As the saying goes: The proof is in the pudding (check out the photos). Smiles, smiles, and more smiles. Green, orange, and yellow wristbands, worn with pride ... and smiles. Decorated name badges to sort out who was who – and from where. Finally matching faces to email names! Five hundred participants from all across the UK, all with one purpose: to spend the weekend learning more about type 1 diabetes and supporting each other. Friends for Life UK 2011.
For the 3rd year, the Beaumont House in Old Windsor was the home of this year's Friends for Life conference, and the event was held over Halloween weekend. Conference participants were nearly all from the UK. While many families had been living with type 1 diabetes for quite a few years, there were also some newly diagnosed families. Many parents knew each other from the various CWD mailing lists and forums – yet they had never met before Friday!
The conference began on Friday evening, as registration and the Exhibit and Sponsors areas opened in conjunction with a delicious carb-counted buffet dinner! CWD Founder and President Jeff Hitchcock welcomed everyone to the opening session, which kicked off with the Friends for Life slideshow. USA Ironman Triathlete Jay Hewitt presented the Opening Keynote: Finish Line Vision. Jay, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 20, became a marathon runner and a triathlete post-diagnosis, when he challenged himself to higher and higher elite athletic goals, and ultimately told type 1 diabetes “You are messing with the wrong guy!” To close the evening, CWD honored Joe Solowiejczyk for living 50 healthy years with type 1 diabetes. Many thanks to CWD mom Jo Dury for the fantastic “I (heart) Joe Solo” t-shirts sported by dozens of children and parents at the opening session!
Many thanks to Julia Mattingly, Al Piper, Heather Kyllo and Michelle Boyt for coordinating the registration area on Friday, getting everyone the correct t-shirt sizes and name badges once they arrived on site ... and handing out the chocolates to all the mums (yes, we did listen to last year’s feedback!). A special shout out to CWD Tween Ella, who had the great idea about the badge-decorating station ... and an equal shout-out to Ella’s buddies who helped with the endeavor!
The Founding Sponsors of the conference included Animas UK, LifeScan UK, and Cellnovo, while Supporting Sponsors included Roche UK, Bayer HealthCare Diabetes Care UK, and Medtronic Diabetes UK. The Charity Partner of the event was JDRF UK. Many, many thanks to all of these companies for their support, enthusiasm, and friendship this past year.
Representatives from the various exhibiting companies also spent the weekend with CWD families, discussing their products and research. Exhibitors included TrialNet, INPUT, Funky Pumpers, My BlueLoop, and the Diabetes UK. Many thanks to DEX4 in the U.S. for providing the glucose supplies for the entire conference. With all of the exercise and excitement throughout the weekend, many lows were headed off by glucose tabs!
The conference was divided into several tracks for Saturday and Sunday, with the teens, tweens, and elementary aged children all heading off to their own separate areas, the little ones going to childcare, and the adults having both general sessions as well as breakout sessions with more specific topics at both beginning and advanced levels.
The Saturday keynote, Technology: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going, was presented by Pediatric Endocrinologist Ragnar Hanas. Dr. Hanas, in his soft-spoken and direct manner, connected immediately with this audience of parents. Many remained after the presentation to thank Dr. Hanas for his years of work with type 1 families, and to ask him follow-up questions. Later in the day, he spoke on the topic of Sick Days and Ketones, which was a much appreciated and functional topic.
Following the morning keynote, breakout sessions extended the rest of the day. Gary Scheiner – known as a speaker who helps families make practical sense out of the most difficult of concepts – presented three sessions -- Strike the Spike, Sports and Type 1, and Advanced Pumping Techniques. Natalie Bellini – also known for practical sessions and her humorous and engaging presentation style - combined efforts with Marissa Hitchcock for a discussion about Parenting Your Teen With Type 1. Dr. Fiona Campbell, recognized as one of the leading paediatric endocrinologists in the UK, presented two sessions on Saturday, including Introduction to Insulin Pumping and Diabetes 101: New to Type 1. Psychologist Korey Hood and Jay Hewitt led a discussion about Type 1 in Adulthood; while Rosalind Oakey and Lesley Jordan from the INPUT group led the double-discussion group on Technology at the Diabetes Clinic. Nurse Consultant Rebecca Thompson rounded out Saturday morning’s presentations with the session Managing Type 1 Using MDI.
There were a number of discussion groups on Saturday afternoon, including the Mums and Dads Discussion sessions. Many thanks to Jacqui Double and Jackie Jacombs for leading the Mums group, and to Oliver Double and Ashley Head for leading the Dads discussion. We heard from both groups that the conversation was engaging, emotional, and very supportive. There never seems to be enough time for these two discussions; we hoped by placing them at the end of the day that the conversations continued into dinner and the evening! Also on Saturday afternoon, Joe Solowiejczyk led two discussion groups, one with single parents and one with grandparents. Again, these discussions easily could have gone on for hours, and the time with Joe Solo was much appreciated by the participants.
