Teen Program Staff
Natalie Bellini, BSN, 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 university part time in order to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Natalie works at Novo Nordisk and is mom to Erin.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio during the time of the burning of the great Cuyahoga River, Neil Benchell, JD, loves to make children laugh. After having spent years on the sideline as the "spouse" of one of the faculty members, Neil decided it was time to get involved. As one of the Teen Staff members, Neil is always in the thick of it trying to make the conferences a memorable experience for all. In his spare time, Neil tries his hand at patent litigation.
Dr. Robert Bulgarelli is the Director of Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine for Main Line Health and a Board Certified cardiologist at Riddle Hospital in Media. He serves on the Main Line Health Healthy Workforce Council and chairs Riddle's Medical Nutrition committee, amongst others. Dr. Bob, as his patients call him, is Co-Founder of Whole Life Health, a Behavioral Health company whose mission is the transformation of Health Care Delivery in the world. Dr. Bulgarelli's main area of interest and expertise is in the growing field of Mind / Body Spirit medicine and the emphasis on healthy behaviors and choices as the key to vitality and longevity. His company is a leader in the training of Health Coaches and he utilizes their expertise in his practice of Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine. He is a skilled practitioner and teacher of meditation and is a Board Certified Medical Acupuncturist. In 2002, Dr. Bulgarelli was the 1st Cardiologist in the world to complete the two-year long Associate Fellowship in Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona. Dr. Bob remains a faculty member with the Associate Fellowship, consulting on and moderating the cardiology and cardiovascular nutrition curriculum. He has been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, 6ABC and CN8. He has been published and quoted in many local and national magazines, including Main Line Today, Men's Health and Shape. A graduate of Philadelphia College of Medicine in 1990, Dr. Bulgarelli completed his medical internship at Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Darby, PA and his medical residency and cardiology fellowship at Lankenau Medical Center. Dr Bulgarelli has been a part of Main Line Health his entire clinical career that now spans over 20 years.
Korey K. Hood, PhD, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Staff Psychologist at UCSF's Madison Center for Pediatric Diabetes. Dr. Hood directs NIH-funded research projects and provides clinical care aimed at promoting health and quality of life outcomes in youth with diabetes and their families. He also serves on national committees for the American Diabetes Association and is on editorial boards for Diabetes Care and the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Dr. Hood is the author of Type 1 Teens: A Guide to Managing Your Life with Diabetes. His research, clinical care, and service are fueled by his personal experience with type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed as a young adult and has spent more than a decade managing diabetes. He is passionate about helping children and teens with diabetes, and their families, make diabetes a part of their lives while not letting it run their lives.
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 24 summers Galen has attended Camp Carolina Trails, working his way up through the program staff. Over the last 17 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 10 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.
Alanna Landry RN, CDE, has been working as a pediatric diabetes nurse educator for 17 years at Markham Stouffville Hospital in Ontario, Canada. She has the privilege of working with 450 families with type 1 diabetes. After attending her first CWD FFL conference in 2004 she was hooked on the incredible experience and wants to continue to share this experience with the wonderful people she has met and encourage as many families as possible to attend. Working with the teen program has been something she looks forward to each year.
Jose Lopez is a recently retired law enforcement officer with thirty years of experience in a major metropolitan police department. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1985 as a rookie officer. His assignments as an officer with type 1 diabetes included patrol, investigations, undercover, SWAT, and he is currently a homicide detective lieutenant. A decorated officer, he was awarded his department's Officer of the Year and Gold Medal of Valor.
Bob Marquess, proud father of Diamond, 20, and husband to Rhon, is a 15 year Marine Corps veteran, and currently works as a Certified Service Technician at General Motors. Bob and Rhon have been bringing Diamond to CWD conferences since her diagnosis in 2003. All three have been volunteering ever since. Bob and his family currently live in Morgantown, WV and advocate locally and on social media.
Kara Podjasek, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 8 years old. She is now 22 and recently earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Loyola University Chicago. Kara currently works at a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Chicago, and one day hopes to become a nurse practitioner. Kara's mom, Mary Podjasek, is the President of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation. Kara and her entire family have been involved with the CWD Community since 2002, and they have not missed a Friends For Life Conference since then! This will be Kara's 3rd year on FFL staff and she is very excited to continue to work with the elementary group.
