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  Back to Friends for Life 2009 Conference 2009 Friends for Life Conference Youth Programming Faculty

Teen Program Staff

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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 attending Drexel University part time in order to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Natalie is a senior territory manager with Animas Corporation and mom to her own teen, Erin, who is now a sophomore in college.

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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.

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Neal Billetdeaux, from Michigan, has learned to be a diabetes advocate from kids Carolyn and Sam, who are now both college students. His most frequent complaint to wife, Laura, is that he doesn't have enough vacation time to make it to all the CWD conferences! Neal is a principal in a landscape architecture firm in Ann Arbor. His CWD 'claim to fame' is that - in a sleep-deprived stupor one night - he awoke to his alarm at 2 a.m. and tried to test one of the yellow labs. He's a great dad with a great sense of humor!

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Marissa Hitchcock, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 24 months old. She has just completed her bachelor of science in nursing and is looking forward to being a pediatric diabetes nurse specialist. 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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Galen Horton was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 15. That summer, at the direction of his healthcare team, he attended a camp in North Carolina for children with diabetes. For the last 22 summers Galen has attended Camp Carolina Trails, working his way up through the program staff. Over the last 15 years, Galen has been a program director for the teenagers at Carolina Trails working to develop leadership and communication skills, fostering a positive mental attitude, and encouraging a strong sense of self-confidence and motivation for his campers through challenging, high adventure programs. Nearly 8 years ago, Galen joined the sales organization at Animas Corporation to marry his work life and his personal passion and commitment for helping others cope with their diabetes. Galen lives in North Carolina with his wife, Kelly, and his 3 children, Tanner, Riley, and Eli.

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Janel Johnson is the Dex4 Glucose Brand Manager for Can-Am Care. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three years ago and through significant lifestyle changes - diet and exercise - successfully now has her diabetes under control without medication. Since joining Can-Am Care she has actively participated with Children with Diabetes conferences and takes it upon herself to educate all about hypoglycemia and the importance of being prepared for low blood sugars. Janel works closely with the American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes Exercise & Sports Association, Diabetes Camping and Education Association as well as many diabetes health care professions - Endocrinologist, Certified Diabetes Educators, Dietitians and Exercise Physiologists. She is also a member of the Georgia chapter of American Association of Diabetes Educators in the greater Atlanta area. Janel's interests include traveling, camping, hiking and caring for her horses, dogs, and cats.

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Bob Marquess is the proud father of Diamond and husband of Rhonda. He has participated in CWD conferences since 2004, the year after Diamond was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Bob enjoys volunteering with the CWD teens and is an advocate for awareness. This will be the Marquess family's 4th Friends for Life conference. They plan to come every year until there is a cure! Bob has been an Army Sergeant for 4 years, but military 13+ years total (prior Marine Corps). He is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, NC.

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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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Robert Schmidt is a CWD dad with 20 years of active duty service in the United States Marine Corp -- and still counting. Husband to Rebecca and father of two, Robert's active duty job entails Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Secret Service Ops. However, he finds that dealing with his son Zachary's type 1 diabetes can be more frustrating and unpredictable. Robert states, "I have enjoyed all times spent with the CWD staff and families at any event, and I want to give back in any way I can for what CWD has given to my family."

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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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Barb Whedon, MS, RD, CDE, graduated from Penn State and KU with degrees in nutrition. She has over 20 years experience as a nutrition and diabetes educator and has been employed by Animas for the past six years. Barb has loved working with the families and staff of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Camp Greenlane, and CWD.

Tween Program Staff

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Kim Kelly, Pharm. D., BCPS, FCCP, is President of Kelly Diabetes Associates, and former Director of the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute-North America. Dr. Kelly has a lengthy and distinguished career involving patient care, academic medicine, and organizational involvement including President of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Chairman of the ACCP Research Institute, and Board of Directors of the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association. His research and experience have included a number of publications, participation on editorial boards and review panels of several journals, involvement in medical curriculum development, and various committees of professional organizations. Currently, his activities center around developing diabetes health management and educational programs for various health care providers and provider organizations. Delighted to work with children and teens alike, Dr. Kelly participated as a volunteer in the Orlando and Universal City Friends for Life conferences, where he became 'hooked' in working with the wonderful CWD kids and families. He joined CWD as 'regular faculty' in 2004, focusing on the Tween programming and providing presentations on various topics to parents as well.

