Teen Program Staff
Natalie Bellini, RN, CDE, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was a young child. Within a year of finishing nursing school, she started to care for people with diabetes, focusing first on diabetes in pregnancy then pediatrics and insulin requiring adults. She has worked on the medical side of camps for children and teens in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She has spoken nationally and internationally as an expert in both working with teens and their parents with diabetes as well as infusion set choice, usage and maintenance. Her fundamental goal when developing the teenage curriculum for Children with Diabetes conferences is that each and every teen that attends finds a passion in life and pursues it. She is currently attending Drexel University part time in order to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Natalie is a senior territory manager with Animas Corporation and mom to her own teen, Erin, who is now a junior in college.
Jim Vail was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 19 while he was a sophomore at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Jim graduated with a degree in Media Communications and was a producer for CNBC Business news in Washington, D.C., for nine years all the while wrestling with the unpredictability of NPH and Regular insulin. After finally going on a pump in October of 2001 and 'getting his life back,' Jim pursued Animas Corporation, the maker of his insulin pump, for a job and a chance to reach others with diabetes. Jim made the jump from CNBC and has been with Animas Corporation since April 2002.
Carolyn Billetdeaux graduated from college with a degree in international business and Spanish. She is older sister to Sam, who has had diabetes for almost twelve years. Carolyn presents type 1 diabetes as a family disease: it affects everyone. She was a founding member of IDYA and founded the Supplies branch of the Children with Diabetes Foundation in 2003. She loves traveling and meeting other CWD families.
Dr Fiona Campbell is a consultant paediatrician and diabetologist at St James's University Hospital, Leeds. Her research interests are in paediatric diabetes with a particular interest in the use of insulin pumps. She started the paediatric pump programme in Leeds in October 2002 and 90 children currently attending the paediatric diabetes service use a pump to control their blood glucose levels. Dr Campbell has been involved in many local, national and international diabetes research studies and has recently been awarded a grant from Diabetes UK for a multi-centre, randomised, controlled trial to look at the incidence of hypoglycaemia in children using continuous glucose monitoring on pumps versus multiple daily injections. She is an Insulin Pump Association steering group member and has been on the DoH Insulin Pump Working Group which published its report in 2007. She was also the Diabetes UK nominated clinical expert at the TA 57 NICE guidelines review of pump therapy.
Stacey Estabrooks was diagnosed at age six and has been living with diabetes for 24 years. Born in Eastern Canada, she competed on the Canadian National Gymnastics and Diving teams. Growing up in Ottawa, Stacey volunteered with the Canadian Diabetes Association as a member of the Speakers Bureau and eventually worked with the CDA as a register for Camp Banting and Development Officer. She has been a pumper for 10 years and is currently working for Animas Canada as a Territory Manager for Northern, ON and central Toronto. She loves being a camp councilor for Camp Firefly in Northern, ON. Stacey believes strongly in offering patient choice when it comes to insulin pump therapy; and empowering educators to empower their patients when it comes to their diabetes management. Stacey says she is "super excited" to be working with the teen program with CWD!
Marissa Hitchcock, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 24 months old. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing in 2009 works now at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She loves working with kids who have diabetes. Marissa brings her experiences as a diabetes camp counselor, nurse, and young adult with diabetes as she works with kids and teens at CWD's conferences.
Galen Horton was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 15. That summer, at the direction of his healthcare team, he attended a camp in North Carolina for children with diabetes. For the last 22 summers Galen has attended Camp Carolina Trails, working his way up through the program staff. Over the last 15 years, Galen has been a program director for the teenagers at Carolina Trails working to develop leadership and communication skills, fostering a positive mental attitude, and encouraging a strong sense of self-confidence and motivation for his campers through challenging, high adventure programs. Nearly 8 years ago, Galen joined the sales organization at Animas Corporation to marry his work life and his personal passion and commitment for helping others cope with their diabetes. Galen lives in North Carolina with his wife, Kelly, and his 3 children, Tanner, Riley, and Eli.