Adriana Rodenheiser was born in Bogota, Colombia where she was trained as an architect. She is the mother of Kenny and wife to Ken. Kenny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003, and the Rodenheiser’s attended their first CWD conference in 2004. They have been involved as CWD staff ever since. Adriana believes attending Friends for Life conferences gives them the opportunity to meet new people, and become better educated with the latest information in the diabetes world. A high school Spanish teacher, Adriana is working on a masters' degree; she loves working with children of all ages.
Ken Rodenheiser is a vice-president of specialized equipment market for Aramsco, a national distributor with 18 offices in the environmental, Surface Preparation and Restoration Markets. Ken has worked with the teens since 2004. Every year he looks forward to attending the Friends for Life conference in July, reconnecting with old friends, and meeting new ones.
Jonathan Smedley is a dedicated "Type 3" and has been a devoted CWD Friend For Lifer for the past 11 years. He enjoys inspiring children of all ages to follow their passions and pursue their dreams, while having plenty of fun along the way.
Marissa Town, BSN, RN, is a Registered Nurse who graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. She has had type 1 diabetes since the age of 2 and has grown up with a passion for helping families living with diabetes. In 2010, Marissa served on the American Diabetes Association's Transitions Working Group, helping to prepare the ADA's guidelines for transition from pediatric to adult care. Marissa is a new mother to Connor, who was born September 1, 2013 after a healthy pregnancy.
Chris Tull became involved with CWD shortly after his son's diagnosis in 2002. He has served as a Legislative Chair for his local JDRF chapter and has been involved with Teen Program and security matters for CWD since his first conference. His son, Trevor, moved through the CWD teen program and is now a successful 25 year old adult managing his own diabetes. Chris credits CWD with helping his son and his family better manage and live with his diagnosis. Chris is a police sergeant in Virginia Beach and a former Marine.
Jim Vail was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1986 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 9 years all the while wrestling with the unpredictability of short and intermediate acting insulin. After finally going on a pump in October of 2001 and 'getting his life back,' Jim began volunteering at CWD in the teen program where he quickly became one of the Program Coordinators. He's worn, tested or personally used virtually every product represented in the Exhibit Hall. Jim has recently accepted the position of Director of Development and Communications for CWD.
Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Ph.D., C.D.E., Pediatric Psychologist, Associate professor of Psychiatry, Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois. She has been a certified diabetes educator for over 20 years and is an author of numerous research articles, and a co-author of a book on transitioning from pediatric to adult care. Dr. Weissberg-Benchell works with children, teenagers and their families to facilitate adaptation and coping with diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Charles E. Wiedmeyer DVM, PhD, DACVP is an associate professor of veterinary clinical pathology at the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbia, Missouri. He earned his veterinary degree and PhD in veterinary pathology from the University of Illinois. In addition, he is a board-certified veterinary clinical pathologist. Dr. Wiedmeyer's specialty is applying technology to better monitor diabetic veterinary patients. His emphasis in this field is working with dogs and cats but has experience with horses, cows and pigs. Dr. Wiedmeyer has published numerous articles and given many presentations regarding the use of continuous glucose monitoring in veterinary patients and is considered the authority on this subject as it relates to veterinary medicine. Besides research, Dr. Wiedmeyer teaches veterinary students and offers leadership mentoring to a wide diversity of individuals within the veterinary profession.
Tween Program Staff
Justin Abel attended his first CWD conference in 2002 after his daughter Sailor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2001 at age 2. 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. Justin has been volunteering at CWD conferences since 2006. He is also dad to Sierra, who is a young adult volunteer with CWD.
Noor Alramahi, 25 years old, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six. She served as a volunteer at her local hospital in the United Arab Emirates, helping newly diagnosed children and their families. Since moving to the San Francisco Bay area in 2012, she has worked with the American Diabetes Association in San Jose. Noor has attended Friends for Life for seven years and counting!
