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Friends for Life Canada

Vancouver was picture perfect. Blue sky with just a few clouds over Coal Harbor and Grouse Mountain, then a few rain clouds moving in, then back to blue sky, sea breezes, and 'here comes Fall' temperatures. Five hundred people – children, parents, grandparents, friends – gathered together at the Vancouver Renaissance Harbourside and the Marriott Pinnacle for the first Friends for Life Canada conference from August 27-29, 2010.

Families came from across Canada – and a few from as far away as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia on the east coast – to learn and share. More than 80% of the participants were brand new to CWD conferences, and they were delighted to learn that, at CWD, learning is a family affair. The conference schedule featured programs all day Saturday and Sunday for parents, grandparents, adults with type 1, and children of all ages. Sessions were interspersed with beverage 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 Renaissance Harbourside. This 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, Harold Sanco, Scott and Heather Kyllo, and Dana Dignard for offering such a warm welcome at Registration. And another huge thank you to the conference sponsors: Animas Canada, Bayer HealthCare, Diabetes Care, JDRF Canada, LifeScan Canada, Medtronic, Novo Nordisk, Roche Insulin Delivery Systems, and Splenda. 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.

Saturday morning, Dr. Daniel Metzger, Pediatric Endocrinologist at BC Children's Hospital, presented the opening keynote "Best Practices in Canada." Dr. Metzger, in his straightforward and humorous manner, provided an overview of the Canadian healthcare system, and then discussed what he considers the best strategies for type 1 diabetes management, including the use of multiple daily injections, insulin pumps, and continuous sensors.

Following a coffee break, Joe Solowiejczyk had every person in the audience nodding in agreement as he talked about "It's Not Just a Numbers Game." Joe has had type 1 diabetes for 50 years, and he shared his own personal journey, including some tricks of the trade for days that seem overwhelming and impossible. Joe's message about having type 1: You can hate it (and it's ok to say that you hate it), but you have to take care of it – checking blood sugars and taking insulin are non-negotiable.

After a delicious deli lunch complete with portion sizes and carb counts marked on every item on the buffet table, all of the adult participants attended breakout sessions held at the Harbourside and Pinnacle venues. Dr. Bruce Perkins – an endocrinologist who has type 1 and wears an insulin pump – shared his perspective on pumping insulin, "Why We Pump – A Close Look at the Real Reasons." Dietitian Dana Dignard met with parents who needed a brush-up or a first-time review of "Carb-Counting Basics," and Dr. Kim Kelly presented an in-depth exploration of "Glucose: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly."

The late afternoon breakout sessions included a 2nd session by Joe Solowiejczyk, "Communicating with Your Child with Type 1 Diabetes." Joe continued many of his themes of earlier in the day: managing type 1 diabetes is about so much more than simply blood glucose numbers, and communication among everyone in the family is so very important. Dr. Mike Riddell, known for his expertise in managing type 1 diabetes with every level of exercise (he has type 1 as well), presented his first session, "Pumps, Sensors, Exercise, and Type 1 Diabetes." Dr. Riddell later in the conference took the discussion to the next level in "Success in Sports," which focused more on individual athletes and their sports, and opened the discussion to dialogue about the children attending the conference and their individual sports. Finally, Gary Scheiner presented his first of 3 presentations, "Strike the Spike." In this session, Gary explained what happens when blood glucose spikes right after meals, some key culprits to those spikes, and how to modify meals and one's insulin regimen to head off the postprandial spikes. Gary is known for his very functional and practical explanations, and there were many 'aha moments' during his sessions.

Saturday evening was a special occasion – the Friends for Life Family and Friends Banquet, complete with a very moving presentation about CWD and 'how it all started' – and best of all, a 45 minute performance by country music entertainer of the year George Canyon. Jeff Hitchcock presented George with the first Friend for Life Canada award. This award recognizes an individual who has dedicated their time, love, and energy to children and families with type 1 diabetes, and we were so happy to be able to honor George Canyon in this way. Many thanks to Tom Karlya, the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, and to DJ Sam Billetdeaux who provided dance music to pack the dance floor!

Sunday morning… 8 a.m. breakfast seemed early after the evening's festivities, but lots of great coffee and a very healthy breakfast got the morning started on the right foot! The day was fully-scheduled with breakout sessions including many discussion group for CWD moms, dads, and grandparents, as well as families with celiac. Diabetes Advocacy's Barb Marche joined forces with Michelle Rago to facilitate the session "Managing Type 1 Diabetes in School." As with previous years, it was a lively discussion with lots of challenges put forward, and a whole list of potential solutions and action plans.

One of the highlights of the morning was a "Meet the Athletes" panel. Featuring VIP Special Guests Jonny White, Jen Alexander, Chris Jarvis, Leanne Stanley, and Chase Pelletier, the discussion was very optimistic and positive, focusing on the concept of possibilities. Our kids with type 1 truly can grow up to do and achieve whatever they set their minds to – and these individuals were proof of it. Parents shared with CWD staff after the session how very inspiring it was.