Bob Marquess is the proud father of Diamond and husband of Rhonda. He has participated in CWD conferences since 2004, the year after Diamond was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Bob enjoys volunteering with the CWD teens and is an advocate for awareness. This will be the Marquess family's 5th Friends for Life conference. They plan to come every year until there is a cure! Bob has been an Army Sergeant for five years, but military 14+ years total (prior Marine Corps). He is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, NC.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, and trained as an architect, Adriana Rodenheiser is mom to Kenny (currently in nursing school) and wife to Ken. Kenny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003, and the Rodenheisers attended their first CWD conference in 2004. They have been involved as CWD staff ever since. Adriana states, "As parents, we know it is our responsibility to give Kenny all the tools to make his life with diabetes better and his future bright. CWD gives us the hope, knowledge, and support we desperately need." Now a high school Spanish teacher, Adriana loves working with children of all ages. This summer at Friends for Life she will be working with the teen group.
Jeff Schmidt is dad to Brandon and Rhiannon, husband to Brandy, and "Schmidty" to the CWD teens. Jeff has been a Marine for the last 16 years and is currently stationed in North Carolina. Jeff has served as CWD staff for several years (since the family attended their first conference), working with both the tween and teen groups. He also has been an advocate for military families receiving the assistance they need. Jeff loves working with the kids at CWD conferences and is continually amazed by their strength and determination.
Robert Schmidt is a CWD dad with 20 years of active duty service in the United States Marine Corp -- and still counting. Husband to Rebecca and father of two, Robert's active duty job entails Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Secret Service Ops. However, he finds that dealing with his son Zachary's type 1 diabetes can be more frustrating and unpredictable. Robert states, "I have enjoyed all times spent with the CWD staff and families at any event, and I want to give back in any way I can for what CWD has given to my family."
Chris Tull is first and foremost Trevor's dad and Bernadette's husband. Since Trevor's diagnosis in late 2002, Chris served as a Legislative Chair and Diabetes Advocate, lobbying in his local districts and on Capitol Hill for diabetes funding and awareness. After attending his first CWD conference in 2003, Chris became very involved with CWD conferences, serving as staff for the teen program and overseeing all security matters for each and every conference. His diabetes claim to fame? In his eagerness to remove the air bubbles from Trevor's syringe the first time he gave a shot, he flicked it so hard that he bent the needle, causing his son to proclaim, "Oh, Dad's going to be good at this!" Chris is a police officer in Virginia Beach, and a former Marine.
Tween Program Staff
Kim Kelly, Pharm. D., BCPS, FCCP, is President of Kelly Diabetes Associates, and former Director of the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute-North America. Dr. Kelly has a lengthy and distinguished career involving patient care, academic medicine, and organizational involvement including President of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Chairman of the ACCP Research Institute, and Board of Directors of the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association. His research and experience have included a number of publications, participation on editorial boards and review panels of several journals, involvement in medical curriculum development, and various committees of professional organizations. Currently, his activities center around developing diabetes health management and educational programs for various health care providers and provider organizations. Delighted to work with children and teens alike, Dr. Kelly participated as a volunteer in the Orlando and Universal City Friends for Life conferences, where he became 'hooked' in working with the wonderful CWD kids and families. He joined CWD as 'regular faculty' in 2004, focusing on the Tween programming and providing presentations on various topics to parents as well.
Melissa Ringley, R.N., C.D.E., became a registered nurse in 1991. Shortly afterward, Elizabeth, her 3 year old daughter, was diagnosed with diabetes. It became abundantly clear to Melissa that she should learn all she could to help her daughter maintain a healthy and happy life with diabetes. Melissa has dedicated her entire career to diabetes since that moment. She brings her own personal experience to CWD families and understands the many stages of development and how diabetes impacts both the patient and family. Melissa's previous career as a certified diabetes educator has included a variety of settings including diabetes education centers, multi-physician practices, and hospitals. Melissa's expertise is in insulin pump therapy in children. She has been working with Animas Corporation since 2001. At Animas, she has worked both nationally and internationally as a clinical manager and she is now a Territory Manager in Tennessee. Her daughter is now a junior in college.
Justin Abel attended his first CWD conference in 2002 after his daughter Saylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2001. Once he started attending more CWD conferences, his wife Sunshine did not have to twist his arm for him to realize he wanted to get more involved. He is also dad to Sierra, who is a teen volunteer with CWD.
