Back to Conferences 2011 Friends for Life Conference Report

Friends for Life 2011 Logo

Fourth of July holiday week in Orlando. Hot, muggy, and full of excitement, as several thousand Friends for Life participants began to arrive at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. This was our sixth Friends for Life conference at this particular venue (our 12th Friends for Life Orlando), and many commented that it felt like their 'CWD Home!'

While hundreds of families arrived on Friday and Saturday to enjoy the long holiday weekend at the Resort and in the Orlando theme parks, the FFL move-in crew arrived on Sunday and rolled up their sleeves to get to work first thing Monday morning. The team moved six storage units of conference materials – moving each box by hand into a UHaul truck, and then by hand off the truck into the Convention Center. It was hot, sweaty work, and our amazing team got all of the boxes and equipment moved by mid-afternoon Monday.

By the time the conference began, there were several thousand participants on site from as far away as Japan, Indonesia, Denmark, Colombia, and the UK. There were about 800 first timers this year, representing families from across the U.S. and internationally. The First-Timers all wore ribbons on their name badges so that we could find them easily and welcome them! The First-Timers represented about a quarter of our conference participants this year. They had some very special activities – and their own First Timers Welcome Area - to help them meet each other and feel more at home at the Friends for Life conference. First Timer Hospitality coordinators Nabil Elarbi, Lauren Lanning, and Tom Karlya did a great job at making everyone feel welcome. Thank you as well to the many 'old timers,' both kids and adults, who volunteered their time, experience, and hugs to the first timers welcome area which was open Tuesday through Thursday. And many thanks to Sanofi-Aventis for sponsoring the First-Timers reception and welcome area.

Many VIPs were on hand throughout the conference to meet and inspire the children and families, including Ironman Triathlete Jay Hewitt and NFL Player Kendall Simmons, both sponsored by Novo Nordisk. Both of these gentlemen brought their families to experience Friends for Life, and it was really special to have them with us! Team Type 1 was also present in many ways at FFL – in sessions and in the exhibit hall. Jackson, the Labrador retriever with type 1 diabetes, made his 2nd appearance as FFL special guest. He always had a ready Jackson Smile for anyone wanting to stop by and pet him or offer a doggie hug. Many thanks to Drs. Mike Richards and Chuck Wiedmeyer for arranging Jackson's visit with us this year.

Crystal Bowersox – with her powerful voice and wonderful onstage energy – was even more amazing in her direct interactions with the children. She was approachable and genuine, answered their questions, posed for photos, and spent hours doing meet-n-greets with FFL participants. A huge thank you to OneTouch® for sponsoring Crystal's visit to Friends for Life on Thursday.

Sports Central was back this year in a great space offering lots of activities! Sponsored by Novo Nordisk, Sports Central provided a place for kids and adults alike to get some exercise playing basketball, soccer, volleyball, dodgeball or simply working out on the mats with hula hoops, jump ropes, or weights. Sports Central offered Open Gym on Tuesday, Weds, and Saturday, and then evening hours on Thurs and Friday. There were specific times for the kids to spend with the athletes and sports activities on Thursday and Friday during sessions. Many thanks to Coordinator Rick Philbin and SC staff Judith and Danny Ambrosini, Jimmy Dodson, Liz Jones, Bill King, Jen Alexander, Kurt Bauman, Ben Stroud, James Stroud, Ellen Esterhay, Ryan DeGroff, Alex Bush, and to the many, many volunteers who gave their energy (and sweat) to keep things running smoothly in the area.

Saturday featured a new all-day celebration of our CWD families called Family Day at the Coronado. A huge thank you to Eli Lilly and Company for understanding the vision and purpose of this day when first discussed, and sponsoring it down to the last detail. Please see the Saturday report for details!

This year's Friends for Life was supported by the efforts, energies, and plain old elbow grease of about 200 volunteers. These volunteers range from CWD staff who leave their regular jobs and give their time to this conference for over a week to first timers who volunteer a couple of hours helping here and there, learning the ropes. And everything in between. These people hold the conference together, watch over your children, monitor sessions, and in general, move everything forward in a very special way. We all owe them many, many thanks for their partnership.

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, OneTouch®, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly and Company, Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, Tandem Diabetes Care, Medtronic Diabetes, Unomedical, the American Diabetes Association, Dex4, the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. On behalf of the thousands of people you touched at Friends for Life 2011, we are so grateful for your friendship and support.


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Crystal Bowersox shows off her green FFL bracelet
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Joe Solowiejczyk, recipient of the 2011 Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award, with his father Henry
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Herb Bryant flew in from Afghanistan to be with his family at Friends for Life
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Kendall Simmons added his green FFL bracelet -- and two Super Bowl victory rings -- to the mix
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[ Report Intro | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday
Sponsors | Photos | Other Write Ups | Event Announcement ]

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