Martyn Carr, age 26, lives in Scotland. Martyn is studying his Bachelors of Science Adult Nursing degree at the University West of Scotland. Martyn would eventually like to become a Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN). He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was five years old. Martyn and his family have participated in the last eight Friends for Life conferences and helped out at the UK Friends for Life conferences. He has worked with the Elementary, Tween and Teen age groups, and he loves helping out and being with his friends at CWD conferences.
Grace Grande-Cassell is very excited to be staffing her fourth year of CWD conferences! She has grown up with a connection to type 1 diabetes because of her grandfather, who was diagnosed at age 14. After graduating from the University of Michigan in May 2012, she moved to New York City where she currently works in the fashion industry. She is overjoyed to be logging another conference with the CWD Youth Program!
Carmen Howell, age 21, is from Virden, MB, Canada and is the older sister to Cassidy Howell who was diagnosed with diabetes when she was nine years-old. Carmen attended her first CWD conference in 2010 in Vancouver as a teen and then volunteered at the 2013 conference in Toronto. Carmen is currently attending University of Manitoba and hopefully will continue a career in veterinary medicine.
Kelsey Martin was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 12, and attended her first CWD conference two months later. She's since become an active volunteer and plans any vacation/free time around coming to CWD events. Kelsey remains active with her local JDRF chapter, and was the sole Kansas delegate to the 2007 Children's Congress. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism and business, and works in the public relations industry.
Sarah Melendez, BSN, RN, graduated from West Chester University's nursing program in August 2010. After her son Brady was diagnosed in 2004, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, with a future focus in pediatric endocrinology. In 2005, Sarah and Brady attended their first CWD conference and it has become an integral part of their lives every year. Currently, Sarah lives outside of Philadelphia and works as an Orthopaedic RN at Northeast Orthopaedic's Muscle, Bone and Joint Center in Philadelphia.
Melissa Pawlowski was diagnosed with diabetes when she was four. She went to her first CWD Conference in 2003 and has been attending Friends for Life Conferences ever since. Melissa has three siblings, Sarah, Kayla, Matthew. Matthew also has type 1 diabetes. Melissa graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2013 with a degree in Public Relations and Marketing. Currently living in Milwaukee and working as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at the Woman's Club of Wisconsin.
Don Plotts is dad to Jessica, Tyler, Rachel 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 her diagnosis, their entire family decided they wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with diabetes. Don served as the Sports Director for a diabetes camp for six years, has run marathons and ridden in Tour De Cures to raise money and also lobbied congress to change policies. In 2006, Don was finally able to tie his passion and career together, joining Animas. After seven years with Animas, Don recently moved to Dexcom where he can continue to help people better manage their diabetes. Don and his family currently reside in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kenny Rodenheiser, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003. He currently lives in New Jersey and is striving to become a CDE. He has been an active part of the diabetes community through CWD, ADA and JDRF for a decade. Kenny looks forward to helping others enjoy CWD conferences as much as he does.
Deb Ruppert's connection to diabetes began in the 1990's when her dad was diagnosed with type 2 and her uncle with type 1. Deb has participated as Sports Central staff at Friends for Life for several years, and more recently as Tween and Teen program staff. She states, "I feel so lucky to have found CWD and FFL, and I love being able to share what I learn from families who have diabetes as a part of their lives with my own family."
Adam Town, BSN, RN, is a Registered Nurse who graduated with a Bachelors of Science in nursing from the University of Cincinnati. He currently works in a hospital where he lives in West Chester, Ohio. Adam is a husband to Marissa, who has had type 1 diabetes since she was 2, and new father to Connor. He has always enjoyed being a mentor and role model for children and loves to help the families at CWD conferences.
Elementary Program Staff
Sunshine Abel, LPN, is the mother of Sierra and Sailor. She attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, after Sailor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 2. Sunshine immediately knew she had found a new family and a new home where kids were experiencing the same thing as Sailor. She then made it her mission to involve her whole family. Sunshine is continuing her education working towards her RN degree. She and husband Justin have volunteered for several years at Friends for Life and CWD conferences.
Amanda Amodemo has had type 1 diabetes for 12 years and is 19 years old. She is a sophomore at Eastern Washington University and is majoring in Athletic Training. Amanda has participated in many FFL conferences and loves them! She can't wait to share her energy and positive attitude and is looking forward to working with and helping others.