Kristin Duquaine, MSN/MHA, RN, CDE, has over 17 years of nursing experience with a passion for preventative and wellness healthcare program development. She currently serves as Director of Outpatient Services and Community Health and Wellness at Florida Hospital for Children. Kristin's passion for her work in health and wellness stems from a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at the age of 13. Her diagnosis was a strong influence in her chosen career as a nurse and ultimately as a diabetes educator for much of her nursing career. Kristin also currently serves as Chair of the Outreach Committee for JDRF. She spends her spare time with her teen son, running or gardening, and believes strongly that a healthy mind and body are essential to a good life.
Brad Katz is the Director of Data Strategy & Management in the Commercial Analytics and Operations group of Johnson & Johnson North American Pharmaceuticals (take a breath). He is also dad to Micah and Annie who are amateur diabetes scholars (they are really just here for the food). This is his first FFL conference and he couldn't be more excited! He and his wife, Melissa, are proud fundraisers for the Diabetes Scholars Foundation.
Rhonda Marquess is the homeschooling mom to Diamond, now 16. Rhonda is also the proud Army wife to Bob for 17 years. She has participated in CWD since 2004, the year after Diamond was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She enjoys meeting other CWD families and talking with those who are newly diagnosed and needing friendship and support. Rhonda is an advocate for awareness. This will be the Marquess family's 5th conference, and they plan to come every year until there is a cure. Rhonda and her family reside in North Carolina near Fort Bragg.
Libby Nordstrom graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Journalism and is currently pursuing a second degree in accounting so she can become a CPA. Her involvement with diabetes started in 2001 when her grandniece, Saylor, was diagnosed two months short of her third birthday. She attended her first CWD conference, on pumping, in San Diego in 2005 where she learned so much - and met so many fantastic people - that she decided to make CWD a part of her life and the annual CWD Friends For Life conference a not-to-be-missed event!
Don Plotts is dad to Jessica, Tyler and Annie and husband to Holly. Jessica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and their lives haven't been the same since. Shortly after Jessica was diagnosed, their entire family decided they wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with diabetes. In addition to serving as the Sports Director for diabetes camp for the past 6 years, Don has also run marathons and ridden in the Tour De Cures to raise money and lobbied congress to change policies. In 2006, Don was finally able to tie his passion and career together, joining Animas. Don is currently the Manager of Sales Training and recently relocated his family from sunny Florida, north to Pennsylvania ... go figure!
Nick Reiersgard is 22 years old and has had diabetes for 9 years. He is a fourth year student at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State, studying recreation management. Nick attended his very first Friends for Life conference in 2008 and is happy to be back and volunteering with the FFL kids this year!
Anne Sides, RD, CDE, is all about diabetes. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, and since then she has lived her passion of helping people, especially children with diabetes, understand the disease and effectively manage it to improve the quality of their lives. Since 1994, Anne served as a diabetes educator and dietitian for hospital systems in both Alabama and Mississippi, where she contributed to the care of hundreds of children, teens, and adults with diabetes. Anne now works with Animas Corporation and serves as territory manager for this region. Anne serves as a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Diabetes Education Services (SDES), and was chosen by Animas to be a part of its task force for the development and innovation of new diabetes products and technology. It is Anne's work and special connection with children with diabetes that is the most gratifying and exciting for her, and which leads her each year to do volunteer work with several diabetes-related groups and organizations. This includes serving on the faculty of Camp Seale Harris, a residential diabetes education program held annually at Camp ASCCA near Alexander City, Alabama. Anne and her husband, Terry, reside in Birmingham.
Sarah Walter from Ontario, Canada, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 9 years old. Now a third year university student, she is studying to be a teacher. Sarah has attended and worked at a diabetic summer camp in Ontario where she met many of her friends with diabetes. She is very excited to volunteer at the Friends for Life conference!
Sam Wohns looks forward to the day he doesn't have to check his blood sugar. But, until then, he enjoys eating candy out of medical necessity, cutting lines at amusement parks, learning about food and nutrition, and using high-tech gadgets that make James Bond look behind the times. He has volunteered at a camp for children with diabetes in Bolivia, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail on a Camp Joslin trip, attended two Friends for Life conferences, and joined his local JDRF chapter. Sam is currently on the waiting list to become a subject in an artificial pancreas trial. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Elementary Program Staff
Lauren Lanning, mom of Monica, 16, dx 8/96, pumping 5/99, CGM 9/05, and Sarah, 14 ... her CWD "sig line." Lauren became involved with CWD shortly after her daughter was diagnosed in 1996. She has been involved in the CWD diabetes conferences since the very first gathering in Orlando in 2000, where she volunteered to make name badges. Lauren now coordinates the Elementary Programming for every CWD conference. Back home in Denver, she has served on the boards of the JDRF and CWD Foundation. She and her husband Steve have chaired and coached her local JDRF Ride team for many years. Lauren has worked as an elementary school computer teacher and now works at The Children’s Diabetes Foundation at Denver as the IT Manager.
