After having spent years on the sideline as the "spouse" of one of the faculty members, Neil Benchell decided it was time to get involved with CWD and Friends for Life®. As one of the Teen Staff members, Neil is always in the thick of trying to make the conferences a more memorable experience for all. In addition to his work with CWD, Neil is an attorney practicing in the area of intellectual property litigation, and has represented a number of diabetes-related organizations.
Marissa Town, BSN, RN, CDE, graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and later earned her Certified Diabetes Educator credential. She has had type 1 diabetes since the age of two and has grown up with a passion for helping families living with diabetes. Marissa works as a clinical diabetes specialist at Tandem Diabetes Care with a focus on young adults and optimism. She has always enjoyed working with families with diabetes at CWD conferences, camps and support groups. When she's not spending time with her young son Connor and husband Adam, she's usually playing cards with friends, jogging with her dog Baxter, traveling, or spending time with family.
Melissa Geren was diagnosed with diabetes when she was four. She went to her first Friends for Life Orlando Conference in 2003 and has been attending Friends for Life Conferences ever since. Melissa has three siblings, Sarah, Kayla, Matthew. Matthew also has type 1 diabetes. Melissa graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2013 with a degree in Public Relations and Marketing. Currently living in Milwaukee and working as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at the Woman's Club of Wisconsin.
Sarah Melendez, BSN, RN, mom to Brady, diagnosed in 2004, resides outside of Philadelphia. They have been attending Friends for Life conferences since 2005 and have made CWD an integral part of their lives. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Nursing at West Chester University. Sarah currently works as a Research Nurse for Medical Oncology and Phase 1 Clinical Trials at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.
Deb Ruppert looks forward to meeting and being inspired by the incredible tween team each year. Outside of Children with Diabetes, she is a strategic marketing consultant for healthcare companies and enjoys cooking, college basketball and football, and her two four-legged fur babies.
Jim Stone attended his first Friends for Life conference in 2004. His son, Andrew, was diagnosed with type 1 in 1998 at 20 months of age. Jim, his wife Julia, and Andrew have been active in diabetes advocacy since his diagnosis, with a focus on diabetes accommodations at school. Jim, a retired Army officer, lives in Modesto, California and works as a Public Works manager. He has been a Boy Scout leader for many years, and enjoys working with the Tweens.
Sunshine Abel, LPN, is the mother of Sierra and Sailor. She attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, after Sailor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 2. Sunshine immediately knew she had found a new family and a new home where kids were experiencing the same thing as Sailor. She then made it her mission to involve her whole family. Sunshine is continuing her education working towards her RN degree. Sunshine has been working as a nurse and leader in the youth programs since 2006.
Michelle Dao is 22 years old and studies nursing at the University of Cincinnati. She is involved in a nursing leadership group and the National Student Nurses' Association that provides academic support, advising, leadership and professional development and socialization initiatives. Michelle is also involved in undergraduate research through UC's College of Nursing. Michelle first helped staff childcare at Friends for Life Orlando 2015 and will be working with the elementary kids at this conference.
Jen Hanson, BKin, BEd, MEd, has grown up with type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed in 1987, she has never let diabetes stop her from pursuing her passion. Jen's early beginnings as a campfire-loving, bug-catching, mud-puddle-jumping, tree-climbing tot sparked in her a love for the natural world that has been fostered and frown into a full-blown passion for everything outdoors. Jen has degrees in Kinesiology and Education and specializes in Outdoor and Experiential Health education. Jen is the Executive Director of Connected in Motion, a Toronto-based charity providing outdoor adventure and sport opportunities for people living with type 1 diabetes.
Timothy Hitchcock is currently studying Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Cincinnati. His older sister Marissa was diagnosed with type 1 in 1989. He began working with the elementary program in 2013 and loves everything about it.
Orange Assembly Faculty (Siblings)
As a college and semi-professional athlete, James Stroud focuses on exercise and healthy eating habits as an important part of his daily routine. James has been part of the FFL family ever since his older brother Ben was diagnosed with type 1 over 15 years ago. He can't wait to see old friends and meet new ones at this year's FFL Conference. James works for Dexcom as a sales representative.
Mary Babin, RN, BSN, CDE, has served as the childcare coordinator since the very first CWD conference. Mary leads a team of certified diabetes educators providing care and fun in a safe environment for kids under age five with and without diabetes. Providing this service alleviates the concerns of many parents of kids with diabetes â€“ allowing them to attend the sessions with peace of mind knowing that their children are cared for by skilled professionals. This supports Mary's belief that education is the key to successful diabetes management. Mary has devoted her career to the world of medicine. As a graduate of Eastern University and Presbyterian School of Nursing, Mary currently works as a pediatric endocrine speciality nurse and has been a CDE over 20 years! This busy mom and devoted professional has been involved with CWD since 2001. You can spot her at the conferences-she's the one with the trail of kids behind her!
Alex Bush has attended the Friends for Life Orlando conference for the last seven years and she is excited to work in Childcare again! Alex is a graduate from Chico State University, where she participated on the women's golf team and received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Child Development. She is currently employed at Dexcom, where she assists new patients. Alex is the fiancee of James Stroud, Siblings Program (Orange Team) Leader.
Parker Grand is excited to be on the Friends for Life staff this year as CWD has given him so much support and friendship over the years. Parker has attended every Friends for Life conference since his diagnosis at the age of three in 2002. Parker lives in California where he attends college full-time. He is employed by the California State Parks where he coordinates youth programs, leads guided tours and develops new programs to teach children an appreciation for the history and ecology of the parks. Parker loves working with children of all ages. In his free time you can find him biking, golfing, and volunteering.
Shelley Grand, mom to Parker, diagnosed in 2002, resides in Southern California. Shelley and her family have been attending Friends for Life Orlando conferences since 2003, and they attribute Parkerâ€™s success in managing his type 1 to the knowledge, support and friendship that they have received over the years from attending the FFL conferences. Shelley has been a preschool teacher/director for the past 30 years. She states, â€śWe look forward to attending FFL every year and enjoy being able to give back to a community that has given so much to our family.â€ť
Molly Joynes, 18, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was six. She attended her first Friends for Life conference four months later and has been attending FFL and CWD regional conferences ever since. Molly is the 2nd oldest of four siblings and is currently a biology/pre-med major at California Lutheran University. Molly is excited to be working with kids at the conference who share the same challenges she's faced for the past 12 years. She can't wait to spend time with FFLs both old and new!
Friends for Life® Anaheim 2017 Conference and Expo Introduction - Registration - Sponsors Faculty and Staff - Youth Staff - Program - Youth Program Floor Plan - Exhibitor Application Recent Conference Reports: Anaheim - Orlando - Falls Church
Last Updated: Wednesday March 08, 2017 19:03:18
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