Thursday morning opened on a very positive and high-energy note. Sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company, the Keynote Breakfast and Richard Rubin Keynote Address were attended by nearly all conference participants (it was a crowded ballroom!). The theme of the morning was 'Humor.' Psychologist Richard Rubin, whom the Keynote is named after, talked about the importance of humor both in our everyday lives and also in times of tragedy and stress. He shared humorous tidbits from his own family as well as stories and incidents shared with him over the years. CWD UK Dad Oliver Double – a professional comedian – kept the audience in stitches with his family stories (he and Jacqui have two sons, Tom and Joe, with type 1) and a very humorous comparison of survey results from CWD families in the UK and in the US.
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: Stem Cells: New Sources, More Options (Juan Dominguez-Bendala), the Artificial Pancreas Project (Stuart Weinzimer and Edward Damiano), and the 2nd DRI Research Update: Tissue Engineering and Immunology: New Ways to Protect Islets (Alice Tomei).
Other sessions focused on the psychosocial aspects of type 1 diabetes. These sessions included Making the Journey Positive (Tom Karlya), Avoiding and Overcoming Diabetes Burnout (Jill Weissberg-Benchell and Korey Hood), Diabetes Meltdown (William Polonsky, sponsored by Roche Diagnostics), Finding Support Through Social Media (Kerri Sparling and Scott Johnson), Flourishing with Diabetes (Riva Greenberg), Stress Management (Bob Bulgarelli), and Managing Transitions in School-Aged Children with Type 1 Diabetes (Jill Weissberg-Benchell).
Friends for Life offered an entire day of sessions for parents with a newly-diagnosed child. The Thursday presentations included Carb Counting Basics and Tools (Dana Dignard), Introduction to Pump Therapy (Gary Scheiner), Managing Sick Days and Hospital Stays (Mike Heile), Infusion Sets and Sensors (Natalie Bellini), It's More than Just Insulin (Mike Heile), and Techniques for Accurate Carb Counting (Gary Scheiner). 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 in sessions, the exhibit hall, and in mealtime and poolside discussions. John Walsh, Gary Scheiner, Rick Philbin and Natalie Bellini presented sessions on both Thursday and Friday about diabetes management using these tools.
Former Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu discussed 'The Importance of Health Literacy' just after lunch on Thursday. Dr. Moritsugu stressed that families should read, listen, and most definitely ask questions about the information that is presented to them about diabetes management. Type 1 diabetes is a journey for the entire family, and the information is constantly evolving. It is crucial to have a discerning ear and eye when evaluating information and making decisions.
Finally, the Grandparents (fondly known as The Grands during this conference) once again attended Friends for Life in force! There were about 100 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, Janet Schneeman, Bruce Baccaro, and several other Grands who lent helping hands as needed. Having the Grands with us at CWD conferences always lends wonderful depth to all of the sessions and social events. Grands – thanks for coming! Next year, we plan to extend the Grands Program to include other caregivers… aunts, uncles, sitters, friends… anyone who helps take care of a person with type 1.
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. Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, and Jen Hanson, were at the helm of the Elementary program, supported by over 20 parent and young adult staff who spent all day Thursday and Friday with the children. These staff included Sam Billetdeaux, Martyn Carr, Garrett Cope, Ralph Della Salla, Katie Doyle, Grace Grande-Cassell, Brian Grant, Kim Kaar, Kaitlyn Karlya, Sarah Loebner, Rebekah Macon, Carolyn Meredith, Chelsea Meredith, Jesse Nagel, Kevin Orsillo, Melissa Pawlowski, Kara Podjasek, Tracey Smith, Wendy Smits, Georgia Spiropoulos, Jenny Vandevelde, and Kevin Woodward. The elementary activities included ice breakers and Harold Time! (short discussion about exercise and then actually doing lots of exercise). They also teamed up with teen mentors in the afternoon for some discussion and fun. 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 Justin Abel, Adam Town, Carolyn Billetdeaux, Melissa Ringley, and Kim Kelly. The kids were in age groups for the morning ice-breakers, with 10s, 11s, 12s each having their own group leaders. In the afternoon, the tweens visited Sports Central and also had their own opportunity for mentoring discussions with the teens. Many thanks to Sarah Melendez, Adam Town, and Melissa Ringley who helped check bgs, reassured kids and parents, headed off lows, and made the Tween Experience better in general! The tween staff also included Amanda Ferraro, Kelsey Martin, Sara McNeeley, Don Plotts, Ken Rodenheiser, and Lynn Smits. 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, Marissa Hitchcock, Galen Horton, Bob Marquess, Adriana and Ken Rodenheiser, Bob Schmidt, Jeff 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. Teens had sessions about Dealing with Stress, Transitioning to College and to Middle School, and Becoming a Leader. They spent time in Girl Talk, Boy Talk, Sibs Talk discussions, and also had the opportunity to meet VIPs Jay Hewitt and Kendall Simmons. Finally, they had the opportunity to visit Sports Central, meet the athletes, and have some active time.
