last year’s scholarship went to a student at Valley High School who also received a second scholarship from the international organization.
“We want to award someone who is tall and can express themselves well,” Garza said. “With the way the economy is we’re getting more and more interest.”
Garza said the club eventually hopes to award two scholarships per year.
The scholarship has no grade point average requirement, but does involve writing an essay about Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. Garza said most people who are diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome are tall, therefore, writing the essay allows students to do research and become more aware of the disorder.
Pat Blanchard is a founding member of the Las Vegas chapter. She said the basic premise of the club is for tall people to form friendships among other tall people.
The club specifies tallness as 6-foot-2 for men and 5-foot-10 for women. Anyone who meets the height requirement and is 21 or older can join the group.
Blanchard said she was 5-foot-11½-inches when she graduated from high school. Social co-chair Debbie Prince said she was 5-foot-11½-inches when she was 13.
“I felt like I didn’t fit in,” Prince said. “It was kind of hard to take pictures with your friends because your head would get cut off.”
Prince said finding clothing that fit her has been a problem over the years, so she started her own clothing line called Tall Dolls Rule. She said she created the clothing line to cater to tall women’s needs.
“If you go to JC Penney or Sears, all they’ll sell is the basic talls,” Prince said. “They won’t take a risk.”
She said she travels to international Tall Club meetings on the weekends and sells her clothes to pay for her travel expenses. Las Vegas club Vice President John Morath, who is 6-foot-3, said clothing is typically harder to find for tall women.
Allen said men also have trouble shopping for clothes because "big and tall" stores cater more to big than tall.
“Their sign says Big and Tall, but their sizes only go up to 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3,” Allen said.
Morath said the international Tall Club has also raised awareness of other concerns it has, such as the need for a king-size bed in hotel rooms and more legroom in airplane seats.
Prince said the group continues to target younger members to join its ranks.
“We’re trying to get younger people, but at the age of 46 I’m one of the youngest,” Prince said. “We think it’s because being taller isn’t such a big deal anymore.”
Gaining more members is important to the growth of the international organization, she said. She said club members are like family.
“It’s like living in a small town with the bad and the good,” Prince said. “We bicker and fight like family, but if someone is sick then someone else is cooking for and taking care of that person.”