Back to Activities Report from Friends for Life 2007

Friends for Life 2007 Logo

Twenty-five hundred people from nearly every state in the U.S. and a dozen countries traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the eighth annual conference, Friends for Life 2007. The conference was held from July 11-15, 2007 at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, CWD's fourth time at this venue. One thousand children were in attendance, joining a growing group of parents, grandparents, and young adults.

Families began gathering at the hotel on the weekend prior to the conference, and by Monday evening, over 200 CWD families were on site. By Wednesday, this grew to 500 families! Many wore conference tee shirts from previous years, so CWD families were easy to spot around the resort. Parents and kids acquainted themselves with the Pepper Market (the food court on site), the layout of the very large, spread-out resort, and which of the Casitas, Cabanas, and Ranchos were home to their new friends.

CWD staff and volunteers were already hard at work on Monday, with registration envelopes to stuff, shirts to unpack and stack by size, a thousand bottomless mugs to unpack and distribute, and exhibitor packets to ready.

There were 200 first timer families this year – roughly double the number of first-timer families from last year. This represented 800 people from across the U.S. and many other countries. The First-Timers all wore green ribbons on their name badges so that we could find them easily and welcome them! The First-Timers represented about 40% of our conference participants this year. Incredible. We are so glad that they joined us!

This year, the Exhibit Hall in Veracruz B and C was shared with the Quilt for Life. The beautiful quilts in honor of CWD children lined the outside walls of the ballroom – row upon row of wonderful, unique quilt squares. In the center of the ballroom were fabulous booths and displays from our sponsors and exhibitors. There were some very fun features in the booths: kids visited the OmniPod thatched huts, rode all kinds of bikes – including unicycles – at the Novo Nordisk booth, and lined up down the aisle for Roche's Dance Dance Revolution! The Exhibit Hall was definitely child-friendly, and every exhibitor did their best to make the parents and kids feel welcome and appreciated.

RADM Kenneth Moritsugu, MD, the Acting Surgeon General of the United States, joined Friends for Life this year for the entire conference. Arriving on Wednesday with many other CWD families, RADM Moritsugu participated both as a CWD participant (he shared with us that he is a pump-wearer) and an honored speaker. He opened the conference on Thursday morning with a very moving Keynote, encouraging all of us to be advocates for our children's health and literate with regard to the most cutting-edge information.

Many diabetes VIPs were on hand throughout the conference to meet and inspire the kids and families, including NBA's Adam Morrison, Olympic Cross-Country Skier Kris Freeman, Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson, Mr. USA Doug Burns, Ultramarathoner Missy Foy, Distance Swimmer Jen Alexander, NFL star Jay Leeuwenburg, NBA star Chris Dudley, champion fencer Harry Mahaffey, several Team Type 1 champion bikers, and Peaks and Poles Champion Will Cross.

Speaking of VIPs, it was such a pleasure to have Canadian Country Music Star George Canyon join us with his family at the conference! George has type 1 diabetes and is a pump-wearer. He is also very warm and caring, and that showed through as he met many of our families and graciously signed autographs and posed for photos with the kids. George attended the conference 'just' as a CWD participant, and agreed to sing a couple of his wonderful songs at the Family and Friends banquet and spend some time with the Tweener group on Thursday.

American Idol's Kevin Covais joined Friends for Life again this year. His participation was not a surprise this year, so CWD didn't have to hide him in the back! Kevin enjoyed meeting hundreds of CWD kids and parents on Thursday and Friday. His singing, as always, left many of us in emotional tears. We were so glad to have him back!

Sports Central was once again a hit this year. Pulled together by CWD Sports Coordinator Rick Philbin, there was a steady flow of sports activities and sports panels (interaction with the athletes) from Wednesday morning through Friday evening. Sports Central, sponsored by Novo Nordisk, was huge this year, with several basketball courts and volleyball courts, an area for martial arts, and various areas for games and aerobics. Many thanks to the wonderful DESA athletes who volunteered to staff Sports Central!

Also sponsored by Novo Nordisk – CWD's very first Cyber Center! This featured 10 computer kiosks which allowed parents to check email or browse on the internet from Wednesday through Friday. It was a much-needed addition to the conference!

A number of sponsoring companies held Focus Groups on Wednesday. These groups included some very diverse topics this year, and the discussion was lively and beneficial to both the participants and the group leaders. The groups were an excellent opportunity for exchange of information in a small group format prior to the larger sessions of the actual conference. CWD plans to hold them again next year.

On Saturday, over 1,500 people spent the day at Magic Kingdom as part of the Education for Children with Diabetes Foundation Benefit Day, sponsored by Abbott Diabetes Care. Families began the day with a Magical Memories Breakfast, i.e., breakfast with the Disney princes and princesses, held at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. Some of our younger conference participants dressed up as princesses themselves to meet the Disney characters! While the weather throughout the day was a challenging 95 degrees and muggy, the Guest Assistance Cards helped us work around the heat and keep everyone healthy. Many thanks to Animas Corporation and CDEs Natalie Bellini, Mary Babin, and Melissa Ringley for being on call at Magic Kingdom, providing diabetes support during the day.

Finally – our deepest thanks to the sponsors who supported this conference and who each year allow us to make it bigger and better: Novo Nordisk, LifeScan, Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, BD, Eli Lilly and Company, Medtronic Diabetes, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, Smiths Medical MD, Inc., Unomedical, the American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, Pelikan Technologies, and SPLENDA®. We are so grateful for your friendship and support.

As you read through the report pages, you'll see images with links. The image link sizes are medium (800 pixels wide and about 250 KBytes), large (1280 pixels wide and about 500 KBytes), and full sized (3000+ pixels wide and up to 6 MBytes). Photographs by Jeff Hitchcock, Brenda Hitchcock, Laura Billetdeaux, Ruth Mattingly, Michelle Rago, Bob Bulgarelli, Stacey Nagel, and Chris Tull. Many thanks to all.


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Julia Mattingly's Collages of Kids filled three panels again
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Pam Loebner once again made the beautiful Friends for Life Signature Quilt Panel, here being signed by Brady with help from his mom Sarah
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During Thursday's Family and Friends banquet, Canadian country music star George Canyon, wearing a green bracelet, wowed the audience with his wonderful voice and guitar skills
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During Friday's Dessert with the Faculty, families met with Bruce Buckingham, Fran Kaufman, Stu Weinzimer, Henry Anhalt and many others from the conference faculty
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Louis (kneeling), from Australia, was diagnosed the Friday before the Friends for Life conference while attending a different event at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. Led by CWD dad Nabil Elarbi, CWD teens reached out to Louis and, after being discharged from the hospital, he and his family joined as honored guests
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Following Saturday's Magical Memories Breakfast, CWD families headed to the Magic Kingdom
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