Alex Bush is a graduate from Chico State University where she received her Bachelors degree in Psychology and Child Development. She is currently attending graduate school at Pepperdine University to receive an advanced degree in Clinical Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy. This is Alex's fourth Friends for Life conference, and she is very excited to work in Elementary for the first time!
Cristina Calero, 20 years old, attends Johnson and Wales University and studies Criminal Justice. Crissy has attended Friends for Life for five years. She is the older sister of Viviana, who has had type 1 diabetes since the age of 13. Crissy is excited to join this year's elementary staff and states, "I love CWD and everything it does for my family and others."
Chelsea Carr, age 23, has grown up around diabetes; her brother Jeremy was diagnosed in 2000. She attended her first Friends for Life conference with her family in 2003 and has been to many CWD regional and annual conferences since that time. It was through the FFL conferences that she first met her husband, Martyn. Chelsea now lives in Glasgow and is in the process of finishing her masters degree in history at the University of Edinburgh. She loves working with kids and has worked as a dance and acrobatics teacher for young children. She is also an aerialist and spends all of her free time hanging from the rafters on a trapeze.
A FFL attendee since 2003, Hunter Cope has grown up through the CWD elementary, tween, and teen groups with her service dog, Diva, by her side. Hunter, who was diagnosed with type 1 eleven years ago, has volunteered at each Friends for Life conference along with her family. She is pursuing a career in health sciences in college, and looks forward to being part of the staff this year.
Ian Diersing is a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati studying Chemical Engineering. He was diagnosed with type l diabetes at age 12 and has now attended his seventh FFL conference. He enjoys going to the gym, playing soccer, volleyball, basketball, football and pretty much any competitive activity. Ian loves to talk to and meet new diabetics at FFL and give any advice to help children or adults manage and feel empowered over their type 1 diabetes!
Lynet Fox is the mother of three girls, Marisa (20), Jessica (18), and Erica (16). She attended her first CWD conference in 2004 after Erica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She has not missed a Friends for Life Conference since first attending. Her daughter, Jessica, was diagnosed in December 2010 at the age of 16. Lynet currently teaches high school physics. The entire family looks forward to conference in Orlando each summer. She has volunteered in different capacities at Friends for Life conferences over the past six years.
Brian Grant, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002. He loves working with people who have diabetes, and is looking forward to his fifth Friends for Life conference. Brian hopes one day to become a CDE. He currently resides in King of Prussia, PA, and works for Dexcom.
Jen Hanson, BKin, BEd, MEd, has been living with diabetes for 26 years. She spent many a summer at Camp Huronda, an Ontario based camp for children with diabetes, were her love for adventure was fostered. Jen has a background in kinesiology, is a certified elementary school teacher, and has completed her master of education degree, researching community development through experiential diabetes education. Jen is the Director of Operations at Connected in Motion, has been involved with Children with Diabetes FFL in the UK, Canada, and the US, since 2009, and is a faculty member with the International Diabetes Federation's Young Leader's program. Jen has traveled throughout North America, Central America, to Europe, the United Arab Emirates and is excited to continue her adventures in Peru and Australia in 2013.
Timothy Hitchcock is currently studying Astrophysics at the University of Cincinnati. His older sister Marissa was diagnosed with type 1 in 1989. Tim is a founding father of a fraternity at the University of Cincinnati and is looking forward to using the leadership skills he has learned thus far to work with the elementary kids.
Kara Hunsche has been living with type 1 diabetes since February 23, 2001. She attended her first CWD conference in 2003 where she found true Friends For Life. Kara is proud to say she was the first child at Cincinnati Childrens to go untethered. She attends Wright State University. She is excited to be able to work with the CWD kids.
Lauren Lanning is mom of Monica, 20, dx 8/96 and Sarah, 18. Lauren became involved with CWD shortly after her daughter was diagnosed in 1996. She has been involved in the 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. She serves on the boards of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation and CWD Foundation. Back home in Denver she is an IT consultant.
