It was a wintery weekend in the DC area, but the snow and slick roads didn't hamper the warmth and new friendships, as the Children with Diabetes Focus on Technology conference got underway at the Marriott Crystal Gateway on Friday evening. Over 300 participants - most from within a 3 hour drive radius of the venue – joined us for a weekend of fun, support, and education. Quite a few families and adults with type 1 were ‘first-timers' to CWD conferences – and it was great to meet the new folks as well as re-connect with old friends.
Registration opened on Friday evening, in conjunction with a reception, Welcome Keynote by Tom Karlya aka Diabetes Dad, and a first opportunity to meet the exhibitors and sponsors. Many thanks to Julia Mattingly, Harold Sanco, Scott Kyllo, Intissar Ben Halim, Nabil Elarbi, and Marie Jarcho for offering such a warm welcome to all those arriving after a long day of work and travel!
Following a delicious buffet breakfast on Saturday morning, Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu presented the Opening Keynote, with a discussion of "Health Literacy: Being an Informed Consumer." Dr. Moritsugu's presentation, along with Jeff Hitchcock's overview of care suggestions and technology, touched on many of the topics that would be re-visited and examined throughout the weekend.
Saturday was filled with excellent and varied presentations. Dr. Ed Damiano's session, "Pathway to the Artificial Pancreas," left many in the audience with a sense of restored hope and optimism - and Dr. Damiano answered questions and continued discussions with participants throughout the day. Jill Weissberg-Benchell anchored the psychosocial sessions, with a very interactive and sometimes emotional "Dealing with Diabetes Burnout" and the following "Changes, Challenges, and Cheers."
Gary Scheiner and Rick Philbin brought their expertise about "Exercise In the Real World" right to those attending the session, answering questions and addressing scenarios pertaining to those who were in the audience. Gary also presented "Making Sense of Sensor Data," while Rick worked side by side with Harold Sanco bringing some fun exercise sessions to each of the age children's age groups. Crystal Jackson led two very important discussion groups: "Succeeding in School" and "Diabetes Advocacy: Making a Difference," along with Tom Karlya.
Kerri Sparling and Scott Johnson led a very practical discussion about "Diabetes Devices In The Real World." As well, Kerri and Scott kept the face to face conversations and virtual tweets going on a number of topics throughout the weekend. It was wonderful to welcome such a large group of adults with type 1 to this conference.
Many thanks to Natalie Bellini and Jill Weissberg-Benchell for leading an ‘after hours' discussion group for parents of teens. The room was filled with both parents of teens and parents of soon-to-be-teens who wanted an inkling of what to expect in the teen years. Jill and Natalie have a real talent of making some of the most challenging topics much easier to talk about.
Sunday morning, bright and early, the group gathered for breakfast and the closing keynote, "From Everest to the Sahara: Diabetes Without Borders." Sebastien Sasseville, in clearly his best CWD presentation yet, was engaging, honest, and – as one adult with type 1 commented afterwards – "human." After Sebastien's talk, the kids (and some adults) lined up to shake his hand, exchange a hug, and have photos taken with him. It was a very, very positive and upbeat note on which to end the conference. You can do ANYthing with type 1 diabetes.
CWD kids always have their own special programming at our conferences ... and this weekend was no exception! The children grouped with others of the same age: Elementary for the 6-9 year olds, Tweens for the 10-12 year olds, and Teens for the 13-17 year olds. The 'younger than 6' group enjoyed a very fun Saturday in childcare as well.
Under the leadership and guidance of leaders Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Sunshine Abel, Grace Grande-Cassell, Kathryn Hitchcock, Chris Birri, Monica Lanning, Intissar Ben Halim, Seema Wadhwa, and Brian Grant, the elementary kids had a fabulous day, including activities such as a Scavenger Hunt, Fitness Time with Harold in Sky View, Meet Sebastien and Jen Alexander, and crafts and 'serious' discussion time! It was a big group, with a lot of energy and a lot of fun!
The tween program, led by Kelsey Martin, Justin Abel, Maryam Elarbi, Kenny Rodenheiser, Kaitlyn Karlya, and Sarah Melendez, was equally as fun and adventurous. The tweens had exercise time with Harold, Type 1 and Sibs chat time, and a very fun and creative session with the teens on "Carb Counting in the Real World" (very functional and funny).
The teen program, led by Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Sebastien Sasseville, Bob Bulgarelli, and Sam Billetdeaux was a great mix of discussion and presentation! The teens explored new technology with Jeff Hitchcock and Jim Vail, and had very engaged conversation time – Boy Talk and Girl Talk, and Sibs Talk. The teens also worked with the tween group on "Carb Counting in the Real World" (was that really a burrito?), and had discussion about exercise with Rick Philbin and Harold Sanco.
Last but not least, the "Under 6" group had a weekend of great fun and activity with leaders Mary Babin, Audrey Greenfield, and Devin Jackson.
Special thanks to the Siblings Program staff, including Carolyn Billetdeaux, Sierra Abel, Zak Elarbi, and Jill Weissberg-Benchell. This is a growing component of CWD conferences, and the immediate feedback from the siblings (and parents of the siblings) was very positive.
CWD dietitian Mike Schurig once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (and portion sizes and carb counts) for all of our meals. He created a delicious gluten free buffet at each meal for those who needed them. It always amazes the hotel management and dietary staff that we spend so much time and effort on this particular facet of our conferences ... but it is probably the most important thing that makes families feel safe about spending the weekend at a CWD event. So, kudos to Mike for another job well done. Additional thanks to Scott Kyllo for managing the IT/AV side of the conference ... it made the entire weekend flow ever so smoothly!
CWD would not be able to hold conferences at all if not for the continued and consistent generosity of our sponsors. Many thanks once again to our sponsors including JDRF, OneTouch®, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi-Aventis, and additional thanks to the folks at Perrigo for supplying all of the Dex4 glucose products to head off low blood sugars. The generosity of these companies in supporting CWD events and families, as well as their passion for helping our kids and everyone with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life, is extraordinary.
Finally, a big hug to the many people who helped out with this conference. You know who you are. We couldn't do this without you, and you have our most sincere thanks.
Captain Jack Stash helped kids learn while having fun
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Even our youngest kids are in good hands
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CWD's elementary kids enjoyed their scavenger hunt
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