Back to Conference Report Friends for Life 2008 Report - Thursday

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Seven a.m. Bright and early. Well, early anyway. Music with a strong beat. Harold Sanco (otherwise known as Human Caffeine). And – believe it or not – a group of early risers ready to exercise! Thus began Thursday at Friends for Life.

As everyone showed up for a yummy and healthy breakfast in the Atrium and Crystal Ballroom, CWD's Mike Schurig (registered dietitian and conferences manager) watched over the buffets. At breakfast, both gluten free buffet and regular buffets were available and every item on every buffet was marked with a portion size and carb count. This is such valuable information to everyone! Tricia Stewart and Barb Whedon watched over the similar breakfast buffets at our overflow housing at the Residence Inn and the Courtyard.

Shortly before 9 a.m., the kids headed to their sessions, the little ones got settled in childcare, and everyone readied for the keynote address by Psychologist Richard Rubin, who has attended every Friends for Life conference since 2001. The title of his talk: Welcome to the Family. Indeed. Five minutes into the talk, everyone in the room was part of the CWD family. Many thanks to Abbott Diabetes Care for partnering with CWD for both the breakfast and keynote.

Thursday sessions continued with a wide variety of topics on both a beginners and more advanced level. Two rooms in the convention center were devoted specifically to science. While Peter Chase talked with parents about how to understand diabetes research, Ed Damiano and Eda Cengiz presented the most cutting-edge information about the Artificial Pancreas. Norma Sue Kenyon from the Diabetes Research Institute discussed emerging technologies, while Bruce Buckingham presented two sessions about continuous sensors.

Other sessions focused on specific topics such as pumping, managing diabetes at school, and the psychosocial aspects of type 1 diabetes. Joe Solowiejczyk, always a favorite presenter with parents and kids alike, had a standing room only audience for It's Not Just a Numbers Game as well as his session about Growing Up and Letting Go. Paul Madden and Barbara Anderson led several sessions about family dynamics. Fran Kaufman and Nicole Johnson discussed Planning a Pregnancy with a young adult audience.

The kids had an absolutely fabulous time on Thursday. Elementary sessions were offered for children ages 6-9. Elementary leaders Lauren Lanning and Michelle Rago – along with literally dozens of staff and helpers – pulled together an exciting day that included a morning ice breaker, a Scavenger Hunt in the Exhibit Hall, some listening time (with the Diabetes Research Institute's presentation of What's Up Doc), and a session called Experiences, in which small groups of kids met for 20 minutes each with one of the CWD VIP celebrities (climber Sebastien Sasseville, swimmer Jen Alexander, and Mr. Universe Doug Burns).

The Tween (ages 10-12) day was also jam-packed with fun activities! Led by Melissa Ringley and Kim Kelly, the tween sessions included an ice breaker (with some Harold Sanco and Joe Solowiejczyk aerobic time!), discussion and play time in Sports Central with the VIP athletes, and Experiences discussion time with Nicole Johnson, NBA's Chris Dudley, and Sebastien Sasseville. These VIP celebrities shared their insights about growing up and becoming successful people with type 1 diabetes. And the kids had excellent questions for them!

The teens (ages 13-18) had a busy day as well – offsite at the Marriott World Center! At 8:45 a.m. sharp, the teen group boarded buses to the convention space at the MWC. There, they had a morning full of wonderful session choices, from Looking Ahead to College, to Diabetes Around the World. NBA's Chris Dudley and USA Triathlete Jay Hewitt co-presented two sessions back to back called Inspiration and Determination – and their message made a big impact on the kids. Following lunch, the teens had discussion groups followed by an afternoon of swimming and pool volleyball. And luckily, the weather cooperated! Many thanks to teen coordinator Natalie Bellini and her staff for their efforts in a successful day offsite!

Exercise is such an important part of managing diabetes. This year, Sports Central took on a transient nature, and became Roving Sports Central. The athletes visited the various kids' groups for some discussion, and then had play/exercise/sports time in the Yellowtail ballroom and outdoors. It was hot, but very fun! Many thanks to Sports Central Coordinator Rick Philbin – and to his backup Judith Ambrosini (Rick was so busy that Judith ended up moving Roving Sports Central forward all day – without a single hitch!). Also, big thanks to the type 1 athletes who generously shared their time, expertise, stories, and encouragement with both kids and adults: Jen Alexander, Marc Blatstein, Jimmy Dodson, Missy Foy, Doug Burns, Sebastien Sasseville, Zippora Karz, and Team Type 1 bikers Phil Southerland, Joe Eldridge, and Monique Hanley.

