Back to CWD Events Marco Island 2011 Report

The weather across the east coast was – ahhh – interesting. Blizzard conditions, record snowfalls, closed airports. Travel was very challenging. And yet 200+ CWD participants from across the US and as far away as the UK made it to Marco Island for the CWD Family Support Weekend, held December 29-January 1 at the Marriott Marco Island Resort. The sunshine and mid-70's temps made the travel worth the challenge, as did the new and old CWD friends and the opportunities for some amazing educational sessions and discussion.

The intent of this conference, different in both scope and structure from other CWD conferences, is to acknowledge and celebrate the role of psychosocial support in living well with type 1 diabetes. We also focus on exploring ways in which we can continue to communicate and support each other as we grow as individuals, families, and communities.

Psychologists Jill Weissberg-Benchell and Korey Hood, and family therapists Joe Solowiejczyk and Paul Madden anchored the sessions for parents on Friday and Saturday, covering such topics as "Effective Communication and Preventing Burnout" and "Strategies for Getting What You Need." The opening keynote, "Making the Most of Diabetes," set the tone of the conference: interactive and positive. Most any question or topic was fair game for discussion, and lots of territory was covered.

Kerri Sparling ( and Scott Johnson ( joined the faculty for a look into the world of social networking. Their session focused on "Getting the Most Out of Type 1 Connections." The faculty combined forces to lead a discussion group for parents of adults with type 1 – which will be an ongoing exploration for many of us as our children with type 1 grow up, leave home, and embark on their own independent lives. Roles, rules, and boundaries change, as does technology (both diabetes management technology and social networking technology). What will the future look like for our adults with type 1 and for us as parents?

Afternoons were spent on the beach – CWD style! CWD had a portion of the beach reserved for our conference families, and we enjoyed kayaks, sailboats, shelling, paddleboats, and volleyball! Sunscreen was definitely in order! The faculty engaged parents and kids in some great conversation via the 'umbrella sessions' on the beach. They were joined by Crystal Jackson from the American Diabetes Association and Andrea Hulke from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Families enjoyed these low-key opportunities to continue candid conversation with each other, the faculty, and the CWD staff.

The children's sessions were also a great mix of discussion, hands-on learning, and active play. We try very hard to achieve just the right mix of 'serious' and 'fun' in our educational programs – and our kids' faculty and staff have become quite good at this. Many thanks to them for a job well done. Favorite activities for the elementary group this year included a resort-wide scavenger hunt and kite-designing-building-flying. This year once again, the tween group had a very special treat – a shelling excursion on the Calusa Spirit on Saturday morning (past years have seen gale force winds and almost-freezing temperatures, but this year was glorious)! During Saturday's final session, the elementary and teen groups had a very special session – time together on the beach to have some getting-to-know-you discussion and to play together. We initiated this activity at our Charlotte conference earlier in 2010 as part of the Teen Mentors Program, and are continuing to build the program and activities with the intent of fostering role models and friendships within the various age groups in the CWD community. Many thanks to the teen mentors who participated in the pre-conference planning session on Thursday, to the mentor faculty, and to Novo Nordisk for supporting the Teen Mentor program.

On Saturday, the conference ended with an amazing sunset (check out the photos in the report links!), a yummy beach BBQ and an evening of dancing to the music of DJ Gil with a couple hundred new good friends.

CWD dietitian Mike Schurig once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (including portion sizes and carb counts) for all of our meals. He created a wonderful 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!

Many thanks are due to our wonderful sponsors: Animas Corporation, LifeScan, Eli Lilly & Company, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi-Aventis. Many thanks also to Dex4 for providing glucose tabs for the duration of the conference and ensuring that no one was lacking in glucose supplies! We hope that you all had a lot of time to interact with our CWD parents and kids, exchange ideas, and experience our CWD community. We simply could not do this without your support.

As always, many thanks to our CWD staff and volunteers: Lauren Lanning, Marissa Hitchcock, Adam Town, Sam Billetdeaux, Grace Grande-Cassell, Carolyn Meredith, Brenda Hitchcock, Carolyn Billetdeaux, Brandy Schmidt, Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Neil Benchell, Nabil Elarbi, Rich Meredith, Jeff Schmidt, Neal Billetdeaux, Julia Mattingly, Ed Mattingly, Intissar ben Halim, Mary Babin, Kelsey Martin, Richie Podjasek, Kara Podjasek, Erin Pettibone, Alex Jordan, Wendy Smits, and Lynn Smits. You are all worth your weight in gold.

Same time, next year. New venue – the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Ft. Lauderdale. Please remember to make your travel plans early – this resort sells out every year during New Year's weekend!

Many of the families met at the beach on Saturday for a group photo
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  Children with Diabetes: Family Support Weekend

The Wah Wah game -- great fun but hard to explain ...
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... just ask Scott Johnson
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Both the teens ...
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... and the parents enjoyed the beach sessions.
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Dancing on the beach -- that's what CWD is all about.
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