After years of Thursday morning Fun Runs, we decided not to do one this year, thanks to the alligator hanging out on the golf cart path (i.e., the running path) the morning we did a dry run. Instead of running around the golf course, everyone enjoyed a more leisurely breakfast and then stayed right in the main Palms Ballroom for the opening keynote. No worries – next year we will definitely utilize those jogging shoes for a once-around the Coronado Springs Resort lake!
As breakfast ended, Jeff Hitchcock, Barbara Anderson, and Laura Billetdeaux presented Richard Rubin with an award honoring his decade of work with Children with Diabetes, including his participation at every Friends for Life conference. In honoring Dr. Rubin, from 2010 forward, CWD will name the opening keynote address at the Orlando Friends for Life conference The Richard Rubin Keynote Presentation. Dr. Anderson shared a side of Dr. Rubin that most people don't know – he is an avid nature photographer. She shared some of his best photographs, taken in all seasons near his home in rural Maryland.
On with the morning's keynote! Dr. Rubin introduced Nicole Johnson, the Executive Director of the "Bringing Science Home" initiative at the University of South Florida ... and known for years to many of us as Miss America 1999. Nicole spoke of her challenges when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and how she ultimately came to believe in herself and her ability to do and become anything. She stated that currently one of her most important jobs is 'Mom' to Ava, who joined her on the stage.
Ironman Triathlete Jay Hewitt then took the stage. Jay spoke about his memories of being diagnosed – lying in a hospital bed with IVs in his arms and tubes in his throat – and making the decision that he was going to get up and put diabetes in its place. He became a runner, then a triathlete (running, swimming, biking), then an elite triathlete competitor ... and one of the top Ironmen triathletes in the world. Ironically, after one of his Ironmen competitions, Jay found himself lying in a medical tent at the race, with IVs coming out of his arms and tubes going into his nose ... and he realized, "I have been here before; I have come full circle."
Both Jay and Nicole spent time with the kids after the keynote and graciously signed autographs and posed for photos. Many thanks toEli Lilly and Company for sponsoring the Opening Breakfast and Keynote, now recognized as the Richard Rubin Keynote Presentation.
Thursday sessions continued with a wide variety of topics on both a beginners and more advanced level. One room in the convention center, sponsored by the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, was devoted specifically to science. Sessions included the DRI Research Update: The Biological Cure (Norma Kenyon), the Artificial Pancreas Project (Stuart Weinzimer and Edward Damiano), and the DRI Research Update: Tissue Engineering and Diabetes (Cherie Stabler).
Other sessions focused on the psychosocial aspects of type 1 diabetes. These sessions included Family Teamwork in Diabetes Management (Barbara Anderson), Living a Balanced Life (Paul Madden), Overcoming Diabetes Overwhelmus (Richard Rubin), and Tom Karlya's (aka Diabetes Dad's) Make the Journey Positive. This was an encore presentation of last year's keynote during which Tom implored the audience "Don't Do Nothing."
Friends for Life offered an entire day of sessions for parents with a newly-diagnosed child. The Thursday presentations included The Basics of Carb Counting (Dana Dignard), Pumping Basics (Gary Scheiner), Managing Diabetes in School (Crystal Jackson), and Infusion Sets and Sensors (Natalie Bellini). These sessions were well-received by newly-diagnosed families as well as those looking for a quick review of some basic concepts of diabetes management.
Insulin pumps and continuous sensors continued to be of high interest to many conference participants both in sessions and in mealtime and poolside discussions. Henry Anhalt, Gary Scheiner, Rick Philbin and Natalie Bellini presented sessions on both Thursday and Friday about diabetes management using these tools.
Veterinarian Chuck Wiedmeyer presented an interesting side of type 1 management in his session, Pets Get Diabetes, Too. There are many parallels in the management of people with type 1 and pets with type 1, and this was well-illustrated by Dr. Wiedmeyer's assistant, Jackson the Labrador Retriever, who has type 1 and wears a continuous glucose sensor. Kids and adults flocked to Jackson, and he loved the attention – although Dr. Chuck reported that Jackson's bg was well over 300 on Thursday afternoon, likely from eating the 'leftovers' from lunch and snack break left on the carpet!