The younger crowd – under 6 – had a wonderful time in childcare this year! In response to parent feedback last summer, we made the decision to divide the kids into 3 rooms this year. There was a K room for 5 year olds, a PreK room for 4 year olds, and an 'under 3' room for the littlest conference participants. This went extremely well, and the kids were quite happy with their age-appropriate activities (and nap time!). Snacks were provided to the kids right by childcare – again in response to last year's feedback. Mary Babin once again coordinated childcare – many thanks to Mary and her clinical staff who provided CDE support in all 3 rooms. Also many thanks to the room leaders: Pam Loebner, Stacey Nagel, Catherine Schulz, and Adriana Rodenheiser for a job well done!

On Thursday evening, the annual CWD Family and Friends Banquet was held. Sold out for a couple of months prior to the event, the banquet featured a yummy banquet and an excellent hour-long evening program. Team USA Triathlete Jay Hewitt delivered the Keynote speech. He shared his Finish Line Vision in a very moving story about defining and facing challenges in life. Jay also shared with CWD the crowd that he was very touched by our children and families, and that he would like to continue to be involved with CWD in the future. A standing ovation closed his presentation.

The Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award was presented to Tom Karlya for his amazing 15+ years of work on behalf of children and families with type 1 diabetes. Tom just happened to be one of the Masters of Ceremony for the banquet along with Nicole Johnson, and this award totally caught him by surprise (Nicole was in on it). He was speechless, tearful, and quite moved by the honor. The entire crowd had tears in their eyes as they watched Tom's daughter, Kaitlyn, join him on stage.

The 2008 CWD Friend for Life award was presented to two people this year: Betty Brackenridge and Francine Kaufman. Both women were honored for their commitment to families with type 1 diabetes, their generosity of spirit, and their love of our CWD kids.

Next – a surprise! George Canyon, Canada's Country Music Entertainer of the Year, honored one of our kids with diabetes… Parker Grand from California. George, who has type 1 diabetes, became aware of Parker's advocacy and fund-raising efforts within the CWD community, and he wanted to do something special for him. So – he sent along one of his own guitars. Signed, sealed, and in a box on stage, hiding under the table. He also sent a videotaped message, which was played for Parker as he stood on stage with Animas Corporation's Sue McMonigle. Parker was wonderfully surprised. Thanks to Paul Flynn from Animas Canada and all of George Canyon's crew for making this happen.

As she does each year, Laura Billetdeaux then shared a personal perspective of CWD and a slideshow featuring images from the conferences during the last year. The theme of the presentation was Neighbors – Friends for Life 2008. Laura encouraged everyone in the ballroom to think of the world as one giant neighborhood, with technology as a tool to help bring our neighbors closer to us, any time day or night, anyplace in the world.

Jeff Hitchcock then presented the Unexpected Hero Awards. This year, CWD honored Barbara Anderson and Ken and Adriana Rodenheiser. All three individuals extended friendship and assistance in an extraordinary manner to our 50+ friends visiting from the United Arab Emirates at Friends for Life 2007.

The sponsor awards! Every year, our wonderful sponsors look forward to this time in the banquet, and we didn't let them down. Instead of having the sponsors come on stage this year (the stage honestly wasn't big enough for this crowd!), we had all of the sponsors stand up as we called out their names – and there were literally hundreds of people standing up in the ballroom! Then, with the assistance of Zippora Karz, Harold Sanco, Audrey Finkelstein, and Jonathan Smedley – and ALL of the CWD kids – we had a sponsors/kids Conga Line! It wound throughout the ballroom and atrium, and ended on the dance floor, transitioning the evening's program into the family dance party with DJ Miles!

DJ Miles and Harold Sanco led the exuberant dancing (for all ages!) in the banquet ballroom, while the teens headed outside for their own pool party. The weather cooperated for the pool party, and the ice cream sundae bar even managed to make it out on time (and not melt before everyone got to it!). By 10:30 when the party ended, the dance floor was still crowded – and kids and parents alike were all smiles. It was a great ending to the first full day of sessions.

Many thanks to all of today's sponsors, including Novo Nordisk, LifeScan, Sanofi-Aventis (the yummy lunch buffet!), Unomedical (refreshments in the Exhibit Hall), the American Diabetes Association (sponsor of the Quilt for Life), the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and the JDRF (sponsors of the Science sessions). Many thanks as well to CWD's Platinum Education Partner, Abbott Diabetes Care.


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Dr. Bruce Buckingham spoke about Continuous Glucose Sensing during Thursday's morning session
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Pump companies offered families a chance to try out pumps, and Medtronic also offered CGMS trials.
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We added nine panels to the Quilt for Life at the conference. Here, the first eight are shown on Thursday morning.
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Dr. Alessio Fassano spoke about celiac, which many of our kids and parents also have
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Adam's Elementary Group poses with the Medtronic Diabetes Cameleon during the Scavenger Hunt
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By Thursday at noon, the FFL 2008 Signature Quilt Panel, once again made by Pam Loebner, was nearly completely filled in
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For a life devoted to making a difference for kids with diabetes, Tom Karlya received the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award during Thursday evening's Family and Friends Banquet
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