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  Back to Harbor Beach 2012 Conference Harbor Beach 2012 Faculty

The Conference Faculty

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Natalie Bellini, RN, CDE, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was a young child. Within a year of finishing nursing school, she started to care for people with diabetes, focusing first on diabetes in pregnancy then pediatrics and insulin requiring adults. She has worked on the medical side of camps for children and teens in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She has spoken nationally and internationally as an expert in both working with teens and their parents with diabetes as well as infusion set choice, usage and maintenance. Her fundamental goal when developing the teenage curriculum for Children with Diabetes conferences is that each and every teen that attends finds a passion in life and pursues it. She is currently studying to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Natalie is a senior territory manager with Animas Corporation and mom to Erin, who is now a senior in college.

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Korey Hood, PhD, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Staff Psychologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Dr. Hood 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. He also serves on several national committees for the ADA and is on editorial boards for Diabetes Care and the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Dr. Hood is the author of a recent book entitled Type 1 Teens: A Guide to Managing Your Life with Diabetes. 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 a decade managing 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.

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Tom Karlya, Vice President of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, is commonly known throughout the diabetes community as Diabetes Dad, used virtually everywhere, including his monthly column which appears at www.dLife.com/diabetesdad. He's been active since his daughter, Kaitlyn, was diagnosed in 1992 at the age of two. In 2009, his son Rob was also diagnosed, at age 13. Tom has been introduced to the NY State Capitol, testified in Washington, D.C., appeared at diabetes-related events at the United Nations and has lectured across the US about being a Diabetes Dad. He received numerous commendations for his work in the Katrina efforts where he was instrumental in organizing aid to over 10,000 people with diabetes. Tom was awarded The Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award from CWD in 2008 among many other awards from groups and organizations. For 12 years as an actor, he starred in the New York Production of Tony 'N Tina's Wedding, with the original Company and also at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., in Summer of the 17th Doll. His film, lbs., was at the Sundance Film Festival, and appeared in Unsolved Mysteries, Spin City, The Cosby Show, NYPD Blue, Law and Order, America's Most Wanted, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and more as well as numerous commercials. He won 13 Telly Awards, a FREDDIE Award, and was nominated for an Emmy Award while Executive Producer of dLife on CNBC. Tom will tell you that above everything else, he's just a CWD Dad.

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Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Exercise Physiologist who has had type 1 diabetes for 25 years. He owns and operates Integrated Diabetes Services, a private practice located just outside of Philadelphia specializing in intensive insulin therapy for children and adults with Type-1 diabetes. He and his staff of diabetes educators provide consultations throughout the world via phone and internet. Gary earned a BA from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Master of Science from Benedictine University. He received his diabetes training with the Joslin Diabetes Center. In addition to serving on the Children With Diabetes faculty, Gary serves on the Board of Directors for the Diabetes Exercise & Sports Association and is an active volunteer for the ADA, JDRF and Setebaid Diabetes Camps. Gary has written four books and dozens of articles on various topics in intensive diabetes management. He has received several awards for his teaching tools and techniques, and speaks regularly at regional, national and international conferences. A husband, father of four and avid sports fan, Gary has been a pump user since 1994, and a CGM and Symlin user since 2006.

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Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Ph.D., C.D.E., Pediatric Psychologist, Associate professor of Psychiatry, Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois. She has been a certified diabetes educator for over 20 years and is an author of numerous research articles, and a co-author of a book on transitioning from pediatric to adult care. Dr. Weissberg-Benchell works with children, teenagers and their families to facilitate adaptation and coping with diabetes and other chronic conditions.


The Teen Faculty

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Natalie Bellini, RN, CDE, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was a young child. Within a year of finishing nursing school, she started to care for people with diabetes, focusing first on diabetes in pregnancy then pediatrics and insulin requiring adults. She has worked on the medical side of camps for children and teens in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She has spoken nationally and internationally as an expert in both working with teens and their parents with diabetes as well as infusion set choice, usage and maintenance. Her fundamental goal when developing the teenage curriculum for Children with Diabetes conferences is that each and every teen that attends finds a passion in life and pursues it. She is currently studying to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Natalie is a senior territory manager with Animas Corporation and mom to Erin, who is now a senior in college.

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Marissa Hitchcock, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 24 months old. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing in 2009 and works as a nurse in Tampa, Florida. She loves working with kids who have diabetes. Marissa brings her experiences as a diabetes camp counselor, nurse, and young adult with diabetes as she works with kids and teens at CWD's conferences.

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Jeff Schmidt is dad to Brandon and Rhiannon, husband to Brandy, and "Schmidty" to the CWD teens. Jeff has been a Marine for the last 16 years and is currently stationed in North Carolina. Jeff has served as CWD staff for several years (since the family attended their first conference), working with both the tween and teen groups. He also has been an advocate for military families receiving the assistance they need. Jeff loves working with the kids at CWD conferences and is continually amazed by their strength and determination.