Finally, the Grandparents (fondly known as The Grands during this conference) once again attended Friends for Life in force! There were about 200 Grands attending sessions, and they mixed-n-matched between the grandparents-specific discussion groups and other sessions throughout the day. Sessions were led by Heather Speer, Richard Rubin, Rachele and Bruce Baccaro, and several other Grands and CDEs who lent helping hands as needed. We missed Betty Brackenridge this year! She was sidelined by illness at the very last minute, and she promises to come back next year. Having the Grands with us at CWD conferences always lends wonderful depth to all of the sessions and social events. Grands – thanks for coming!
The kids had an absolutely fabulous time on Thursday. This year, once again there were so many elementary aged children that they were divided into two age groups, 6/7 year olds, and 8/9 year olds. Michelle Rago and Lauren Lanning were at the helm of the Elementary program, supported by 25 parent and young adult staff who spent all day Thursday and Friday with the children. These staff included Mike Bassett, Sam Billetdeaux, Kristen Broussard, Martyn Carr, Thomas Cope, Amanda Ferraro, Jen Hanson, Kim Kaar, Kaitlyn Karlya, Kelsey Martin, Carolyn Meredith, Chelsea Meredith, Svati Narula, Marwa Odeh, Chris Opdenaker, Kevin Orsillo, Melissa Pawlowski, Richie Podjasek, Noor al Ramahi, Tala al Ramahi, Ken Rodenheiser, Tasha Salzer, Tracey Smith, Georgia Spiropoulos, Jenny Vandevelde, and Cindy Webb. The elementary kids activities included ice breakers and Harold Time! (short discussion about exercise and then actually doing lots of exercise). They also teamed up in small groups and scoured the hotel grounds for clues to their Scavenger Hunts. Many thanks to Sunshine Abel and Lorraine Anderson who watched over the diabetes management needs of these elementary kids during sessions!
The Tween (ages 10-12) day was also jam-packed with fun activities led by Tween Coordinators Melissa Ringley, Kim Kelly, and Justin Abel! The kids were in age groups for the morning ice-breakers, with10s, 11s, 12s each having their own group leaders. In the afternoon, the tweens visited Sports Central and also had their own opportunity for a Scavenger Hunt. Many thanks to CDEs Anne Sides and Kristin Duquaine who helped check bgs, reassured kids and parents, headed off lows, and made the Tween Experience better in general! The tween staff also included Brad Katz, Libby Nordstrum, Nick Reiersgard, Sarah Walter, Rhonda Marquess, Don Plotts, and Sam Wohns. Great work and many thanks!
Teens had a very busy day on Thursday as well, led by Teen Program Coordinator Natalie Bellini and a group of seasoned teen staff, including Jim Vail, Galen Horton, Carolyn Billetdeaux, Stacey Estabrooks, Marissa Hitchcock, Bob Marquess, Bob Schmidt, and Chris Tull. Because there were so many teenagers participating this year, they were separated into Younger Teens (ages 13-14) and Older Teens (ages 15-17). This was particularly helpful in the discussion groups and breakout sessions. The younger teens spent time meeting the VIP athletes and working out in Sports Central in the morning, while the 15-17 year old group had smaller sessions with Charlie Kimball, Will Cross, and Kris Freeman. In the afternoon, the groups switched places, and the younger teens met with Charlie, Will, and Kris. Also, Jill Weissberg-Benchell presented two interactive sessions, attended by teens and their parents, entitled Growing Up and Moving On. One session focused on the transitions of moving from middle school to high school while the other focused on transitioning from high school to college. This was the first time we've had sessions with teens and parents together, and it was very well-received. Both groups stated that they could have used more discussion times as 'just parents' and 'just teens' (we were able to accommodate the 'just teens' discussion with the older group). Roche Diagnostics sponsored Dr. Weissberg-Benchell's sessions; this was much appreciated.
