The last weekend in August, against a backdrop of blue, blue Coal Harbour and the very steep terrain of Grouse Mountain – 300 people gathered at the Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside for the 3rd annual Friends for Life Canada conference.
Families traveled from across Canada – and as far away as Indiana and the UK – to participate in this event. More than 80% 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, grandparents, 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, 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 "The Best of Type 1 Technology." His session, presented in his comfortable and humorous style, brought conference participants up to date with 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 "Type 1 Management of Children ages 0-5" (Elizabeth Rosolowsky), to "Matching Insulin to Food" (Lorraine Anderson), to "Your Child's Development: Preparing for Changes, Challenges, and Cheers" (Jill Weissberg-Benchell).
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 continued with breakout sessions which covered a wide variety of topics, including "Pumping Basics and Beyond" (Gary Scheiner), "Parenting Your Teen" (Jill Weissberg-Benchell and Natalie Bellini), and "Dealing with Burnout" (Korey Hood). Following afternoon snack break, Gary Scheiner continued with "Strike the Spike," while Psychologist Jill Weissberg-Benchell presented a session about "Communicating With Your Child with Type 1." As well, CDE Natalie Bellini led a very hands-on and informative session about "Infusion Sets and Sensors."
By request, Saturday evening was an opportunity to 'Explore Vancouver!' Families – many of them with new-found friends – had dinner nearby and strolled the waterfront. It was a relaxing evening enjoyed by all.
Sunday morning ... 8 a.m. breakfast seemed early after the evening out and about, but lots of great coffee and a very healthy breakfast got the morning started on the right foot! Dr. Elizabeth Rosolowsky 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 and early afternoon were fully-scheduled with breakout sessions including discussion groups for CWD moms (led by Lauren Lanning, Heather Kyllo, Jill Weissberg-Benchell), dads (led by Scott Kyllo and Korey Hood), and families with celiac (led by Heather Kyllo and Mike Schurig). Diabetes Advocacy's Barb Wagstaff facilitated the session Managing Type 1 Diabetes in School. Gary Scheiner continued with two of his 'back by demand' sessions, "Making Sense of Sensor Data" and "Type 1 and Exercise Management." There were quite a few elite athletes in the Exercise session, and this contributed additional depth to the discussion. Breakout sessions were rounded out by Lorraine Anderson ("Tips and Tricks with Pump Therapy") and Korey Hood/Jill Weissberg-Benchell ("Growing Up and Moving On - and Out").
The closing keynote included two presentations. The first – a "Meet the Athletes" panel – featured the six Diabetes Heroes sponsored at this conference by Animas Canada. These young people included 11 year old gymnast Adin Brenner, 18 year old equestrian rider Julia Pesek, 27 year old outdoor adventurer Stephen Lang, and 15 year old hockey player Brooke Toop. Chase Pelletier returned once again as a Diabetes Hero – this time featuring his skills as a black belt in karate. And cross-country skier/biathlete Elizabeth Czechmeister rounded out this very talented group. Each of the athletes spoke about their sport, their training, what they would really like to tell their parents (this eliciting quite a few tears on both sides), and what they were most proud of. In a word, 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 and stunning pictures from Marissa's recent wedding to Adam Town, who is an RN and CWD Tween Program Leader. 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 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, Jen Hanson, Sam Billetdeaux, Chad Kyllo, and Sunshine Abel, the elementary kids had a fabulous time with activities such as a Scavenger Hunt, Fun with Food, 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 4th floor of the hotel, and meeting some great athletes and role models from Connected in Motion and the Animas Diabetes Heroes. The elementary children also made an art project called All About Me – each of them beautiful and inspiring.
The tween program, led by Adam Town, Justin Abel, Carolyn Billetdeaux, and Sarah Ketcheson was equally as fun and adventurous. The tweens had exercise time with Harold (outdoors on a gorgeous day!), chat time with Dr. Jill and Dr. Korey, 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 Carb Counting Contest with CDE/RD Lorraine Anderson. They later created some wonderful art projects out of fruit and vegetables in a session called Carb Cars and Creatures.
The teen program, led by Natalie Bellini, Marissa Hitchcock, Alanna Landry, and Sameer Datwani was a great mix of discussion and presentation! The teens explored new technology (thank you to Jeff Hitchcock and Korey Hood for leading the discussion), and also spent time discussing exercise, travel, and sports with the VIP athletes from Connected in Motion and Animas Diabetes Heroes as well as Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco. On Sunday, the teens and staff headed out on foot for a day at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Last but not least, the "Under 6" group had a weekend of great fun with leaders Jana Zens, Alyssa Kyllo, Georgia Spiropoulos, and Grace Grande-Cassell. 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.
The beautiful Vancouver waterfront walk was just a few steps from the conference hotel, offering spectacular views and a great place for a morning run
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Chase Pelletier demonstrated his karate talent by breaking boards
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Families met with sponsors and exibitors, learning about new options to help them with diabetes care
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Harold helped kids learn the importance of exercise
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Teen sibs enjoyed a quite discussion on the top floor with a great view
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Glucose checks at poll time help our kids from going low
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