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Chris Tull is first and foremost Trevor's dad and Bernadette's husband. Since Trevor's diagnosis in late 2002, Chris served as a Legislative Chair and Diabetes Advocate, lobbying in his local districts and on Capitol Hill for diabetes funding and awareness. After attending his first CWD conference in 2003, Chris became very involved with CWD conferences, serving as staff for the teen program and overseeing all security matters for each and every conference. His diabetes claim to fame? In his eagerness to remove the air bubbles from Trevor's syringe the first time he gave a shot, he flicked it so hard that he bent the needle, causing his son to proclaim, "Oh, Dad's going to be good at this!" Chris is a police officer in Virginia Beach, and a former Marine.

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Jim Vail was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 19 while he was a sophomore at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Jim graduated with a degree in Media Communications and was a producer for CNBC Business news in Washington, D.C., for nine years all the while wrestling with the unpredictability of NPH and Regular insulin. After finally going on a pump in October of 2001 and 'getting his life back,' Jim pursued Animas Corporation, the maker of his insulin pump, for a job and a chance to reach others with diabetes. Jim made the jump from CNBC and has been with Animas Corporation since April 2002.

The Tween Faculty

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Justin Abel attended his first CWD conference in 2002 after his daughter Saylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2001. 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. He is also dad to Sierra, who is a teen volunteer with CWD.


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Born in Cleveland, Ohio during the time of the burning of the great Cuyahoga River, Neil Benchell loves to make children laugh. He attended the Family Support Weekend last year for the first time as the spouse of one of the faculty members, but was so lonely roaming the beach by himself that he decided to help with the tweens this year. No doubt he’ll have much more fun than the kids. In his spare time, Neil tries his hand at being a patent litigator.

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Carolyn Billetdeaux graduated from NYU with a degree in international business and Spanish and currently works as a sustainability consultant. She is older sister to Sam, who has had diabetes for over 13 years. Carolyn presents type 1 diabetes as a family disease: it affects everyone. She was a founding member of IDYA and founded the Supplies branch of the Children with Diabetes Foundation in 2003. She loves traveling and meeting other CWD families.

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Nabil Elarbi, father of four wonderful children, resides in King of Prussia, PA. He became involved with diabetes in December 2003, when his daughter Maryam was diagnosed with diabetes at age 10. He spent his first night at the hospital searching the internet for information on his laptop and stumbled onto the CWD website. It was then that he decided that his family was going to attend the 2004 Friends for Life conference in California. The entire family has been hooked ever since and look forward to it as the highlight of their year. Nabil has always had a special touch working with youth and young adults. He enjoys reading, traveling, and promoting health education in under-served communities. Nabil owns a small Healthcare IT consulting firm.

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Lynn Smits is the mother of two wonderful daughters, Wendy and Caroline. Caroline was diagnosed with diabetes in July 2001 at age 8. The family attended their first Friends for Life Conference in 2003 and they have been attending conferences ever since. Immediately after their first conference, Lynn went home and found a new endocrinologist for Caroline after seeing first-hand that there was a better way to manage diabetes. While diabetes is always there, Lynn and her family have chosen to incorporate it into their lives and not to make it the focus of everyday life. At home in Aiken, SC, Lynn is a social worker who coordinates services for people with autism.

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Adam Town, BSN, RN, graduated from the University of Cincinnati's nursing program in 2009. Adam enjoys working with all children and is interested in pediatric nursing. He lives and works in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. Adam enjoys sports of all kinds with a particular interest in baseball. Adam's fiance has had type 1 diabetes for over 22 years.

The Elementary Faculty

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Sunshine Abel, LVN, is the mother of two beautiful girls, Sierra and Sailor. She attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, after Sailor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Ever since then, Sunshine 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, including her Aunt Libby. Sunshine, husband Justin, and Aunt Libby all have volunteered for several years at Friends for Life conferences.


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Lauren Lanning, mom of Monica, 17, dx 8/96, pumping 5/99, CGM 9/05, and Sarah, 15 ... her CWD "sig line." Lauren became involved with CWD shortly after her daughter was diagnosed in 1996. She has been involved in the CWD diabetes conferences since the very first gathering in Orlando in 2000, where she volunteered to make name badges. Lauren now coordinates the Elementary Programming for every CWD conference. Back home in Denver, she has served on the boards of the JDRF and CWD Foundation. She and her husband Steve have chaired and coached her local JDRF Ride team for many years. Lauren has worked as an elementary school computer teacher and now works at The Children's Diabetes Foundation at Denver as the IT Manager.

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Chelsea Meredith, age 20, has grown up around diabetes for the past eleven years; her brother Jeremy was diagnosed in 2000. She attended her first Friends for Life conference with her family in 2003 and has been to countless CWD events since that time. She loves kids and is a dance and acrobatics teacher for young children. Chelsea attends the University of South Florida St. Petersburg where she is studying history and philosophy as an Honors student. She is also an aerialist intending to run away with the circus, after college, of course! She spends all of her free time hanging from the rafters on a trapeze.