Monica Lanning is 20 years old and has had type 1 diabetes since the age of two. She has been to every single CWD Friends for Life Orlando conference – all 14 of them – and many of the regional conferences. Monica was a Diabetes Mentor – and participates in many research studies. Monica refers to her CWD friends as "family" and can't wait for the next "family reunion." She studies biology at the University of Chicago. She is excited to give back to the CWD elementary kids what was given to her.
Sarah Loebner, age 21, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 9 1/2 in 2002. She attended her first CWD Friends For Life conference exactly a month later, and has returned every year since. She just graduated from Scripps College with a major in Human Biology and plans on pursuing a career in the health professions. She spends her free time singing, thinking about dogs, and giving free, unlimited hugs. Sarah is so glad to be a member of the CWD staff that gave her so much support, love, and confidence as a younger CWD participant, and she is so excited to make more Friends For Life at this year's conference!
Midge McBryant is grandma to Jeremy (dx'd 5/2000), Chelsea and Bailey. She lives in St. Petersburg, FL and works in a law firm as a paralegal. Midge has been attending Friends for Life conferences since 2003. She enjoys working with children and is a huge Tampa Bay Rays fan!
Jeremy Meredith, 20, has had type 1 diabetes for 13 years; he was diagnosed in May of 2000 when he was six years old. Jeremy has been attending CWD conferences since 2003; this will be his 11th FFL Orlando conference. He currently attends St. Petersburg College, working towards his AS and a physical therapy assistant certificate. Jeremy plans to major in sports medicine and physical therapy. He loves baseball! Jeremy is excited to be elementary staff and to be with his CWD family.
Jesse Nagel, 21, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 9 1/2 years old. He is studying nursing at the State University of NY at Buffalo. Jesse is a member of the crew team and is a senator for the Resident Hall Association. He has traveled to Washington, DC as an advocate with the JDRF Children's Congress and the ADA Call to Congress, and will continue meeting with his representatives until a cure is found. He has attended every FFL Orlando since 2003 as part of the elementary, tween, and teen groups. Jesse is very excited to become an official member of the FFL staff.
Kayla Pawlowski attends Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI majoring in Elementary Education. She has three siblings - two with type 1 - and her family is from Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Kayla and her family have been attending CWD conferences and Friends for Life since 2003. She is very excited to be a part of the CWD Youth Program Staff and to have the opportunity to work with the elementary-aged children at Friends for Life.
Jessica Plotts is a student at the University of Tennessee, studying Sociology. She was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 5 in 2000. Jessica has been coming to Friends for Life conferences since 2000, and has attended the ADA Call to Congress three times. She is also a camp counselor at the ADA’s Camp Sugarfalls every summer.
Michelle Rago is an attorney and mom of three children with diabetes. Her son Trent was diagnosed at age 4 in 2000. Her family adopted daughter Maya -- diagnosed at one month -- from foster care in 2006. Her daughter Michela was diagnosed in November 2013 at the age of 15. Michelle is active with the American Diabetes Association Legal Advocacy group. She was awarded the Ben Teel Memorial Prize for Public Service at Harvard (where she founded a homeless shelter); the Charles Evan Hughes Fellowship for Public Service at Columbia Law School (where she represented children in foster care and worked on desegregation); and the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award (for her work with CWD families).
Lauren Rainford is a college student at the University of Mary Washington. She has been living with the responsibilities of an older sibling to a diabetic for sixteen years and attending the conference for 15 years. Her younger brother, Ryan (diagnosed at 18 months), is her hero, her support, her motivation and her best friend. Lauren believes that the CWD and FFL community helped her family and hundreds of others come to peace about living with diabetes. She is thrilled to finally have a chance to give back to the group that has done so much to help her family feel normal again.
Mary Claire Schnier is 18, and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2008 at the end of 6th grade. She attended her first Friends for Life as a teen in 2009 and has never looked back. She now has a multitude of friends all over the country and looks forward to volunteering on staff in a new role. In the fall, Mary Claire will attend Eastern Kentucky University and plans on using what she has learned from her FFL family as she moves forward as a college student.
