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.
Someone once asked Mike Singletary, former NFL Chicago Bears linebacker, what his favorite part of the game was. He answered, "The opportunity to play." Since his diagnosis in 1995, Jimmy Dodson has expanded his classic athletic background into various areas of endurance and adventures sports for both the physical and mental challenges, as well as to demonstrate that diabetes is merely a factor that can be managed. Whether it is ice climbing, racing mountain bikes, running the Goofy Challenge, or playing a pick-up game, there aren't many things he has not tried. Over the years, he has been actively involved with CWD, Adventures for the Cure, Mountains for Active Diabetics, IDEA 2000, Insulindependence, Hope on 2 Wheels, JDRF Ride to Cure, and has experiences as a guide, coach, and fitness instructor. Professionally, Jimmy is the Piedmont region biologist for NC State Parks & Recreation with duties as a certified wildlife biologist, registered forester, and wildland firefighter.
Liz Dodson loves running, lifting, sweating, and playing outside. Since becoming a part of the type 1 family eight years ago through her husband Jimmy, she has made exercise and activity a habit in her life, and is constantly inspired by her amazing diabetes family. She has completed a few half marathons, obstacle races, one triathlon, and charity cycling events. She is excited about actively working with all of the families at this year's Friends for Life!
Brian Grant, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002. He loves working with people who have diabetes, and is looking forward to his fifth Friends for Life conference. Brian hopes one day to become a CDE. He currently resides in King of Prussia, PA, and works for Dexcom.
Marissa Town, BSN, RN, CDE, graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She has had type 1 diabetes since the age of 2 and has grown up with a passion for helping families living with diabetes. Marissa works in an adult endocrinology clinic 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.
Justin Abel attended his first CWD conference in 2002 after his daughter Sailor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2001 at age 2. Once he started attending more CWD conferences, his wife Sunshine did not have to twist his arm for him to realize he wanted to get more involved. Justin has been volunteering at CWD conferences since 2006. He is also dad to Sierra, who is a young adult volunteer with CWD.
Will Cross is a world-class expedition leader and athlete. Raised in England until age 12, Cross has worked continually for more than 35 years to overcome challenges related to living with diabetes. Cross wants to show the millions of people with diabetes that they don't have to be defined by their disease and that those with the condition can manage it successfully. On May 23, 2006, as part of the NovoLog® Peaks and Poles Challenge, Cross became the first American and first person with diabetes to climb the highest peak on each continent and trek to the North and South Poles. Cross has successfully ascended Elbrus, Denali, Aconcagua, Mt. Blanc, the Matterhorn, Grand Teton, Kilimanjaro, Vinson, and Alpamayo and has reached the summit of Mt. Everest. He has also participated in expeditions to Patagonia, Mountains of the Moon, the Sahara Desert, and the Thar Desert of India. Will holds a Bachelor of Arts from Allegheny College, a Master of Science in Education from Duquesne University, and Secondary Principal’s Certification from the University of Pittsburgh, where he specialized in educational programs for troubled teens.
Ivana Jonjic is 20 years old and a sophomore at the University of Richmond. She is currently studying Business Administration, Finance, and Marketing. She attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2009. Ivana loves working with kids, and after her first conference she knew would love to volunteer one day! She's looking forward to being on the staff this year!
Sarah Lanning is a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering student at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She attended her first CWD conference at the age of four and has been to almost every FFL since. Sarah loves traveling, playing guitar, cake decorating, crafting and biking. Sarah is ecstatic to give back to the CWD community and continue growing our family.
Sarah Melendez, BSN, RN, mom to Brady, diagnosed in 2004, resides outside of Philadelphia. They have been attending conferences since 2005 and have made CWD an integral part of their lives. A graduate of West Chester University with a Bachelor Degree in Nursing, Sarah currently works at with an orthopedic practice. Along with her passion for Diabetes and her goals to obtain her CDE, Sarah is extensively involved in local and overseas humanitarian aid. She has worked with disaster relief projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and has traveled to Haiti for medical trips, working extensively to schedule and finance pediatric orthopedic surgeries.
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.
Currently studying marketing at Canisius College in Buffalo New York, Josh Guidie is a volunteer firefighter working on becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Josh has been a volunteer with his local JDRF chapter and a delegate in Children's Congress. He was diagnosed with type 1 in 2004. Josh and his family attended Friends For Life Orlando from 2009 through 2014, and he recently volunteered as elementary staff at the Friends For Life Canada 2105 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.
Monica Lanning is 22 years old and just graduated with a bachelors in biology from the University of Chicago. She is going to Boston University this fall to work on a Masters in Medical Sciences and Clinical Investigation. She currently works as a research assistant the the Monogenic Diabetes Registry at the Kovler Diabetes Center in Chicago. She loves to get crafty, bake, hike, and travel. Monica has had diabetes for 20 years and has been to every FFL conference (all 16!) as well as many regionals. She calls her CWD friends "family" and is excited for this yearâ€™s "family reunion!""
Chris Opdenaker is mom to Hannah and Rachael and wife to Jim. Hannah was diagnosed in 1999 and the Opdenaker Family has been involved with CWD ever since. She has worked with youth for many years and is always excited to be a part of the Elementary program. Chris works in the printing industry and has supplied the conference t-shirts for 14 years.
Green Gathering Faculty (Type 1 Kids)
Maryam Elarbi was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 10. Eight months later her family began attending Children with Diabetes conferences, and they haven't looked back since. This year, Maryam is thrilled to join the newly formed Green Team, developing T1 youth programming at CWD. In her free time, you will most likely to find Maryam hiking at Valley Forge Park, taking photos of trees and latte art, or keeping up with current events. Maryam graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2015 with a degree in International Studies and a minor in History. She is passionate about non-profit work, and specializes in Marketing & Communications.