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Melissa Ringley, R.N., C.D.E., became a registered nurse in 1991. Shortly afterward, Elizabeth, her 3 year old daughter, was diagnosed with diabetes. It became abundantly clear to Melissa that she should learn all she could to help her daughter maintain a healthy and happy life with diabetes. Melissa has dedicated her entire career to diabetes since that moment. She brings her own personal experience to CWD families and understands the many stages of development and how diabetes impacts both the patient and family. Melissa's previous career as a certified diabetes educator has included a variety of settings including diabetes education centers, multi-physician practices, and hospitals. Melissa's expertise is in insulin pump therapy in children. She has been working with Animas Corporation since 2001. At Animas, she has worked both nationally and internationally as a clinical manager and she is now a Territory Manager in Tennessee. Her daughter is now a junior in college.

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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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Kathryn Hitchcock is in college studying fashion design. She has grown up with diabetes — she's Marissa's sister. Kathryn has helped at many diabetes events and has considerable experience working with young kids with diabetes.


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Sarah Ketcheson was diagnosed with diabetes at 14. She attended Camp Huronda, a summer camp for kids with diabetes in Ontario, Canada, as both a camper and staff member for 10 years where she got to swing on high ropes, go on canoe trips and hang out by the lake. She has a background in Ecology and is a certified teacher who currently gets to combine these two interests while working at an Outdoor Education Centre.

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Rhonda Marquess is the homeschooling mom to Diamond, now 15. Rhonda is also the proud Army wife to Bob for 16 years. She has participated in CWD since 2004, the year after Diamond was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She enjoys meeting other CWD families and talking with those who are newly diagnosed and needing friendship and support. Rhonda is an advocate for awareness. This will be the Marquess family's 4th conference, and they plan to come every year until there is a cure. Rhonda and her family reside in North Carolina near Fort Bragg.

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Libby Nordstrom graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Journalism and is currently pursuing a second degree in accounting so she can become a CPA. Her involvement with diabetes started in 2001 when her grandniece, Saylor, was diagnosed two months short of her third birthday. She attended her first CWD conference, on pumping, in San Diego in 2005 where she learned so much - and met so many fantastic people - that she decided to make CWD a part of her life and the annual CWD Friends For Life conference a not-to-be-missed event!

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Don Plotts is dad to Jessica, Tyler and Annie and husband to Holly. Jessica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and their lives haven't been the same since. Shortly after Jessica was diagnosed, their entire family decided they wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with diabetes. In addition to serving as the Sports Director for diabetes camp for the past 6 years, Don has also run marathons and ridden in the Tour De Cures to raise money and lobbied congress to change policies. In 2006, Don was finally able to tie his passion and career together, joining Animas. Don is currently the Manager of Sales Training and recently relocated his family from sunny Florida, north to Pennsylvania ... go figure!

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Anne Sides, RD, CDE, is all about diabetes. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, and since then she has lived her passion of helping people, especially children with diabetes, understand the disease and effectively manage it to improve the quality of their lives. Since 1994, Anne served as a diabetes educator and dietitian for hospital systems in both Alabama and Mississippi, where she contributed to the care of hundreds of children, teens, and adults with diabetes. Anne now works with Animas Corporation and serves as territory manager for this region. Anne serves as a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Diabetes Education Services (SDES), and was chosen by Animas to be a part of its task force for the development and innovation of new diabetes products and technology. It is Anne's work and special connection with children with diabetes that is the most gratifying and exciting for her, and which leads her each year to do volunteer work with several diabetes-related groups and organizations. This includes serving on the faculty of Camp Seale Harris, a residential diabetes education program held annually at Camp ASCCA near Alexander City, Alabama. Anne and her husband, Terry, reside in Birmingham.