Michelle Rago is a CWD mom and active member of the parents' list. She graduated from Harvard University (magna cum laude) where she received the Ben Teel Memorial Prize for Public Service. She graduated from Columbia University School of Law, where she represented children in foster care and received a Charles Evans Hughes Fellowship for public service. Michelle's son Trent was diagnosed in 2000 at age 4. Due to the diagnosis, Trent's daycare would not accept him back. Since then, Michelle has become well versed in the changing laws with relation to diabetes and school, insurance coverage, and discrimination on account of diabetes. She is active with the American Diabetes Association Legal Advocacy group. Michelle has recently become an expert on monogenic diabetes, after it was discovered that her adopted daughter Maya had monogenic, not Type 1, diabetes. (Michelle's family adopted Maya from foster care after hearing about her at a CWD conference.) Michelle is also mom to Michela and husband to Tim, both of whom actively participate in diabetes care at home. For her work with CWD families, Michelle was awarded the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award in 2006.
Sunshine Abel, LVN, is the mother of two beautiful girls, Sierra and Saylor. She attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, after Saylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Ever since then, Sunshine knew she had found a new family and a new home where kids were experiencing the same thing as Saylor. She then made it her mission to involve her whole family, including her Aunt Libby. Sunshine, husband Justin, and Aunt Libby all have volunteered for several years at Friends for Life conferences.
Lorraine Anderson, BSc, RD, CDE, is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator. She has had type 1 diabetes for over 20 years and believes that having diabetes has made her a stronger and healthier person. Currently Lorraine is employed as a Clinical Manager with Animas Canada working in the Toronto area and is very passionate about insulin pump therapy. She enjoys working with kids with type 1 diabetes at Camp Huronda in the summer months and is a busy full-time mom to her three children Nicholas, Nathan and Kara.
Mike Bassett has been a CWD volunteer and friend of the Billetdeaux family for the past 8 years. He has always wanted to volunteer at an Orlando Friends for Life conference, and this will be his first year! He is very excited to be working with the elementary program. Mike lives in Michigan and is dad to six-year-old Emma and four- year-old Gavin.
Sam Billetdeaux, diagnosed at age 8, is determined that diabetes will never get in the way of his life dreams. Sam is an active member of the CWD Young Adult program and has traveled to Denmark, Italy, the UK, and all across the United States to exchange ideas with other CWD teens, young adults, and their families. Sam is an avid athlete and enjoys running and working out with friends. He is in college studying Spanish and the environment.
Kristen Broussard, age 25, has volunteered with the elementary program at Friends for Life for the past 3 years. She is studying to be a pediatric diabetes nurse educator, and has type 1 diabetes and celiac. Kristen is a strong community advocate for type 1 diabetes, and she enjoys speaking about the benefits of using an insulin pump. She also volunteers her time with the ADA and JDRF.
Martyn Carr, now 22, lives in Scotland. He is a qualified car mechanic and is studying Healthcare, hoping to study nursing and specialise in diabetes so that he can take care of kids with type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was five years old. Martyn and his family have participated in the last six Friends for Life conferences and helped out at the UK Friends for Life conference. Martyn has worked with the Elementary Group for the last three years and also with the tweens. He loves helping out and being with his other friends at CWD conferences.
Thomas Cope has attended CWD conferences for the past seven years. He became a CWD volunteer as soon as he joined the teen group and has continued to volunteer at various conferences. He has helped his sister manage her type 1 diabetes since her diagnosis in 2003. He remains active in fund-raising events and diabetes awareness. Thomas lives with his family in Miami, Florida.
Amanda Ferraro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003 at 13 and Celiac Disease in 2009 at 19. Now 20, she is currently pumping with Omnipod (getting help from her CGMS-Navigator) and continuing to search for new gluten free foods. Amanda doesn't let diabetes or celiac stand in her way of accomplishing anything she sets out to do. Only the strong survive. Amanda is a junior nursing student in Minnesota.