Korey K. Hood, PhD, is Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University where he directs NIH-funded research projects and provides clinical care aimed at promoting health and quality of life outcomes in youth with diabetes and their families. Dr. Hood actively investigates the human factors associated with the uptake of diabetes technology and works with Dr. Bruce Buckingham on his team's artificial pancreas project. Dr. Hood also serves on national committees for the American Diabetes Association and is on editorial boards for Diabetes Care and the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Dr. Hood is the author of Type 1 Teens: A Guide to Managing Your Life with Diabetes and a recent book entitled Teens With Diabetes: A Clinician's Guide (with authors Michael Harris, PhD and Jill Weissberg-Benchell, PhD, CDE). His research, clinical care, and service are fueled by his personal experience with type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed as a young adult and has spent more than 14 years managing type 1 diabetes. He is passionate about helping children and teens with diabetes, and their families, make diabetes a part of their lives while not letting it run their lives.
Kelsey Martin was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 12, and attended her first conference two months later. After growing up through CWD, she worked with the Elementary and Tween age groups for several years prior to joining the Green Team. Kelsey remains active with her local JDRF chapter, and serves on the advisory board for the University of Kansas Cray Diabetes Center. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and works for public relations and marketing firm FleishmanHillard where she specializes in consumer marketing and nonprofit clients. When she's not traveling to a CWD event or to see a friend in another city, Kelsey enjoys reading, taking gym classes and trying new recipes.
Orange Assembly Faculty (Siblings)
Sierra Abel is the older sister to Sailor Abel, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2001. Sierra attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, where she was in the elementary group. She has now worked her way through all the programs, graduating from the teens at FFL 2011. Sierra graduated from Mercy College in 2016 with a degree in Public Relations focusing on Marketing. She is excited to be a leader of the siblings group and working with friends and family.
Carolyn Billetdeaux has been attending FFL conferences since the age of 13. After growing up through the Teen and College Age programs, she now works as Coordinator of the Sibling Program. She presents diabetes as a family disease and focuses on sharing the sibling side of the experience. Carolyn majored in management and organizational behavior at New York University, and currently works as a Sustainability Consultant in the metro-DC area.
Robert Bulgarelli, DO, is a member of Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia and his practice is located in the Riddle hospital division of the Main Line Health System. He recently served as National Medical Director of Highmark BCBS where he worked in Population Health Management with a focus on Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome. He has previously served as the Director of Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine for Main Line Health System, an affiliate of Jefferson Health System in suburban Philadelphia. He is board certified in Cardiology and Integrative Medicine. Dr. Bulgarelli is Co-Founder of Whole Life Health, a Behavioral Health company whose mission is the transformation of Health Care Delivery. His main area of interest and expertise includes practice of Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine. He is a skilled practitioner and teacher of meditation and is a board certified Medical Acupuncturist. In 2002, Dr. Bulgarelli was the 1st Cardiologist ever to complete the two-year long Associate Fellowship in Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona. He has been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, 6ABC and CN8. He has been published and quoted in many local and national magazines, including Main Line Today, Men's Health and Shape. A graduate of Philadelphia College of Medicine in 1990, Dr. Bulgarelli completed his medical internship at Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Darby, PA and his medical residency and cardiology fellowship at Lankenau Medical Center. He has continually practiced within the Main Line Health System his entire clinical career spanning 20 years.
Zakariyya Elarbi started attending CWD conferences more than a decade ago, after his twin sister Maryam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He knew then that diabetes would forever play an important role in his life. After years of attending conferences as a tween and teen, Zak is thrilled to give back to the CWD community as a leader on the Siblings Staff, working alongside close friends and family. In his free time, Zak enjoys reading, hitting the weights, and catching up on old episodes of Friends. Zak is currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh studying Finance and Supply Chain Management, and is looking forward to graduating in the spring of 2016.
Mary Bulgarelli, 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, 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!
Kimball Dunlap, BSN, RN, CSN, is the mother of four adult children, two have lived with Type 1 diabetes for more than a twelve years each. She was inspired to pursue a mid-life career change and earned a Nursing degree following the families first time attending Friends for Life. Kimball's interest in children's health lead her to earn her school nursing certification. When she is not working as school nurse in suburban Philadelphia she is an avid fan of Disney Parks.
Chris Joynes, RN, attended her first Friends for Life conference after her 6 year old daughter Molly was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 2005. Chris loves working with children and has been a pediatric emergency department nurse for 11 years. She is excited to be full time staff and to give back to an organization that "provided my family with support, hope, motivation, and smiles once Molly was diagnosed." Chris is also mom to Andrew, Elizabeth, and Benjamin, who have grown up with CWD.
Friends for Life Falls Church 2016 Conference and Expo Introduction - Registration - Sponsors Faculty and Staff - Youth Staff - Nightscout Faculty Program - Youth Program - Hotel Floor Plan - Childcare Form Recent Conference Reports: UK 2015 - Canada 2015 - Anaheim 2015 - Orlando 2015
Last Updated: Thursday March 03, 2016 22:01:32
This Internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult with a physician or other health care professional.
This site is published by T-1 Today, Inc. (d/b/a Children with Diabetes), a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which is responsible for its contents. Our mission is to provide education and support to families living with type 1 diabetes.
© Children with Diabetes, Inc. 1995-2018. Comments and Feedback.