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Sarah Walter from Ontario, Canada, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 9 years old. Now a third year university student, she is studying to be a teacher. Sarah has attended and worked at a diabetic summer camp in Ontario where she met many of her friends with diabetes. She is very excited to volunteer at the Friends for Life conference!

Elementary Program Staff

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Lauren Lanning, mom of Monica, 15, dx 8/96, pumping 5/99, CGM 9/06, and Sarah, 13 ... 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. She has been involved in the diabetes community as an advocate for the ADA and JDRF and the Gray Ribbon Campaign. Lauren spoke to the FDA on behalf of parents everywhere, and helped get CGM technology into the hands of the patients. Since then, she has spoken to many groups about CGM technology in real life. Lauren has held executive positions on the JDRF and Children With Diabetes Foundation boards. She is involved in her local Denver diabetes community outreach, and has coordinated her local JDRF bicycle team for many years. She was a Member of the Technical Staff at AT&T Labs before moving to Colorado and becoming full-time mom for a few years. Lauren now works at an investment banking firm as a researcher.

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Michelle Rago is a CWD mom and active member of the parents' list. She graduated from Harvard University (magna cum laude) where she received the Ben Teel Memorial Prize for Public Service. She graduated from Columbia University School of Law, where she represented children in foster care and received a Charles Evans Hughes Fellowship for public service. Michelle's son Trent was diagnosed in 2000 at age 4. Due to the diagnosis, Trent's daycare would not accept him back. Since then, Michelle has become well versed in the changing laws with relation to diabetes and school, insurance coverage, and discrimination on account of diabetes. She is active with the American Diabetes Association Legal Advocacy group. Michelle has recently become an expert on monogenic diabetes, after it was discovered that her adopted daughter Maya had monogenic, not Type 1, diabetes. (Michelle's family adopted Maya from foster care after hearing about her at a CWD conference.) Michelle is also mom to Michela and husband to Tim, both of whom actively participate in diabetes care at home. For her work with CWD families, Michelle was awarded the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award in 2006.

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Sunshine Abel is the mother of two beautiful girls, Sierra and Saylor. She attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, after Saylor 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 Saylor. 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. Sunshine is currently working on an RN degree.


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Lorraine Anderson, BSc, RD, CDE, is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator. She has had type 1 diabetes for over 20 years and believes that having diabetes has made her a stronger and healthier person. Currently Lorraine is employed as a Clinical Manager with Animas Canada working in the Toronto area and is very passionate about insulin pump therapy. She enjoys working with kids with type 1 diabetes at Camp Huronda in the summer months and is a busy full-time mom to her three children Nicholas, Nathan and Kara.


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Intissar Ben Halim 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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Sam Billetdeaux, diagnosed at age 8, is determined that diabetes will never get in the way of his life dreams. Sam is an active member of the CWD Young Adult program and has traveled to Denmark, Italy, the UK, and all across the United States to exchange ideas with other CWD teens, young adults, and their families. Sam is an avid athlete and enjoys running and working out with friends. He is a junior in college studying Spanish and the environment.

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Martyn Carr, now 20, lives in Scotland. He is a qualified car mechanic and will be studying nursing in August, hoping to specialize in diabetes so that he can take care of kids with type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was five years old. Martyn and his family have participated in the last five Friends for Life conferences. Martyn has worked with the Elementary Group for the last three years and loves helping out and being with his other friends at the CWD conferences.


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Amanda Ferraro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in June 2003 at age 13. Now 19, she is currently pumping with Omnipod and loves the freedom without tubes. Amanda is a junior nursing student in Minnesota. Besides working with kids, Amanda enjoys playing soccer, running, reading and watching movies. Amanda doesn't let diabetes stand in her way of accomplishing anything she sets out to do.