James Stroud is a recent graduate of Chico State University where he was a 5 year collegiate soccer player. As a college athlete, James focuses on exercise and healthy eating habits as an important part of his daily routine. James has been part of the FFL family ever since his older brother Ben was diagnosed with type 1 over 15 years ago. He can't wait to see old friends and meet new ones at this year's FFL Conference.
Troy Todd is attending Penn State University, currently studying Nuclear Engineering. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13 in 2008. He first attended CWD in 2008 only months after his diagnosis. He has not missed a conference since and looks forward to the conference every summer. He is extremely excited to get a chance to contribute to an organization that has given him so much over the years. Troy also enjoys sports, science, and performing theatre in his free time.
Jenny Vandevelde was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003. She has a degree in Recreation and Tourism Management from San Diego State University. She currently works for Tandem Diabetes Care in San Diego and spends her weekends snowboarding and wakeboarding. Jenny is part of the Elite Coaches team at Riding on Insulin, where she helps kids with type 1 learn to snowboard. She also loves playing soccer and basketball. Her most recent accomplishment is her third bike ride through Death Valley for JDRF, clocking in at 102 miles and raising $10,000. In October 2008, she ran as one of the 25 Medtronic Global Heroes in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Jenny attended her first CWD conference in San Diego in 2005 and has been in love with CWD events since then.
Sierra Abel is the older sister to Sailor Abel, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2001. Sierra attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, where she was in the elementary group. She has now worked her way through all the programs, graduating from the teens at FFL 2011. Sierra and her family have been involved with CWD for many years now and she is excited to finally work with the kids. Sierra and her family live in New York.
Intissar Ben Halim, MSS, 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 four teens. Intissar loves her work as a clinical social worker at a nonprofit agency in West Chester, Pennsylvania, as well as her work as an associate at Cultivating Wholeness, a private practice in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. She and her family reside in King-of-Prussia.
Carolyn Billetdeaux has been attending FFL conferences since the age of 13. After growing up through the Teen and College Age programs, she now works as a leader with the Tween and Sibling programs. She presents diabetes as a family disease and focuses on sharing the sibling side of the experience. Carolyn majored in management and organizational behavior at New York University, and currently works as a Sustainability Consultant in the metro-DC area.
Zakariyya Elarbi is attending the University of Pittsburgh. After his twin sister Maryam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he knew that diabetes would forever play an important role in his life. Zak enjoys spending his free time reading, going to the gym, and hanging out with his friends. Zak is excited that he can finally give back to the CWD community by volunteering at the conferences with his close friends and family.
Kindergarten, Pre-K and Childcare
Mary Babin Bulgarelli, RN, BSN, CDE, has served as the childcare coordinator since the very first CWD conference. Mary leads a team of certified diabetes educators providing care and fun 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. 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 19. 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!
Alexa Brenner was diagnosed with diabetes in 1997, and has been attending the CWD conferences since 2006 with her mom, Georgia. Aside from letting her appreciate her inner Disney princess well into her teens and realize her dream to be the world's first pediatric endocrinologist princess, the conferences have allowed her to make some of the best friends for life she could ever hope to have. She's excited to be staff and give back to CWD, which has given her so much.
Adrianne Cornette is a third year student at the University of Cincinnati. She's been attending CWD since 2008 and can't wait to be on staff this year! She aspires to be a pediatric endocrinologist and loves to work with kids. Here's to another year of great memories!
Cassidy Howell, age 18, from Virden, MB, Canada, was diagnosed with type one diabetes in 2005. Cassidy attended her very first CWD conference in 2009 in Toronto, and since then has gone to Vancouver in 2010 and returned back to Toronto in 2013. Cassidy is looking forward to traveling to Orlando and helping out at the CWD conference!
Audrey Greenfield has been involved with CWD conferences since 2001. A strong advocate of empowerment through knowledge and support, Audrey has stressed the importance of Friends for Life conferences to CWD families and to her colleagues within the Diabetes Franchise of Johnson and Johnson. Early in her career, Audrey was a schoolteacher in Brooklyn, New York; she has always enjoyed working with children. Recently retired from her position as Worldwide Vice President of Advocacy and Professional Relations for the Diabetes Franchise of Johnson & Johnson, Audrey now focuses on her most important job -- Becky's mom! She is thrilled to be working with the childcare program at Friends for Life.