The younger crowd – under 6 – had a wonderful time in childcare this year! A big thank you to Animas Corporation for again sponsoring childcare (this is the 10th year!). In response to parent feedback last summer, we added a fourth room this year. There was a K room for 5 year olds, a PreK room for 4's, a PreK room for 3's, and an 'under 3' room for the littlest conference participants. This went extremely well, and the kids were quite happy with their age-appropriate activities (and nap time!). Snacks were provided to the kids right by childcare which saved a lot of time with check-in/check-outs. Mary Babin once again coordinated childcare – many thanks to Mary and her clinical staff who provided CDE support in all 3 rooms. Also many thanks to the room leaders and staff: Pam Loebner and Stacey Nagel leading the 5's with Lisa Pitt; Alanna and Mark Chambers leading the 4's with Alyssa Kyllo and Intissar ben Halim,and Catherine Schulz and Rebecca Schmidt leading the 3's with Devin Jackson and Sasha Ullman. Kudos to all of the childcare staff for a job well done!
On Thursday evening, the annual CWD Family and Friends Banquet was held with the theme Disco CWD, and with Nicole Johnson and Tom Karlya presiding over the celebration! Before dinner even started, there was dancing ... disco music just does that to people!
The Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award was presented to Adriana Cordoba and Ricardo Escobar for their work in establishing a Children with Diabetes support organization in Cali, Colombia. Adriana, Ricardo, and their son Lucas (now in college) have participated in Friends for Life for nearly a decade, and each year they have brought what they've learned back to Colombia to share with other families living with type 1 diabetes. They have extended their time, their energy, and their emotional resources to the CWD communities in both countries, and we are most grateful to them.
The 2010 CWD Friend for Life Award was presented to Felicia Kaban, an individual who has supported CWD kids and their families for the past 7 years, in a quiet way, behind the scenes, without any fanfare or recognition. She is an amazing friend to all CWD families, and we are lucky to have her working on behalf of all of our families.
As she does each year, Laura Billetdeaux shared a personal perspective of CWD via slide show and music. This year's theme, Perspective, encompassed both the past year in the Billetdeaux family life and the past year in CWD life. Happy moments, tragic moments, moments of poignant learning and impact.
Laura then called Marissa and Tim Hitchcock on stage to present the Unexpected Hero Award ... to their mom, Brenda Hitchcock. An Unexpected Hero for a hundred different reasons every day.
Next, a surprise for CWD's own very special hero, Kris Freeman. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, the CWD community held its breath while Kris competed in cross country skiing events. We wanted to share with him how extremely proud we are of him, and how much he has inspired all of us. Amidst ceremony and a standing ovation, Kris was presented with the CWD Gold Medal for Inspiration.
The final event of the evening – before the party started – was to honor and thank the conference sponsors. This is always a highlight of the Family and Friends Banquet, and we like to have a little fun with those people who help make this conference happen. DJ Miles called the sponsors onto the lighted dance floor, and taught them – well, sort of taught them – some disco steps which they then performed in front of the whole packed ballroom! They were joined by hundreds of kids (of all ages, some of whom actually remember disco music), and the party was on!
Many many thanks to the evening's sponsors Novo Nordisk and LifeScan. The incredible decorations – the disco balls, boas, blinky sunglasses, glowy necklaces – were provided by Novo Nordisk (thank you Sandy and Donna for your enthusiasm and creativity with this!). The black and silver DiscoCWD shirts and the sequined hats were provided for the kids by LifeScan. You guys all rock!
A special word of thanks goes to all of our sponsors. We could not do this without you. You all have helped Friends for Life get off the ground and become the very special gathering that it is today, eleven years after our very first event. This year's sponsors include Novo Nordisk, LifeScan, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly and Company, Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, Tandem Diabetes Care, DexCom, Medtronic Diabetes, Unomedical, the American Diabetes Association, Dex4, the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. Quite simply: thank you.
Thursday's Richard Rubin Keynote Address was given by Nicole Johnson and Jay Hewitt
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Jackson, the dog with type 1 diabetes, was a big hit at FFL 2010
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Kids showed their bicycling skills with members of Team Type 1 in the Abbott Diabetes Care booth
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Paul Madden (left) and Henry Anhalt (right) with Karen Denton and Zahra Rahma from Kuwait
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Crystal Jackson from the ADA presented CWD's Jeff Hitchcock with their Stop Diabetes Pioneer Award
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Among the many speakers on Thursday was Arleen Pinkos from FDA, who spoke about glucose meter accuracy
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After Tim and Brenda showed their dance moves on stage at the banquet, Jeff had no choice
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The Escobar family, receiving the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award
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Everyone had fun dancing after the banquet
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