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Jen Hanson has grown up with diabetes. She was diagnosed at age three, and began attending Camp Huronda when she was eight. It was here that she met some of the most influential and amazing young people living with type 1 diabetes. She has been involved with Huronda for the past seventeen years as a camper, climbing staff, challenge course staff, pottery instructor and, most recently, as the Camp's program director. Jen completed her bachelor of kinesiology and bachelor of education degrees at Brock University where she also competed as a varsity athlete. She is currently pursuing her Master of Education degree, with research focusing on the role that outdoor experience can play in the development of character in type one diabetics. Jen teaches art at the elementary level and hopes to soon begin work as an outdoor educator. She is also a member of Connected in Motion, a group of active young diabetic adults living life to the fullest, as well as being involved with the Diabetes Hope Foundation.

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Kim Kaar has been involved with CWD as both parent and volunteer since her son Alex was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 18 months old in February 2000. When not advocating, educating, or raising research funds for pediatric disease, Kim is a substitute teacher for children with special needs at her local elementary school, where she also enjoys Chairing the school's Cultural Arts Committee. Kim, her husband Marko, and their three beautiful children live on the shoreline in southeastern Connecticut.


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César León, has worked with Johnson & Johnson for 10 years. He began in Latin America, and after moving to Canada in 2006, has been part of Animas Canada working as a Territory Manager in the Toronto area. Cesar loves working with both children and adults, and he's very much looking forward to working with CWD. Diabetes is in his family through his sister Nathalia who has type 1 and happily lives in Barcelona, Spain. On the weekends, César is regularly hopping in and out of the subway trains in Toronto with his three year old son Diego and wife Cristina.


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Kelsey Martin, age 19, was diagnosed at age 12. She attended her first CWD conference two months later, and has since become an active volunteer. Kelsey has worked with first timers, tweens, and elementary-age children at CWD conferences. She is also active in her local chapter of JDRF as an ambassador and volunteer. Kelsey is a journalism major at the University of Missouri and hopes to work in public relations or advertising for a medical company in the future.


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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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Chris Opdenaker is mom to Hannah and Rachael and wife to Jim. Hannah was diagnosed with diabetes in 1999 at age 3. The Opdenakers first became involved with CWD in 2001 -- they have printed all of the conference t-shirts ever since 2001! Chris states that CWD has been a blessing for her family from day one and continues to be each year. Chris has also been involved in ADA walks and several local pump support programs for children and parents. She is employed as a digital press operator for an advertising company.

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Richie Podjasek is 19 years old and just finished his freshman year at DePaul University where he plays college soccer and studies Finance. Richie is the older brother of Kara who has had type 1 diabetes for 9 years. Their entire family has been very involved with CWD and CWD conferences for many years. Richie's mom, Mary Podjasek, is the President of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation, and she also helps at registration at each Friends for Life conference.


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Noor Al Ramahi is 21 years old and has had diabetes since she was six years old. She is a senior studying business marketing at the American University of Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates -- literally on the other side of the world! Noor has been attending CWD's Friends for Life conferences since 2007 and notes that the 22 hour flight won't stop her from coming again. In Dubai, she volunteers at her local hospital to helping to educate parents of newly-diagnosed kids and to help raise awareness about type 1 diabetes.


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Nick Reiersgard is 22 years old and has had diabetes for 9 years. He is a fourth year student at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State, studying recreation management. Nick attended his very first Friends for Life conference in 2008 and is happy to be back and volunteering with the FFL kids this year!

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Andrew Reynolds attends Miami University in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Core studying Engineering Management. He has volunteered at the "Families Living with Diabetes" support group in West Chester, Ohio. He is 19 years old and has interests in sports (particularly hockey, football and baseball), the outdoors, working and exercising.

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Ken Rodenheiser is 19 years old and finished his freshman year at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Ken is majoring in nursing, and would eventually like to become a CDE. Ken was diagnosed with diabetes 6 years ago, and has continued to be as active as before he was diagnosed. He has been an active part of the CWD community for 5 years, and looks forward to helping others enjoy similar conference experiences. Ken enjoys playing sports, especially soccer, volleyball, and hockey.