Jen Hanson has grown up with diabetes. She was diagnosed at age three, and began attending Camp Huronda when she was eight. It was here that she met some of the most influential and amazing young people living with type 1 diabetes. She has been involved with Huronda for the past seventeen years as a camper, climbing staff, challenge course staff, pottery instructor and, most recently, as the Camp's program director. Jen completed her bachelor of kinesiology and bachelor of education degrees at Brock University where she also competed as a varsity athlete. She is currently pursuing her Master of Education degree, with research focusing on the role that outdoor experience can play in the development of character in type one diabetics. Jen teaches art at the elementary level and hopes to soon begin work as an outdoor educator. She is also a member of Connected in Motion, a group of active young diabetic adults living life to the fullest, as well as being involved with the Diabetes Hope Foundation.
Kim Kaar has been involved with CWD as both parent and volunteer since her son Alex was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 18 months old in February 2000. When not advocating, educating, or raising research funds for pediatric disease, Kim is a substitute teacher for children with special needs at her local elementary school, where she also enjoys Chairing the school's Cultural Arts Committee. Kim, her husband Marko, and their three beautiful children live on the shoreline in southeastern Connecticut.
Kaitlyn Karlya is a CWD kid and is in her sophomore year At Stony Brook University in New York where she is pursuing her undergraduate studies on a pathway to eventually become a PA with emphasis in the diabetes field. She has had diabetes since she was diagnosed at age 2 in 1992 and has been an advocate for many years. Her experience working with kids includes helping organize the Special Olympics in her home town for four years and also as a camp counselor for three years for the Barton Diabetes Center at their summer camp held on Long Island. The Girl Scout Gold Award recipient has had many other accolades bestowed upon her including one she is most proud; she is a recipient of a 2008 Scholarship from the Diabetes Scholars Foundation.
César León, has worked with Johnson & Johnson for 10 years. He began in Latin America, and after moving to Canada in 2006, has been part of Animas Canada working as a Territory Manager in the Toronto area. Cesar loves working with both children and adults, and he's very much looking forward to working with CWD. Diabetes is in his family through his sister Nathalia who has type 1 and happily lives in Barcelona, Spain. On the weekends, César is regularly hopping in and out of the subway trains in Toronto with his three year old son Diego and wife Cristina.
Kelsey Martin was diagnosed with diabetes at age 12. She attended her first CWD conference two months later, and has since become an active volunteer. Kelsey has worked with first timers, tweens, and elementary-age children at CWD conferences. She is also active in her local chapter of JDRF as an ambassador and volunteer, and was the sole Kansas representative at the 2007 Children's Congress. Kelsey continues to be an advocate as she studies journalism and business in college.
Carolyn Meredith is mom to Chelsea, Jeremy, and Bailey and wife to Rich. Jeremy was diagnosed with diabetes in May 2000 at the age of 6. He started on an insulin pump in October 2002. Carolyn and her family attended their first Friends for Life conference in 2003 and have been involved with CWD ever since. They have also attended several regional conferences. When not running mom's taxi service, Carolyn works in the office at an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida. She enjoys meeting and sharing with other CWD families.
Chelsea Meredith, fresh from her final year of high school, has grown up around diabetes for the past nine years; her brother Jeremy was diagnosed in 2000. She attended her first Friends for Life conference with her family in 2003 and has been to countless CWD events since that time. She loves kids and enjoys working with the younger set. Chelsea is also an aerialist intending to run away with the circus, after a few years of college, of course! She spends all of her free time dancing and/or hanging from the rafters on a trapeze.
Svati Narula was diagnosed with diabetes in September 2000, at age nine. Since then, she has used five types of insulin, four different insulin pumps, and one CGM. Svati is very interested in diabetes research and has participated in two clinical studies at the NIH. She is studying anthropology, government and public policy at Dartmouth and is also a proud recipient of one of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation’s college scholarships. Svati attended her first CWD conference in 2009. She remains involved with fundraising and advocacy efforts for JDRF’s Capitol Chapter and enjoys long-distance running in her spare time.