Following dinner on Saturday night, nearly everyone dressed up in a Halloween costume ... it was party time! The costumes were outrageous and fabulous, scary and elegant! Many costumes were enhanced by the amazing artistry of the face-painter at the Animas booth. The Family Party in Hanover Ballroom was from 7:30-9:30, while the teens enjoyed their own party in Balmoral until 11:00. The DJs were both fantastic, and we were having so much fun that they continued the dancing a bit on overtime! The CWD staff had a Halloween treat for all of the children ... a trick-or-treat goodie bag from the U.S. with each staff person's favorite candy inside, all with carb counts, of course! There were even gluten free treats provided! Many thanks to all of the US staff for bring pounds and pounds of sweets for the 206 children at the conference!
Sunday morning we all had a very welcome extra hour of sleep – the clocks were turned back! Professor Peter Hindmarsh (known to many CWD families simply as The Professor) presented the morning’s keynote Care and Technology In The UK. Professor Hindmarsh was warm, conversational, and engaging. His presentation meshed a humorous style with practical and functional information, as well as some new information about technology. The follow-up session with Professor Hindmarsh and Rebecca Thompson on Care and Technology engaged the audience in a discussion of current challenges and potential solutions.
Also on Sunday, Gary Scheiner presented Managing Hypoglycemia and Making Sense of Sensor Data. Korey Hood led a discussion about Avoiding Diabetes Burnout, and Reman McDonagh led the second discussion One Pump Fits All – Or Does It? Several sessions were repeated throughout the weekend in order to offer more choices during the time slots. Many thanks to those presenters who repeated their topics! Other Sunday sessions included Managing Type 1 in Younger Children and the JDRF Research Update. Jackie Jacombs and Jacqui Double closed the afternoon breakouts with the discussion group Managing Diabetes in School.
Jeff Hitchcock presented the closing keynote, Dancing On The Beach. The story – never old no matter how many times one hears it - recounts the Hitchcock family's story with type 1 diabetes ... how Marissa was diagnosed as a toddler ... how they celebrated milestones such as the day Marissa gave herself her first injection ... how Jeff started CWD as a resource to help her meet other children with type 1. And how she has grown up as a successful young professional (she is an RN and one of the CWD Teen Program leaders) with an incredibly bright and healthy future in front of her. Jeff shared the exciting and happy news that Marissa and Adam Town are now engaged and will be married in May 2012! Next year, the presentation will include wedding photos.
The sessions for all of the children – from the tiny ones through the teens – were interesting, fun, and interactive. The teen group once again spent Sunday offsite at Thorpe Park and had a fabulous time (and no rain)! This year, Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco joined our staff from the US. Harold’s message to kids of any age is this: exercise will help you to be healthy. Harold worked with all of the age groups, and as always, he was a hit with the children!
Most sincere thanks are extended to the Youth Program leaders and Staff. These include – for the elementary program – Lauren Lanning, Sunshine Abel, Martyn Carr, Aileen Durkan, Liz Gillum, Laura Bailey, Sam Billetdeaux, Melissa Pawlowski, Al Piper, Rebecca Smart, and Elaine Gunn. For the tween program, Carolyn Billetdeaux, Adam Town, Paul Cheverton, Justin Abel, Kelsey Martin, abd Giulio Pojer. Teen leaders and staff included Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Marissa Hitchcock, and Deborah Glassborow (and thank you to Diana Naranjo and Jeff Hodgson for helping out on the Thorpe Park field trip at the last minute!). Childcare staff included Mary Babin, Shayne Weldon, Audrey Finkelstein, Lydia Jenner, Lara Wann, Claire Matthews, Niki Galliford, Linda Clapp, Sue McMonigle, Sharon Holmes, Katie Jones, and Chelsea Meredith. Many thanks to all of you for your incredible energy and positive attitudes. The kids and parents loved you.
Sincere thanks are extended as well to Ashley Head and James, who kept the Sports Central activities up and running – there was certainly a lot to do, as the lovely weather encouraged lots of outdoor play time! This included an area for football, cricket, and rounders, as well as open space areas for the little ones to play and have fun. The children so appreciated the opportunity to have active play time!
Kudos and a big thank you to Scott and Heather Kyllo who flew all the way from British Columbia, Canada, to take charge of All Things AV/IT. They coordinate the presentations and tech needs for all of the CWD Friends for Life conferences and are simply indispensable.
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 delicious gluten free buffet at each meal 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, and many thanks to the Chef and staff at the Beaumont for working so diligently with us on this!
CWD would not be able to hold conferences at all if not for the continued and consistent generosity of our sponsors. Many thanks to our UK Sponsors, including Animas UK, LifeScan UK, Cellnovo, Roche UK, Bayer HealthCare Diabetes Care UK, Medtronic Diabetes UK, and Charity Partner JDRF UK. Their generosity in supporting the Friends for Life UK conference and CWD 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, 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.
CWD families really do love Joe Solo
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Families began registering on Friday afternoon
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For the third year, Animas brought a spectacular face painter
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Jay Hewitt spoke with families on Saturday
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Tweens made "carb creatures"
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Our youngest kids enjoyed some time outdoors when the weather was nice
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Martyn, Giulio, Adam and Marissa (left to right) enjoying dinner on Saturday
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It was a monster mash!
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