Wednesday started off with a burst of energy at the Friends for Life Fun Run, sponsored by Novo Nordisk. A couple hundred participants – a mix of young, old, wide-awake, bleary-eyed – gathered for a 7:15 warm-up by Harold Sanco (aka Human Caffeine) and a starting time of 7:30 a.m. By 8:00, everyone had made it around the just-under-a-mile path around the lake and received a finisher's medal. Congratulations to those who got up early to start the day with some healthy exercise!
Wednesday was Focus Group Day at the conference. Over twenty focus groups and discussions were offered by conference sponsors, and included a very wide and exciting range of topics from 'Live Wirelessly!' to 'Diabetes on the Go – Choices to Fit Your Lifestyle.' The focus groups were limited to about 50 participants per group, so they were very interactive and lively. Art Therapist Lee Ann Thill led four 90-minute sessions of Diabetes Art which were enjoyed by many families. Additionally, there were several discussion groups for adults with type 1, who comprise a growing and most welcome addition to the Friends for Life conference. Many thanks to the focus group leaders as well as the participants for getting an early start on the conference!
Caregivers Boot Camp was offered for Grandparents and other caregivers on Wednesday. This half day camp – offered in the morning with follow-up drop-in conversation after lunch – was led by CDEs Heather Speer and Janet Schneeman, and Grandparent Bruce Baccaro, with lots of hands-on help from other 'Grands' who have been part of CWD conferences for years. The purpose of the Caregivers Camp was to offer practice and support for the basic skills involved in diabetes management such as checking blood glucose levels, giving injections, and administering glucagon. Both morning and afternoon sessions were well-attended, the feedback was wonderful, and we will be offering this once again next year.
Exhibitors and sponsors continued to set up their booths all day Wednesday under the supervision of CWD's Ash Head, and the last few Quilt squares were added in the Exhibit Hall. Throughout the day, the registration area was buzzing as well. At noon, a Cast Member from Magic Kingdom was on site offering Guest Assistance Cards to families who might be visiting the parks later in the week. This was a much-appreciated service and saved families a lot of time and worry.
Nabil Elarbi, Lauren Lanning, and Tom Karlya coordinated the First Timers Welcome area on Wednesday; it was staffed by many teens, tweens, and parents who simply wanted to extend a warm welcome to those attending Friends for Life for the very first time. The First Timers Reception, attended by about 600 parents and kids, was held on Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 in the Fiesta ballroom. Tom Karlya, Nabil Elarbi, and Sanofi-Aventis' Hiliary Johnson welcomed the first timers to the reception, introduced Jeff Hitchcock and Laura Billetdeaux for some quick hellos and comments, and then led fun ice-breaker activities to help everyone get to know one another. Sanofi-Aventis sponsored this wonderful event for the fifth straight year, and they welcomed First Timers as they arrived. Many thanks, Sanofi-Aventis!
By 5:00, under the supervision of CWD dad Ashley Head, the exhibit hall in Veracruz B and C was just about ready for the Grand Opening Reception. The red ribbon was hung ceremoniously across the entrance unit to the main doors -- and the giant scissors were ready to go. By a few minutes before 6:00, the crowd of well over 1,000 people filled the prefunction space and spilled down the hallway. Right at 6:00, Pumpy and Calco – along with the ACCU-CHEK team and leader Kimberly Ward, and CWD's Laura Billetdeaux - welcomed conference participants. The kids counted down the ribbon-cutting... and with that – the exhibit hall opened and the conference was officially underway! Many thanks to Roche Diagnostics for sponsoring this incredible grand opening reception for yet another year!
At 9:00 p.m., the teens gathered in Durango 1 and 2 for their first official (and mandatory) session. Because Thursday is so busy with educational sessions and discussion groups, and Friday is Teen Day at Hollywood Studios, Wednesday evening served as the ice-breaker time for the teens to get to know each other and meet their staff. Many thanks to Teen Leaders Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Marissa Hitchcock, and Galen Horton for organizing the evening.
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