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Carlie Schaeffer is 19 years old and just finished her freshman year at Boston College. This fall, Carlie will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, planning to major in Business. Carlie lives in Palatine, IL and has a younger sister and two younger brothers. This summer Carlie is completing her second internship with Motorola and is looking forward to helping out at Friends for Life.

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Sarah Scott is a Certified Diabetes Educator with Arnold Palmer Pediatric Endocrinology in Orlando. She has had diabetes almost 28 years. After receiving her masters degree from the University of Florida, she moved to New Orleans. It was there that she decided to go back to school and get her BSN and become a diabetes educator. She runs a pediatric support group in Orlando as well. She has run 2 marathons (Disney ’06 and ’07) and continues to run a few ½ marathons a year. She enjoys going to the beach, hanging out with friends, traveling, and watching Gator football.

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Tracey Smith is mom to Kylee and Joshua, and they live in Suwanee, Georgia. Joshua was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 2003 at the age of three. With all of the overwhelming information given to her as a newly diagnosed mom, Tracey found comfort in the Children with Diabetes website. In 2004, the entire Smith family including mimi, Betty Parker, attended their first Friends For Life conference in Los Angeles, California. That was all it took to realize that this is where her family needed to be every summer to make life a little easier on everyone. Tracy has since volunteered at every Friends for Life conference. She is a stay at home mom who volunteers in the school and with the local recreational sports that her kids are involved with. The Smith family has also been involved with their local JDRF chapter.

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Georgia Spiropoulos is Alexa's Mom. Alexa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 14 months old. Over the past 12 years, Georgia and her husband have watched the diabetes at every developmental stage of Alexa's life. Their most important lesson in this journey was realizing "Alexa will learn how to deal with her diabetes from you." That light bulb moment changed their lives and their advocacy work began. Georgia's volunteer efforts include JDRF fundraising, government advocacy and outreach. She volunteers at the local children's hospital helping newly diagnosed children and their families understand the road ahead. She created outreach programs of support and information sharing within the community. Georgia states, "the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming and that is what I am trying to help families minimize. We love this Friends for Life conference; this will be our third year. This is the week Alexa feels normal and does not have to explain to anyone why she is poking her finger."


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Adam Town, BSN, age 23, recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati's nursing program. Adam enjoys working with all children and is interested in pediatric nursing. Adam helps children with diabetes as well as their siblings each month at the "Families Living with Diabetes Support Group" in West Chester, Ohio. Adam enjoys sports of all kinds with a particular interest in baseball. Adam has a family history of diabetes but does not have diabetes himself.

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Trevor Tull was diagnosed six years ago at age 13. He has never let diabetes "get in the way" of his goals and dreams. He has participated in the CWD Teen Discussion Panel and CWD Sports Central and continues to participate in the Young Adult Program, Elementary Staff, and successfully raised over $15,000 for JDRF Fundraising Walks. Trevor is an avid roller hockey player, body boarder, and off-road motorcycle riding enthusiast. He is currently in college studying Welding Technology and works part-time.

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Jenny Vandevelde lives in San Diego, CA and is a student at San Diego State University, double majoring in Outdoor Recreation and Social Work. Jenny plans to be a Pediatric CDE, adventure tour guide, and/or soccer coach. She love all sports and is currently addicted to snowboarding -- and yes it does snow in southern California. Jenny has biked through Death Valley twice for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The first ride included 110 degree temperatures and the second ride brought 60 mph headwinds for about 5 hours. In October 2008, she ran as one of the 25 Medtronic Global Heroes in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Both of her pump sites went bad and her timing chip malfunctioned, but despite those little disasters, she had a great time. Last summer Jenny attended her first Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association (DESA) Conference in Toronto as an Insulindependence intern. In her free time she plays soccer, beach soccer, hockey, and basketball. She also volunteers at Camp Wana Kura in Santee, CA every summer. Jenny is coming to the conference with Alexa Yeo. They met in high school one day when they spotted each other's pumps across a classroom.


