Back to CWD Conferences Report from Friends for Life Canada 2013

Friends for Life Canada

It was a beautiful early spring weekend in Toronto, as CWD welcomed families from across Canada to the 2013 Friends for Life Canada conference at the Marriott Eaton Centre. More than 75% of the participants were brand new to CWD conferences, and they included many adults with type 1. The conference schedule featured programs all day Saturday and Sunday for parents, adults with type 1, and children of all ages. Sessions were interspersed with snack breaks and meals – perfect opportunities to discuss information that had just been presented, and also great opportunities to ask questions of the conference faculty.

Friday evening kicked off with registration and a reception for all of the participants and sponsors at the conference. The reception featured some yummy hors d'eouvres and a first opportunity to visit with the sponsors and exhibitors to learn about new products and programs available to families with type 1 diabetes. Thank you to Julia Mattingly, Scott and Heather Kyllo, Mike Bassett, Harold Sanco, Dana Greenberg, Shari Michaelson, and Barbara Wagstaff for offering such a warm welcome at Registration. Another huge thank you to the conference sponsors, Animas Canada and OneTouch® Canada. CWD sponsors are conference partners in every sense of the word – they help bring the best information to CWD events, and they spend the entire weekend with us, available for questions and discussions with adults and children alike.

Pediatric Endocrinologist Daniel Metzger opened the conference with “Best Practices in Canada.” His session, presented in his comfortable and humorous style, brought conference participants up to date with the standards of care in Canada, as well as technology such as continuous glucose sensors and smart pumps. Dr. Metzger also shared his own personal list of recommendation for those with type 1, which included very common-sense and easily doable actions. Following the morning refreshment break, adults attended sessions varying from “Pathway to the Artificial Pancreas” (Ed Damiano), to “Exercise and Type 1” (Mike Riddell), and “Matching Insulin to Food” (Dana Dignard). Psychologist Korey Hood led several discussions during the weekend, beginning with “Avoiding Burnout” during this late morning time slot.

After a delicious deli and chicken soup (and fantastic chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies!) lunch complete with portion sizes and carb counts marked on every item on the buffet table, all of the adult participants continued with breakout sessions which covered a wide variety of topics, including “Managing Hypoglycemia” (Gary Scheiner), “Parenting Your Teen” (Marissa Town and Natalie Bellini), “Learning to Be Your Child’s Advocate” (Barb Wagstaff), and “Tips and Tricks of Pump Therapy” (Dana Dignard). Following afternoon snack break, Gary Scheiner continued with “Making Sense of Sensor Data,” while Dr. Metzger led a review discussion of “What You Learned on Day One (of diagnosis).” As well, Barb Wagstaff facilitated a discussion of “Managing Diabetes in School.”

Animas Canada once again brought a fantastic trio of Diabetes Heroes to Friends for Life. During the 3:30 session, conference participants were introduced to these young people, including 14 year old Megan Beamish (Nova Scotia’s Bantam Female Athlete of the Year for Track and Field), 12 year old Michael Thornton (international soccer prodigy), and college student Kyle Cochran (finalist in the 2012 American Ninja Warrior competition). These Diabetes Heroes were joined by adventurers from the Connected in Motion group, including Jen Hanson, Sarah Ketcheson, and Julia De Vos.

Back by request – the Friends for Life Dance Party on Saturday evening! Everyone was on their own for dinner, and at 8 p.m., we gathered back in the main ballroom for some delicious desserts – even some chocolate birthday cake! – and two hours of crazy, energetic, and very fun dancing! The younger kids most definitely put the adults to shame in the ‘dance moves’ category… except for Harold Sanco, who is in a category all by himself! Thanks to everyone who showed up for this event and made it such a great party!

Sunday morning ... 2 a.m. – set the clocks ahead one hour. Uh-oh! Get the coffee ready! Set two alarms for the morning!

Breakfast at 8 a.m. seemed early after the evening’s festivities, but lots of great coffee and a very healthy breakfast (including plentiful strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries – a favorite, as they seemed to disappear right away!) got the morning started on the right foot! Dr. Elizabeth Rosolowsky from Edmonton presented the morning’s keynote, “Type 1 Diabetes: It’s Not Just Insulin Deficiency.” This was a fascinating look at many of the other hormones which are affected by type 1. The late morning program included a brand new session by Gary Scheiner: “Is a Carb A Carb? The Glycemic Index.” Joe Solowiejczyk revisited “It’s Not Just a Numbers Game,” which always has a new angle or new tidbit of information no matter how many times one listens to this presentation. Natalie Bellini facilitated a discussion about “Infusion Sets and Sensors,” and Korey Hood led a discussion about “Keeping Your Marriage Healthy.”

