Thursday morning opened on a very emotional and positive note. Sponsored by Eli Lilly & Company, the Keynote Breakfast and Richard Rubin Keynote Address were attended by nearly all conference participants. Jeff Hitchcock was the first keynote speaker, and he talked about his family's journey with type 1. Marissa, diagnosed at age 2, recently married Adam Town, a familiar face at CWD conferences (Marissa and Adam are both BSN/RNs). Jeff shared photos of Marissa and Adam, ending with photos from their wedding, and noting that "We live life for that smile."
Tom Karlya aka Diabetes Dad was the second keynote speaker, and he very movingly shared his family's story, CWD's FFL story, and his own message of "Don't Do Nothing."
Thursday sessions continued with a wide variety of topics on both a beginners and more advanced level. One room was devoted specifically to science. Sessions included the DRI Research Update (Mitra Zehtab) and the Artificial Pancreas Project (Ed Damiano and Eda Cengiz).
Other sessions focused on the psychosocial aspects of type 1 diabetes. These sessions included It's Not Just a Numbers Game (Joe Solowiejczyk), Overcoming Diabetes Overwhelmus (Richard Rubin), and Learning to Let Go (Moira McCarthy).
There were plenty of "how-to" sessions, ranging from Making Sense of Sensor Data (Gary Scheiner) to DiabEATes and Carbs (Jen Block), and Diabetes and Exercise Management (Rick Philbin). Dr. Alessio Fasano, one of the world's leading experts on Celiac Disease, presented a session called Celiac Update followed by a discussion group where participants were encouraged to ask questions and problem-solve together.
For the college age crowd, Natalie Bellini and Marissa Town facilitated a discussion called College and Diabetes. Chuck Wiedmeyer led additional discussion in his session called So – You Used To Be a CWD Teen. And John Griffin presented information on Navigating the Health Care Maze.
Adults with type 1 had their own track this year, and Friday sessions included It's More Than Just Diabetes (Steve Edelman), and Pregnancy and Momhood (Kerri Sparling and Kelly Close). And the Grandparents/Caregivers sessions featured Grandparents Guidelines and the Common Fears Discussion (Richard Rubin).
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 and Michelle Rago 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 Sierra Abel, Sunshine Abel, Noor Al Ramahi, Lorraine Anderson, Kristen Della Sala, Ralph Della Sala, Katie Doyle, Maryam Elarbi, Lynet Fox, Kim Kaar, Kaitlyn Karlya, Monica Lanning, Sarah Loebner, Carolyn Meredith, Chelsea Meredith, Jesse Nagel, Chris Opdenaker, Kara Podjasek, Caroline Smits, Wendy Smits, Georgia Spiropoulos, Ashley Troisi, Jenny Vandevelde, Cindy Webb, and Kevin Woodward.
The Tween (ages 10-12) day was also jam-packed with fun activities led by Tween Coordinators Justin Abel, Adam Town, Carolyn Billetdeaux, and Kelsey Martin. 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 to meet in small groups with some of the conference VIPs. Many thanks to Sarah Melendez, Adam Town, and Kenny Rodenheiser who helped check bgs, reassured kids and parents, headed off lows, and made the Tween Experience better in general! The tween staff also included Martyn Carr, Amanda Ferraro, Don Plotts, Melissa Pawlowski, Robert Schmidt, Donna Cope, and Lynn Smits. Great work and many thanks!
Teens had a very busy day on Thursday as well, led by Teen Program Coordinators Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, and Marissa Town, and a group of seasoned teen staff, including Neil Benchell, Sam Billetdeaux, Galen Horton, Ben Loebner, Jose Lopez, Stacey and Scott Nagel, Adriana and Ken Rodenheiser, Chuck Wiedmeyer, 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, Transitioning to High School, and they also learned about Research Updates. They additionally spent time in Girl Talk, Boy Talk, and Sibs Talk discussions. Phil Southerland, Founder of Team Type 1, spent time with the teens, as did many of the athletes in the Sports Central area.
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 4 childcare rooms this year: a K room for 5 year olds, a PreK room for 3's. a PreK room for 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 although at the last minute she was not able to join us on site – many thanks to Mary and her clinical staff who provided CDE support in all of the rooms. Also many thanks to the room leaders and staff: Intissar ben Halim, Marisa Fox, Grace Grande-Cassell, Devin Jackson, Pam Loebner, Kara Martin, Midge McBryant, Lisa Pitt, Helen Rodio, Brandy Schmidt, 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 Beach Party!" and with Tom Karlya presiding over the celebration! Before dinner even started, there was dancing on the light-up dance floor to lots of old beach favorites! Sponsor Novo Nordisk once again outdid themselves with the themed decorations which included lighted palm trees at every table and lots of fun beach toys. Kudos to Stacey Nagel and her team of about 30 volunteers who transformed the Palms Ballroom in record time (under an hour!).
The 2012 Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Bruce Buckingham for his decades of caring for kids with type 1 diabetes, as well as his continuing research which helps our families lead better and healthier lives.
The 2012 CWD Friend for Life award was presented to Harold Sanco for his decade of teaching the importance of fitness – and making it fun! – to our CWD families.
The 2012 Unexpected Hero Award was presented to the team of teenagers – now young adults – who reached out to a young teen from Australia in 2007 and brought his family into the welcoming arms of Friends for Life. These young people included Kara Podjasek, Jesse Nagel, Maryam Elarbi, Jocelyn Budd, Kenny Rodenheiser, and CWD Dad Nabil Elarbi.
As she does each year, Laura Billetdeaux shared a personal and emotional perspective of CWD via slide show and music. This year's slide show celebrated our CWD kids who are now 'all grown up!' – and moving forward to accomplish their dreams. Laura also somewhat honored Jeff Hitchcock with her presentation of "I'm a Jeff-Head" shirts to the Diabetes Scholars Foundation.
The highlight of the Family and Friends Banquet was the performance by Crystal Bowersox, sponsored by OneTouch. Crystal invited the children to come sit on the dance floor in front of her, and then she sang a half hour set, finishing with questions and answers – and beach ball signing! – in the ballroom. She is definitely a well-loved favorite of our CWD families! Many thanks to OneTouch for bringing her to this year's event! And – additional thanks to Crystal for joining the tween and elementary groups on Friday morning during their sessions. That was a real treat.
The final event of the evening – before the Beach Party officially started – was to have a bit of fun with our sponsors. First, DJ Miles invited Adam and Marissa Town to come on the dance floor and recreate their first dance at their wedding. As they danced to Quando Quando, some of the younger children joined them on the dance floor. Then DJ Miles invited the sponsors to come onto the dance floor as well, and he played a rocking beach set complete with all of the oldie dance steps so many of us remember. Great energy and great fun!
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, thirteen years after our very first event. This year's sponsors include Novo Nordisk, LifeScan, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly & Company, Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, Tandem Diabetes Care, Medtronic Diabetes, the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, and JDRF. Quite simply: thank you.
Tom Karlya -- "Diabetes Dad" -- presented the Richard Rubin Keynote Address
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Moira McCarthy helped parents in Learning to Let Go
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A quick bolus and we're on our way
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Siblings are part of FFL -- like Julia, who gave blood for TrialNet (thanks Julia!)
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Dr. Bruce Buckingham receives his award, aided by Jen Block, her son, and Jeff Hitchcock
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It really was a beach party -- with lots of dancing!
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