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Cindy Webb, aka Grandma Cindy, attended her first CWD conference in July 2003. Just three months prior, in March 2003, her oldest granddaughter, Ashley, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three. When a friend emailed her the CWD website, Cindy and family immediately registered for the 2003 Orlando conference and took the opportunity to connect with other CWD families. Their goal was to meet others who were going through what they were, while learning all they could about diabetes and how to deal with all the areas of life and family it affects. They have been to every Friends for Life conference and many CWD regional events since 2003. As secondary caregiver for Ashley, Grandma Cindy is directly involved with Ashley's medical care and diabetes management. An accountant by trade, Grandma Cindy has always been interested in the medical field and is currently taking pre-Nursing courses.

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Alexa Yeo has had type 1 diabetes for 10 years, more than half her life. She lives in sunny San Diego and loves the 'gnarly waves' of the Torrey Pines Beach. She also enjoys the hills of Snow Valley where she takes the opportunity to shred with her pink snowboard. When not near some form of water, she likes shopping at thrift stores with friends. Alexa also enjoys photography, drawing and painting, beach soccer, books, martial arts, yoga, aerobics, and more. She is very excited to go to Orlando this summer and can't wait to work with the elementary kids and make many new friends!


Kindergarten, Pre-K and Childcare

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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 Executive Director of Clinical and Patient Services at Animas, she is responsible for overseeing pump educators and the pump support team 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 10. 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 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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Pam Loebner is a California public elementary school teacher who has worked in both special education and regular education classrooms for 25 years. Since becoming a CWD mom, Pam has assisted the district nurse with education for families and teachers when newly diagnosed or newly enrolled students arrive. While always working as an advocate for student needs, Pam focuses on ensuring equal access to all school activities for children with diabetes. Pam discovered the CWD website 30 minutes after her daughter's diagnosis in June 2002 when Sarah was 9 1/2. Pam and her family haven't missed a CWD conference since. Pam's son, Keith, started volunteering at the first conference when he became friends with Sam Billetdeaux. The family quickly became volunteers and has been a buddy family for the past several years with new attendees.

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Stacey Nagel was born, raised and still lives by the beach in Belle Harbor, New York. Married to Scott, they have three children: Allison, Daniel and Jesse. She is a retired special education teacher of developmentally delayed preschoolers. Jesse was diagnosed in December 2001 when he was 9 years old. While sitting in the hospital, in the wee hours of the night, Stacey discovered the CWD website. After a year of emailing her "imaginary friends," she decided in 2003 that it was time to attend a "Friends for Life" conference. Not one to just sit back and do nothing, she started volunteering at her very first conference, and put Scott to work with the teens in 2006. Jesse has also gotten caught up in the CWD fever by joining the "Youth Faculty."

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Born in Bogota, Colombia, and trained as an architect, Adriana Rodenheiser is mom to Kenny (graduating high school and beginning college in 2008) and wife to Ken. Kenny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003, and the Rodenheisers attended their first CWD conference in 2004. They have been involved as CWD staff ever since. Adriana states, "As parents, we know it is our responsibility to give Kenny all the tools to make his life with diabetes better and his future bright. CWD gives us the hope, knowledge, and support we desperately need." Now a high school Spanish teacher, Adriana loves working with children of all ages. This summer at Friends for Life she will be coordinating the Pre-K 4-year-old group in the childcare area.


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Rebecca Schmidt is a mother of two, an occupational therapist, and a Marine Corps wife for the past 18 years. Just 3 days after a move to Florida in 2002, her 5 year old son (now 11) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Rebecca's mission became clear: to make a difference in her child's school system and to become an advocate for her son and other military families with diabetes. The Schmidts attended their first FFL conference in 2003 and immediately felt the warmth and connection with other CWD families and staff. Military life has not always enabled the Schmidts to attend all conferences but they always stay in close contact with FFL family.

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Catherine Schulz lives in Texas with her husband Harry and their six children. She was doing okay managing six kids – even with four-month-old twins – when diabetes struck her three-year-old daughter Emma and changed the family dynamic forever. She is currently attending school in pursuit of a psychology degree in the hopes that she might one day help other families facing the struggles that come up when a family member is diagnosed with a chronic illness. