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  Back to 2006 Conference Report Friends for Life 2006 - Thursday

Friends for Life: Orlando 2006 - Thursday

Hot. Humid. Hot. Humid. Hot. Humid.

Thursday started off with the CWD Fun Run at 7:30 a.m., sponsored by Novo Nordisk. U.S. National Aerobic Champion Harold Sanco warmed up the participants with some movement to music, followed by some inspirational words by Extreme Adventurer Will Cross, followed by the starting whistle! And the kids and parents were off and running. Once around the Renaissance Hotel grounds was plenty for just about everyone, given the weather! Breakfast was healthy and yummy. Eggs, fruit, cereal – a great start to the morning! The gluten free buffet was available and every item on every buffet was marked with a portion size and carb count. Many thanks to CWD Dietitian Mike Schurig for providing this valuable information to everyone! Also, thanks to Heather Kyllo and Janace and Bill Grigsby (alias The Food Police) for helping Mike staff the buffet tables and keep an eye on any concerns.

While kids headed off to their age group meetings and the little ones were registered for childcare with Coordinator Mary Babin, Richard Rubin began his keynote session. Dr. Rubin is a renowned psychologist and author – and he is also a CWD dad. He has been to every single Friends for Life conference, sharing his perspective and his love with all of our families. This year, Dr. Rubin addressed the topic: Then, Now, and Always – Friends for Life. He provided a historical view of how the CWD conferences have developed and how we all truly have become friends for life. The session was full of wonderful (old) photos, and it was fun seeing our kids grow up right before our eyes!

The rest of Thursday's sessions offered a wide variety of topics on both a beginners and more advanced level. There were sessions on research and sessions on pumping; sessions about what to do with diabetes at school, and sessions about managing hypoglycemia. There were also discussion groups for grandparents, young adults, and moms. It was a busy day. CWD was happy to welcome back as faculty Gary Scheiner, John Walsh, Betty Brackenridge, Crystal Jackson, Mike Schurig, Kim Kelly, Fran Kaufman, Bob Bulgarelli, and David Harlan. And we were happy to welcome as new faculty Irl Hirsch, Bill Clarke, Joe Solowiejcyzk, and Scott Scolnick.

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 an ice breaker with Will Cross, a Scavenger Hunt, some time with the VIP athletes in Sports Central, and some candid discussion time. Big thank yous to Marissa Hitchcock, Malcolm Lazarow, and Monica Lanning for leading the diabetes discussion group with Betty Brackenridge, and to Sarah Lanning for leading the Siblings Discussion group with Richard Rubin.

The Tweeners (ages 10-12) day was also jam-packed with fun activities! Led by Melissa Ringley and Kim Kelly, the tweener sessions included an ice breaker (with some Harold Sanco aerobic time!), discussion and play time in Sports Central with the VIP athletes, and some in-depth discussions and role-playing about stress and the challenges of being in middle school. The days activities also included two discussion groups – one for tweeners with diabetes and one for siblings. Thanks to Sam Billetdeaux and Kelsey Martin, along with Dr. Nathaniel Clark, for leading the diabetes discussion group, and many thanks to Kathryn Hitchcock and Richard Rubin for leading the siblings discussion group.

The teens (ages 13-18) had a busy day as well. Teen staff Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Chris Tull, and Neal Billetdeaux immediately divided the larger group of 160 into more manageable smaller groups and discussed the ground rules for the conference. The one main rule? The teens needed to participate in all four sessions on Thursday in order to join the Islands of Adventure Day on Friday. Ground rules set, checklists distributed… and the teens were up and moving. Literally. Harold Sanco joined them for a half hour of aerobics – it was a little too early in the morning for some teens, but others really got into it and enjoyed the aerobics! The teen day also included a Scavenger Hunt, time with the VIP athletes and sports panel, and discussion groups about having diabetes, being a sibling of someone with diabetes, and dealing with stress in general. Thank you to Carolyn Billetdeaux and Stefan Rubin for facilitating the siblings discussion group! Later in the afternoon, some of the teens listened to Clare Rosenfeld's wonderful presentation about Diabetes Across the World, while others interacted with Natalie in a discussion entitled What Are Your Parents Afraid Of?

In Sports Central, CWD Sports Coordinator Rick Philbin organized a panel of athletes that were so very helpful, interesting, and inspirational. They included Jay Leeuwenburg, Chris Dudley, Doug Burns, Phil Southerland, Harry Mahaffey, and Kris Freeman. After interacting with the kids, the athletes took the kids to different parts of Sports Central (or outside) for some games and exercise. It was hot, but fun. Where else would you get to play football with Jay Leeuwenburg and basketball with Chris Dudley – and tug of war with Doug Burns – all in one day?

On Thursday evening, the annual CWD Family and Friends Banquet was held. Sponsored by LifeScan and Novo Nordisk, it was truly an extraordinary event. Jeff Hitchcock presented Friend for Life awards to Dean Kamen and Al Mann, and each of those gentlemen spoke for a few minutes about the years they devoted in developing the first insulin pumps. One of the most touching moments occurred when Jeff Hitchcock invited all of those in the ballroom who were pumpers to step forward on the dance floor in front of the stage. It took literally five minutes for everyone to come forward, and there were hundreds. Following the Friend for Life awards, Deputy Surgeon General RADM Kenneth Moritsugu addressed the group. In his very inspirational and moving speech, he encouraged the kids and parents alike to take the time to celebrate our time together at Friends for Life, and to be positive and hopeful about the future.

The Natalie Bellini Teens Choice Award was presented to Chris Tull for his behind-the-scenes work in making sure each of our conference venues are safe and appropriate for families with teens (Chris is also a teen staffer). For her tireless legal assistance for CWD families struggling in the educational system, Michelle Rago was awarded the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award. It was the first time any of us had ever seen Michelle speechless!

Following these awards, CWD teens Kristin Dannemiller and Megan Barrett requested 'stage time.' They presented surprise 'nondiabetic awards' to Jeff Hitchcock and Laura Billetdeaux for giving so much on behalf of children and families with diabetes. The awards were a total surprise and much appreciated.

As she does each year, Laura then shared a slideshow perspective of The Last Year in CWD. The first portion of the slideshow was a tribute to Laura's parents who both passed away in the previous year, and who left her with the words of wisdom: Money and time are tools; don't horde them, but spend them wisely. Laura shared what that meant to her in the context of CWD kids and families. The remainder of the slideshow was a celebration in photos and music of CWD volunteers and our wonderful kids!

The sponsor awards – ah! – the sponsor awards! Our wonderful sponsors look forward to this each year, although they won't fess up to that. Each year, CWD finds some way to bring the sponsors of the conference up on stage and have some fun. This year was a huge surprise. Not a single person in the audience knew what was in store. As the sponsors lined up, ostensibly to sing YMCA, they were joined onstage by CWD dad and dLife's Tom Karlya. Tom played up the audience a bit, assured the sponsors that they were truly dreadful singers, and that they really needed some help.

As the audience clapped encouragement, Tom Karlya introduced none other than American Idol's Kevin Covais! The kids – and the parents – were so excited to have him with us at the conference and to hear him perform! Kevin sang several numbers (he first sang YMCA with the sponsors – it was much better this time around) and then answered kids' questions for a few minutes. Later in the evening, he showed up in Sports Central for Teen Night with Chris Dudley and shot hoops with everyone. Kevin thoroughly enjoyed his experience with CWD families, and we hope he comes back in the future. Many thanks to dLife, LifeScan, and Novo Nordisk for sponsoring Kevin's appearance at the conference!

Finally, Thursday ended with some pretty exuberant singing and dancing in the banquet ballroom. DJ Tai played fabulous dance music, and people of every age were on the dance floor!

Many thanks to all of today's sponsors, volunteers, speakers, and participants!

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Kevin Covais of Americal Idol fame rescued CWD's generous sponsors during their rendition of "YMCA" and then entertained a surprised and thrilled CWD audience
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CWD families danced the night away after the banquet
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After a great warm up (in Orlando?), Jonathan gets ready to start the Fun Run
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Richard Rubin opened the sessions with a look back at six years of CWD conferences. Families had dozens of sessions to choose from all day on Thursday and Friday.
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Taking advantage of their day on site, teens spent time in the Exhibit Hall on Thursday, and some took time to chat with Nicole Johnson Baker at the Animas booth ...
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... and with the panel of athletes -- Doug Burns, Chris Dudley, Jay Leeuwenburg, Phil Southerland, Harry Mahaffey, and Will Cross.
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A beautiful ice sculpture from the Novo Nordisk booth graced each side of the stage in the Family and Friends Banquet hall
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Kids (and adults) who use insulin pumps signed the Friend for Life awards for ...
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... Dean Kamen and Al Mann, who both received Friend for Life awards for their pioneering work on insulin pumps
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Deputy Surgeon General RADM Kenneth Moritsugu encouraged the kids and parents alike to take the time to celebrate our time together at Friends for Life
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Charles Renfroe, representing Platinum Sponsor LifeScan, presented the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award to Michelle Rago for her tireless assistance to CWD families
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Last Updated: Tuesday October 05, 2010 10:05:58
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