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 11th year!). There were 3 childcare rooms this year: a K room for 5 year olds, a PreK room for 3's and 4'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 children 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: Intissar ben Halim, Devin Jackson, Pam Loebner, Midge McBryant, Stacey Nagel, Lisa Pitt, Brandy Schmidt, Rebecca Schmidt, Catherine Schulz, Heidi Shell, 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 CWD Goes Motown, and with Tom Karlya presiding over the celebration! Before dinner even started, there was dancing on the light-up dance floor ... Motown just gets those feet moving! Novo Nordisk's Donna Hunt should take a bow for the phenomenal décor and party favors – her team did an amazing job in transforming the Coronado Ballroom into the Motown Party! Many thanks as well to Stacey Nagel and her team of about 30 volunteers who helped decorate the ballroom in the space of about 75 minutes.
In a very moving ceremony, the 2011 Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award was presented to Joe Solowiejczyk for his many, many years dedicated to helping families and children with type 1 diabetes. This award also honored Joe's 50 years of living well with type 1 diabetes. Joe's family surprised him by flying to Orlando to be with him in accepting this award. Paul Madden, Joe's closest friend for decades, also came on stage for a few emotional words. The ceremony closed with a slide show about Joe set to Natalie Merchant's 'Kind and Generous.'
The 2011 CWD Friend for Life award was presented to Drs. Ben Szirth and Khadija Shahid for their selfless work and dedication to our CWD families in offering free retinal screenings every year at Friends for Life. Dr. Szirth and his team volunteer their time, expertise, and equipment so that our families can be healthier.
The 2011 Unexpected Hero Award was presented to Arlene Hrinkevich for her generosity in assisting a family in need at Friends for Life 2010(details are confidential; the recognition very much warranted).
As she does each year, Laura Billetdeaux shared a personal perspective of CWD via slide show and music. This year's theme, Moments, focused on the importance of discrete moments in time that impact our lives and leave lasting memories. Happy moments, tragic moments, moments of poignant learning and impact.
The highlight of the Family and Friends Banquet was the performance by American Idol's Crystal Bowersox, sponsored by OneTouch®. Crystal invited the children to come sit on the dance floor in front of her. She then wove her music (boy, does she ever have a voice!) with conversation and Q/A with the children ... and finished off the evening with a meet-n-greet in the ballroom. She was down-to-earth, approachable, kind, and just downright nice – and the kids (and drown ups) absolutely loved her.
The final event of the evening – before the party started – was to honor and thank the conference sponsors. This is always a very fun (and funny) part 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 Motown dance 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 Motown music), and the party was on!
A special word of thanks goes to all of our conference 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, twelve years after our very first event. This year's sponsors include Novo Nordisk, OneTouch®, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly and Company, Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, Tandem Diabetes Care, 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.
Oliver Double joined Richard Rubin to open the conference, sharing his wonderfully unique sense of humor
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Friends for Life is often about reconnecting
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Crystal Bowersox signed autographes in the OneTouch® booth and ...
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... performed and answered questions during the banquet
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Ash and Tom were pure Motown Thursday evening
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Kendall Simmons got into the spirit
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