Chris Joynes, RN, attended her first Friends for Life conference after her 6 year old daughter Molly was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 2005. Chris loves working with children and has been a pediatric emergency department nurse for 11 years. She is excited to be full time staff and to give back to an organization that â€śprovided my family with support, hope, motivation, and smiles once Molly was diagnosed.â€ť Chris is also mom to Andrew, Elizabeth, and Benjamin, who have grown up with CWD.
Emily Kaar, age 19, is big sister to Alex (dx'd February 2000), and Gabe. Her family has been involved with CWD since the very first conference, and she is so grateful for the support that it has provided throughout the years, especially since her own diagnosis with Crohn's Disease in 2004. When she's not taking pictures, Emily can usually be found listening to Fleetwood Mac, drinking coffee, and/or petting a cat. She can't wait to work with the CWD kids and give back to her FFL family!
Diamond Marquess, age 20, born and living in Morgantown, WV, was diagnosed on July 5, 2003. She's been participating in Friends for Life conferences since she was 12, and has been making CWD friends ever since. This year, Diamond got her first job, and she works daily on providing diabetes information to her awesome co-workers. This year will be 11 years with type 1, and Diamond says, "I'm still kicking diabetes' butt!"
Hannah Mattingly, now 18, is the older sister to Ethan Mattingly, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1998. Hannah and her family have been to all 15 CWD Friends for Life Orlando conferences, and many of the regional conferences. Hannah started in childcare and has worked her way through all the programs, graduating from the teens at FFL 2013. She graduated high school in May and will attend Spalding University in the fall, majoring in nursing. Hannah is excited to finally work in childcare with the little ones.
Tayler Michaelson is 19 years old and was diagnosed at age 10. He has attended seven CWD conferences with his family and recently volunteered at his first Friends for Life in Toronto. Tayler has played volleyball for as long has he has had type 1. He hopes to pursue a degree in Social Work at Ryerson University in Toronto and eventually work in a Pediatric Diabetes Clinic helping youth with type 1 Tayler has done speaking engagements with Ontario Power Generation, advocating type 1 and discussing the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. He is also currently working part-time with Animas Canada.
Hannah Opdenaker, 18, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3, in 1999. She has just graduated high school and is looking forward to studying History and Political Science in college. Hannah has been a part of Children with Diabetes for as long as she can remember, and has made some of her best friends here. She is thrilled to join the childcare staff at Friends for Life Orlando.
Lisa Pitt, RN, is mom to four beautiful daughters aged preschool to teens. She and her family began coming to Friends for Life conferences when her oldest was diagnosed with type 1 at age 3 in 2003. She also has been volunteering in childcare since 2010 and loves seeing her "extended family" - CWD. Lisa is a busy full-time mom and full-time cardiac nurse in the acute care setting. She believes ongoing education is the key to successful management of any chronic illness.
Helen Rodio, 25, is a recent graduate of The College of New Jersey. Helen has a strong dance background and spent last summer traveling the country teaching middle school and high school dance teams with Universal Dance Association. Currently, Helen is teaching first grade at Folsom Elementary School. This is her fourth year at the Friends for Life conference, and she is thrilled to be back!
Brandy Schmidt is Jeff's wife (Schmidty to the teens) and mother of two, Brandon, dx'd 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!
Jess Wisniewski was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of nine. She attends Assumption College and studies chemistry and music. Jess has participated in Friends for Life every year since 2007, and enjoys every moment of every conference. She has many favorite pastimes, including listening to music and discovering yet more things she loves to do. Jess is looking forward to working with the childcare group in her first year as FFL staff!
Friends for Life 2014 Conference and Expo Introduction - Registration - Exhibitors - Sponsors - Convention Center Map (PDF) Faculty - Youth Faculty - Grandparents Faculty - CWD Staff - Sports Central Staff - Retinal Screening Staff Schedule: Parents and Adults - Youth - Trials and Screenings Childcare Form (PDF) - FAQs Reports from 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005 - 2004 - 2003 - 2002 - 2001
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