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Michelle Rago is an attorney and mom of two children with diabetes. Her son Trent was diagnosed at age 4 in 2000. Her family adopted daughter Maya -- diagnosed at one month -- from foster care in 2006. Her daughter Michela is proud to be a "Type 3" caregiver. Michelle is active with the American Diabetes Association Legal Advocacy group. She was awarded the Ben Teel Memorial Prize for Public Service at Harvard (where she founded a homeless shelter); the Charles Evan Hughes Fellowship for Public Service at Columbia Law School (where she represented children in foster care and worked on desegregation); and the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award (for her work with CWD families).

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Wendy Smits is a junior nursing student at the University of South Carolina. She and her family attended their first CWD event in 2003, two years after her younger sister, Caroline, was diagnosed with diabetes. Wendy loves working with children and is excited to be working with the elementary kids at CWD conferences.


Childcare

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Sierra Abel is attending the University of South Carolina where she is studying law. She 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 and her family have been involved with CWD for several years now and she is excited to finally work with the kids.

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Mary Babin, RN, BSN, CDE is one of the first clinical employees at Animas Corporation and the first coordinator of childcare for the little ones at the CWD conferences. Mary leads a team of certified diabetes educators providing childcare in a safe environment for kids under age six 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 blood glucose management. As National Director of Clinical Services at Animas Corporation, she is responsible for overseeing diabetes and pump educators throughout the US. Mary has devoted her career to the world of medicine. As a graduate of Eastern University and Presbyterian School of Nursing, Mary has been in intensive care nursing for over 25 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for 15. 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!

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Intissar Ben Halim, MSS, is mom to Maryam, Zakariyya, Abdalla, and Yaseen, and wife to Nabil. She and her family been involved with CWD conferences since 2004. She enjoys meeting other CWD parents and families and sharing stories and challenges, especially now that she has two teens. She and her family reside in King-of-Prussia, Pennsylvania.

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Carolyn Meredith is mom to Chelsea, Jeremy, and Bailey and wife to Rich. Jeremy was diagnosed with diabetes in May 2000 at the age of 6. He started on an insulin pump in October 2002. Carolyn and her family attended their first Friends for Life conference in 2003 and have been involved with CWD ever since. They have also attended several regional conferences. When not running mom's taxi service, Carolyn works in the office at an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida. She enjoys meeting and sharing with other CWD families.


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Brandy Schmidt is Jeff's wife (Schmidty to the teens) and mother of two, Brandon, dx'd in 1997, and Rhiannon, dx'd 2009. When Brandon was diagnosed, Brandy came home from the hospital and found CWD on the first search. She has been addicted to CWD since then. She has been an advocate for all military families dealing with diabetes. She helped implement a gluten free policy in San Diego county public schools when Brandon was diagnosed with celiac in 2005. She has been dubbed the "Gluten Free Police" at conferences. Brandy now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids, four dogs and a bearded dragon!

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Caroline Smits is currently a college student at Aiken Technical College in South Carolina where she is majoring in medical assisting. Caroline was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in July 2001 at the age 8. Caroline and her family became part of the CWD family when they attended their first Friends For Life conference in 2003 and have actively been involved with CWD ever since. Caroline enjoys working with the youth in her area through various social programs and is excited to become part of the CWD staff this year!

CWD Staff

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Jeff Hitchcock is the creator, editor, webmaster and president of Children with Diabetes. After earning a degree in computational mathematics in 1981, Jeff worked in high tech and traveled the world, meeting Brenda, who would become his wife, in Africa. He worked in defense related industries until 1995, when he started a small Internet company and launched Children with Diabetes. He subsequently worked at LEXIS-NEXIS and Pearson plc on Internet initiatives, and now works full time bringing Children with Diabetes to you.

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Mike Schurig, MS, RD, LD, CDE, serves as Conferences and Content Manager for Children With Diabetes. As a diabetes educator, registered dietitian and person with type 1 diabetes since the age of 12, Mike has had extensive experience in diabetes education with kids and parents. Mike is active with local ADA activities, regional diabetes educator groups, and the CWD website. His interests are insulin pump education and technical advances in diabetes. Mike enjoys visiting the nearby theme parks and enjoying Central Florida.

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Brenda Hitchcock is mom to Marissa (dx'd at 24 months), Kathryn, and Tim. She's worked side by side with her husband Jeff on Children with Diabetes since it began in 1995. Brenda brings a mom's perspective to diabetes care, is editor of the "Ask the Diabetes Team" section of the CWD web site, and helps out in countless ways at CWD's conferences.

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Julia Mattingly is mom to 16 year old Hannah and 14 year old Ethan, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10 months and started pumping when he was 3. Julia, Ed, and the kids have been to every Friends for Life conference and most of the regionals as well. Julia coordinates registration at each conference, and you can always find her when you need a smile and a "Hi Y'All!" Julia loves coordinating registration and being able to meet and talk to everyone who walks in the door. Her best CWD memory is from 2000 when she met all of her CWD email moms in Orlando for the first time. She also loves to see the smiles on her children's faces when they re-connect with their CWD friends each summer.

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