Chris Opdenaker is mom to Hannah and Rachael and wife to Jim. Hannah was diagnosed with diabetes in 1999 at age 3. The Opdenakers first became involved with CWD in 2001 -- they have printed all of the conference t-shirts ever since 2001! Chris states that CWD has been a blessing for her family from day one and continues to be each year. Chris has also been involved in ADA walks and several local pump support programs for children and parents. She is employed as a digital press operator for an advertising company.
Kevin Orsillo has grown up around type 1 diabetes his whole life. His father has had type 1 diabetes for over thirty years and Kevin has learned, along with his family, how to help his father manage his diabetes. Kevin plans to attend college this fall. He is an accomplished musician and has performed as the drummer in a classic rock band for the past two years at several venues in South Florida. Kevin lives with his parents, a brother and two sisters in Miami, Florida.
Melissa Pawlowski, age 19, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 4 years old. This is her first year at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Melissa has been attending CWD Conferences since 2003. She enjoys figure skating, softball and working with kids.
Richie Podjasek is 20 years old and just finished his junior year at DePaul University where he plays soccer and studies Finance. Richie is the older brother of Kara who has had type 1 diabetes for 9 years. Their entire family has been very involved with CWD and CWD conferences for many years. Richie's mom, Mary Podjasek, is the President of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation.
Noor Al Ramahi is 21 years old and has had diabetes since she was six years old. She is a senior studying business marketing at the American University of Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates -- literally on the other side of the world! Noor has been attending CWD's Friends for Life conferences since 2007 and notes that the 22 hour flight won't stop her from coming again. In Dubai, she volunteers at her local hospital to helping to educate parents of newly-diagnosed kids and to help raise awareness about type 1 diabetes.
Ken Rodenheiser is 20 years old and finished his sophomore year at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Ken is majoring in nursing, and would eventually like to become a CDE. Ken was diagnosed with diabetes seven years ago, and has continued to be as active as before he was diagnosed. He has been an active part of the CWD community for six years, and looks forward to helping others enjoy similar conference experiences. Ken enjoys playing sports, especially soccer, volleyball, and hockey.
Tasha Salzer is a student at California State University, studying nursing. She has many good friends with type 1 diabetes, and for the past several years, she has been a counselor at Camp Wana Kura. Tasha has participated in the JDRF Walk for the Cure and local galas for the past 6 years. She is also devoted to fundraising because of best friends Jennifer and Alexa, who have type 1, and all of her campers. Tasha enjoys soccer, lacrosse, spending time at the beach, and relaxing with her friends. This is her first Friends for Life conference, and she is very excited to be working with the elementary kids!
Tracey Smith is mom to Kylee and Joshua, and they live in Suwanee, Georgia. Joshua was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 2003 at the age of three. With all of the overwhelming information given to her as a newly diagnosed mom, Tracey found comfort in the Children with Diabetes website. In 2004, the entire Smith family including mimi, Betty Parker, attended their first Friends For Life conference in Los Angeles, California. That was all it took to realize that this is where her family needed to be every summer to make life a little easier on everyone. Tracy has since volunteered at every Friends for Life conference. She is a stay at home mom who volunteers in the school and with the local recreational sports that her kids are involved with. The Smith family has also been involved with their local JDRF chapter.
Georgia Spiropoulos is Alexa's Mom. Alexa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 14 months old. Over the past 12 years, Georgia and her husband have watched the diabetes at every developmental stage of Alexa's life. Their most important lesson in this journey was realizing "Alexa will learn how to deal with her diabetes from you." That light bulb moment changed their lives and their advocacy work began. Georgia's volunteer efforts include JDRF fundraising, government advocacy and outreach. She volunteers at the local children's hospital helping newly diagnosed children and their families understand the road ahead. She created outreach programs of support and information sharing within the community. Georgia states, "the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming and that is what I am trying to help families minimize. We love this Friends for Life conference; this will be our third year. This is the week Alexa feels normal and does not have to explain to anyone why she is poking her finger."
Jenny Vandevelde lives in San Diego, CA and is a student at San Diego State University, double majoring in Outdoor Recreation and Social Work. Jenny plans to be a Pediatric CDE, adventure tour guide, and/or soccer coach. She loves all sports and is currently addicted to snowboarding -- and yes it does snow in southern California. Jenny has biked through Death Valley twice for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The first ride included 110 degree temperatures and the second ride brought 60 mph headwinds for about 5 hours. In October 2008, she ran as one of the 25 Medtronic Global Heroes in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Both of her pump sites went bad and her timing chip malfunctioned, but despite those little disasters, she had a great time. Last summer Jenny attended her first Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association (DESA) Conference in Toronto as an Insulindependence intern. In her free time she plays soccer, beach soccer, hockey, and basketball. She also volunteers at Camp Wana Kura in Santee, CA every summer.