Other sessions on Sunday included a JDRF Research Update presented by Dr. Jim Johnson, a close-up look at some of the carb-counting applications currently available to families using devices such as iPhones and blackberries, and a hands-on-pumps experience for grandparents who were interested in learning a bit more about insulin pumps.

Gary Scheiner presented two additional sessions on Sunday, "Pumping: Basics and Beyond" and "Making Sense of Sensor Data" for those interested in or currently using continuous glucose sensors. Dr. Perkins further explored those topics in "CGMS and Pumping." Both of these wonderful speakers present both clinical data and personal perspective on managing their own type 1 diabetes with this type of technology.

Grandparents had a special treat this weekend, hosted by Grandma Sandy Hollenberg (a Vancouver local) and Betty Brackenridge. Betty has been spearheading the Grandparents educational track at CWD conferences for the past several years, and Grandma Sandy has been participating in the grandparents discussion groups as both participant and leader for the past nine years, primarily at the Orlando Friends for Life international conferences.

The Sunday program for adults ended on an emotional and inspirational note with Tom Karlya's closing keynote presentation. Tom, known to the online diabetes community simply as Diabetes Dad, had a very basic message: Whatever it is that you choose to do in the diabetes world to make things better, don't do nothing. He shared the stories of half a dozen CWD families (kids with type 1 and their siblings) who took the diagnosis of type 1 as a platform to do very positive things with their lives, their communities, and their futures. There are so many ways that one can help – take the first small step, and do something.

CWD kids always have their own special programming at our conferences… and Friends for Life Vancouver 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, Michelle Rago, Jen Hanson, Sunshine Abel, Lorraine Anderson, Marilyn Fry, Sam Billetdeaux, and Larry Bradley, the elementary kids had a fabulous time with activities such as a Scavenger Hunt, Harold Time (fun exercise and games with Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco – all the way from Washington, D.C.!), swimming in the really cool hotel pool with distance swimmer Jen Alexander, and meeting some great athletes and role models. Each of the elementary children helped make quilt squares which will be added to CWD's Quilt for Life. The quilt squares were beautiful, imaginative, and inspiring.

The tween program, led by Melissa Ringley, Kim Kelly, Justin Abel, Sarah Ketcheson, Whitney Gowanlock, and Kim Babcock, was equally as fun and adventurous. The tweens had exercise time with Harold, chat time with Joe Solowiejczyk, an opportunity to meet the VIP athletes, and they also had swim time in the very cool hotel pool! The tweens contributed quilt squares to the CWD Quilt for Life – a square for the 10 year olds, 11 year olds, and 12 year olds in this year's tween program. They were creative and similarly inspiring. On Sunday, the tweens had their first Friends for Life field trip ever – to the Vancouver Aquarium.

The teen program, led by Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Alanna Landry, Chloe Steepe, Lorelei Domaschuk, and Meg Stevens was a great mix of discussion, presentation, and exploration… leading to a weekend of fun and learning! The teens explored new technology (thank you to Jeff Hitchcock and Jim Vail for leading the discussion), and spent time discussing exercise and sports with the VIP athletes as well as Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco. On Sunday, the teens and staff headed for a day at Vancouver Aquarium and Stanley Park.

Many thanks to all of the teen and tween staff and the parent volunteers who assisted with hours and hours of the background work necessary to make these field trips safe, interesting, and exciting for the kids. Providing such a fun day for 125 10-17 year olds is no small undertaking!

Last but not least, the "Under 6" group had a weekend of great fun with leaders Alanna and Mark Chambers, Alyssa Kyllo, and Natalie and Jacqueline Forster. 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 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 Dana Dignard for the hours of assistance!

Scott Kyllo – the man behind the technology – similarly spent months working on the 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 we are really glad that you wore comfortable shoes to Vancouver!

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, Bayer HealthCare, Diabetes Care, JDRF Canada, LifeScan Canada, Medtronic, Novo Nordisk, Roche Insulin Delivery Systems, and Splenda; and additional thanks to the folks at 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.


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Beautiful Vancouver, BC was host to CWD's first Friends for Life Canada conference
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Betty Brackenridge oversaw the grandparents programming and Natalie Bellini, along with Jim Vail, oversaw the teens
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Olivia and Sydni (yes, they're twins) both wore green bracelets
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LifeScan Canada offered kids a chance to share their word for the Word in Your Hand project
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Tom Karlya emceed Saturday's program, which featured George Canyon
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Swimming and low blood sugars seem to go hand in hand
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Medtronic's Lenny the Lion was very popular witht he kids
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Friends for Life Canada: Vancouver 2010 was Sponsored By:
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Supporting Sponsors
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Charity Partner

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