Following a BBQ lunch (hot dogs, burgers, chicken, beans, pasta salad, YUM!), we headed into the home stretch of program sessions. The Connected in Motion Team led a very upbeat and practical discussion about traveling with type 1, “From the Ritz to Roughing It.” The moms and dads gathered separately for some conversation, with the moms group facilitated by Lauren Lanning and Barb Wagstaff, and the dads group facilitated by Scott Kyllo and Justin Abel. Additionally, Joe Solowiejczyk and Korey Hood led a new session called, “Pulling the Pieces Together – Now What?”

The closing keynote included two presentations. The first was a panel featuring the three Diabetes Heroes sponsored at this conference by Animas Canada. Each of the athletes spoke about their sport, their training, what they would really like to tell their parents (this elicited both laughter and tears), and who was a hero to each of them. They were spectacular.

The second half of the closing keynote was presented by CWD President and Founder Jeff Hitchcock. Jeff shared his family's very moving story, beginning with Marissa's diagnosis as a toddler ... and ending with his realization that 'life is about dancing on the beach, not achieving perfect numbers.' Dancing on the beach indeed ... Jeff also shared many family photos – as well as the more recent and very emotional announcement that he is going to be a first-time grandpa. The Hitchcock story is a very positive story – and a great way to bring closure to the conference.

CWD kids always have their own special programming at our conferences ... and Friends for Life Toronto was no exception! The children grouped with others of the same age: Elementary for the 6-9 year olds, Tweens for the 10-12 year olds, and Teens for the 13-17 year olds. The 'younger than 6' crowd enjoyed two very fun days in childcare as well.

Under the leadership and guidance of leaders Lauren Lanning, Jen Hanson, Michelle Rago, Chad Kyllo, Jesse Nagel, Marilyn Fry, Carmen Howell, and Sunshine Abel, the elementary kids had a fabulous time with activities such as a Scavenger Hunt, Fun with Food, chat time for sibs and kids with type 1, Harold Time (fun exercise and games outdoors with Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco – all the way from Washington, D.C.!), swimming in the really cool hotel pool on the top floor of the hotel, and meeting some great athletes and role models from Connected in Motion and the Diabetes Heroes. The elementary children also met 9 year old Hayden Simon, who spoke with them about “How to Present to Your School or Community.”

The tween program, led by Adam Town, Justin Abel, Carolyn Billetdeaux, Kaitlyn Karlya, Kelsey Martin, and Sarah Ketcheson was equally as fun and adventurous. The tweens had exercise time with Harold, chat time for sibs and for kids with type 1, an opportunity to meet the VIP athletes from Connected in Motion and Animas, and swim time in the very cool hotel pool! The tweens also had a “Mall Food: What’s In this Stuff?” session with the teens. On Sunday, they created some wonderful art projects from fruit and vegetables in a session called “Carb Creatures.”

The teen program, led by Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Marissa Town, Alanna Landry, Bob Bulgarelli, and Sameer Datwani was a great mix of discussion and presentation! The teens explored new technology (thank you to Jeff Hitchcock and Jim Vail for leading the discussion), and also spent focused conversation time in sibs group and type 1 group. On Sunday, the teens and staff headed out first for a lunch at the Eaton Centre Food Court, and then for a walking Ghost Tour at the University of Toronto. It was a lot of fun – the very spring-like day was great for an afternoon outdoors!

Last but not least, the "Under 6" group had a fun weekend with leaders Mary Bulgarelli, Alyssa Kyllo, Virtue Bajurny, Stephanie David-Coddere, and Tayler Michaelson. The children had their own mini-Scavenger hunt, joined in some of the Harold Exercise Fun, they built a fort, watched movies, and had some creative crafts time.

CWD dietitian Mike Schurig once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (and portion sizes and carb counts) for all of our meals. He created a wonderful gluten free buffet at each meal and snack break for those who needed them. It always amazes the hotel management and dietary staff that we spend so much time and effort on this particular facet of our conferences ... but it is probably the most important thing that makes families feel safe about spending the weekend at a CWD event. So, kudos to Mike for another job well done!

Scott Kyllo – the man behind the technology – similarly spent months working on the AV and IT details of this conference and every moment of the conference running back and forth between meeting rooms to make sure everything was set up perfectly. Scott, thanks so much for all you do, and for always doing it with a smile!

CWD would not be able to hold conferences at all if not for the continued and consistent generosity of our sponsors. Many thanks once again to our sponsors including Animas Canada and OneTouch® Canada; and additional thanks to the folks at AMG Medical/Dex4 for supplying all of the glucose products to head off low blood sugars. The generosity of these companies in supporting CWD events and families, as well as their passion for helping our kids and everyone with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life, is extraordinary.

Finally, a big hug to the many people who helped out with this conference. You know who you are. We couldn't do this without you, and you have our most sincere thanks.


Joe Solowiejczyk worked with the kids as well as the adults
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Tweens and teens had fun figuring out the carbs and calories in mall food
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Tweens made picture frames to share their FFL memories
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Samantha and Avery enjoyed the escalators ... again and again
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Yep, it's a CWD conference -- test strips on the floor
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Sandy Struss with Laura Billetdeaux
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Photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20
Photos by Jeff Hitchcock and Michelle Rago

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