Cindy Webb, aka Grandma Cindy, attended her first CWD conference in July 2003. Just three months prior, in March 2003, her oldest granddaughter, Ashley, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three. When a friend emailed her the CWD website, Cindy and family immediately registered for the 2003 Orlando conference and took the opportunity to connect with other CWD families. Their goal was to meet others who were going through what they were, while learning all they could about diabetes and how to deal with all the areas of life and family it affects. They have been to every Friends for Life conference and many CWD regional events since 2003. As secondary caregiver for Ashley, Grandma Cindy is directly involved with Ashley's medical care and diabetes management. An accountant by trade, Grandma Cindy has always been interested in the medical field and is currently taking pre-Nursing courses.
Kindergarten, Pre-K and Childcare
Mary Babin, RN, BSN, CDE is one of the first clinical employees at Animas Corporation and the first coordinator of childcare for the little ones at the CWD conferences. Mary leads a team of certified diabetes educators providing childcare in a safe environment for kids under age six with and without diabetes. Providing this service alleviates the concerns of many parents of kids with diabetes – allowing them to attend the sessions with peace of mind knowing that their children are cared for by skilled professionals. This supports Mary’s belief that education is the key to successful blood glucose management. As Executive Director of Clinical and Patient Services at Animas, she is responsible for overseeing pump educators and the pump support team throughout the US. Mary has devoted her career to the world of medicine. As a graduate of Eastern University and Presbyterian School of Nursing, Mary has been in intensive care nursing for over 25 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for 10. This busy mom and devoted professional has been involved with CWD since 2001. You can spot her at the conferences-she’s the one with the trail of kids behind her!
Intissar Ben Halim is mom to Maryam, Zakariyya, Abdalla, and Yaseen, and wife to Nabil. She and her family been involved with CWD conferences since 2004. She enjoys meeting other CWD parents and families and sharing stories and challenges, especially now that she has two teens. She and her family reside in King-of-Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Alanna Chambers, RD, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 9, just shortly after her older sister's diagnosis. From a young age, she knew that she wanted to go into a health profession field so that she could work with other families with diabetes. She completed her dietetics degree at McGill University in Montreal and has been following her dream ever since. Alanna is a registered dietitian and now works with Animas Canada as a Territory Manager in British Columbia. She loves every opportunity she can get to work with kids including volunteering at the diabetes summer camps and at CWD. Alanna is happy to ensure that the little ones are in good care and have a great time while at CWD.
Mark Chambers, PhC is happy to be involved as a newcomer to the CWD team. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University in Halifax and is currently working as a community pharmacist in Kelowna, British Columbia. Mark has always enjoyed getting involved and volunteering in many diabetes related events as his wife has type 1. He is thrilled to be working in childcare and looks forward to ensuring that each CWD conference is both fun and memorable for your children!
Devin Jackson is 20 years old and a nursing major at George Mason University. Devin was diagnosed with diabetes at 17 months old and has been actively raising awareness and fighting for a cure ever since. She has been attending CWD conferences since she was 10 and has enjoyed meeting and helping other kids with diabetes. Devin enjoys roller coasters, the beach, and hanging out with friends and family.
Alyssa Kyllo runs on insulin. She is 19 years old and currently attending Thompson Rivers University in hopes of pursuing a career in Animal Health. At the age of seven, Alyssa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, two years after her brother had been diagnosed. Alyssa's FFL experience started in Pasadena in 2002, followed with Los Angeles (2004), Orlando (2006), Seattle (2008 and 2009) and Toronto (2009). Diabetes doesn't stop Alyssa's passion for the sport of curling, and she has learned that the key to performance is staying on top of her diabetes. At the age of eight, she started attending diabetes camp in Gibsons, B.C., and has continued as a counsellor the past 2 summers. Alyssa will be working with the four year olds during this conference and is looking forward to it!
Pam Loebner is a California public elementary school teacher who has worked in both special education and regular education classrooms for 25 years. Since becoming a CWD mom, Pam has assisted the district nurse with education for families and teachers when newly diagnosed or newly enrolled students arrive. While always working as an advocate for student needs, Pam focuses on ensuring equal access to all school activities for children with diabetes. Pam discovered the CWD website 30 minutes after her daughter's diagnosis in June 2002 when Sarah was 9 1/2. Pam and her family haven't missed a CWD conference since. Pam's son, Keith, started volunteering at the first conference when he became friends with Sam Billetdeaux. The family quickly became volunteers and has been a buddy family for the past several years with new attendees.
Lisa Pitt, a CWD mom to three girls, has been attending conferences since Ashley was diagnosed at age 3 in 2003. Thanks to CWD's thorough education, before the very next conference, Ashley was pumping at age 4. Lisa has managed Ashley's diabetes tightly since dx with adjustments to basals, timing, carb ratios and site changes, keeping A1C's lower than 7%. Lisa's two other children were tested through TrialNet study (met through CWD) and found her middle child with 1 of 3 antibodies that have been identified in diabetes. They now closely monitor her for the development of the disease. Lisa has been a cardiac night nurse for the last 10 years. She works closely with patients to manage blood sugars during illnesses including coronary artery disease, open heart surgery, lung disease and strokes. She believes constant education is key to managing a chronic illness.
Stacey Nagel was born, raised and still lives by the beach in Belle Harbor, New York. Married to Scott, they have three children: Allison, Daniel and Jesse. She is a retired special education teacher of developmentally delayed preschoolers. Jesse was diagnosed in December 2001 when he was 9 years old. While sitting in the hospital, in the wee hours of the night, Stacey discovered the CWD website. After a year of emailing her "imaginary friends," she decided in 2003 that it was time to attend a "Friends for Life" conference. Not one to just sit back and do nothing, she started volunteering at her very first conference, and put Scott to work with the teens in 2006. Jesse has also gotten caught up in the CWD fever by joining the "Youth Faculty."
Brandy Schmidt is Jeff's wife (Schmidty to the teens) and mother of two, Brandon, dx'd in 1997, and Rhiannon, dx'd 2009. When Brandon was diagnosed, Brandy came home from the hospital and found CWD on the first search. She has been addicted to CWD since then. She has been an advocate for all military families dealing with diabetes. She helped implement a gluten free policy in San Diego county public schools when Brandon was diagnosed with celiac in 2005. She has been dubbed the "Gluten Free Police" at conferences. Brandy now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids, four dogs and a bearded dragon!
Rebecca Schmidt is a mother of two, an occupational therapist, and a Marine Corps wife for the past 18 years. Just 3 days after a move to Florida in 2002, her 5 year old son (now 11) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Rebecca's mission became clear: to make a difference in her child's school system and to become an advocate for her son and other military families with diabetes. The Schmidts attended their first FFL conference in 2003 and immediately felt the warmth and connection with other CWD families and staff. Military life has not always enabled the Schmidts to attend all conferences but they always stay in close contact with FFL family.
Catherine Schulz lives in Texas with her husband Harry and their six children. She was doing okay managing six kids – even with four-month-old twins – when diabetes struck her three-year-old daughter Emma and changed the family dynamic forever. She is currently attending school in pursuit of a psychology degree in the hopes that she might one day help other families facing the struggles that come up when a family member is diagnosed with a chronic illness. Formerly a neat freak with a penchant for perfect linen closets and sparkling baseboards, Catherine's new goal in life is to become a model of the laid back mom who simply manages the chaos with as cheerful an attitude as possible. She loves everything about the CWD conferences, but is particularly fond of the fact that it is four days filled with children and poolside friends, but completely lacking in dishes and laundry.
Sasha Ullman is 20 years old and is a business major at Florida Atlantic University. Her brother Zack, 22, has had type 1 diabetes since he was 15 months old. She has been supporting him and her family by going to CWD conventions since they began. Sasha loves living in South Florida because she is only miles from the beach. Sasha enjoys cooking for friends, and playing with her new puppy Brie!
Friends for Life 2010 Conference and Expo Introduction - Program Overview - Exhibitors - Sponsors Faculty - Youth Faculty - Grandparents Faculty - CWD Staff Schedule: Parents & Adults - Youth - Focus Groups - Focus Groups Signup Registration - FAQs FFL Reports from 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005 - 2004 - 2003 - 2002 - 2001
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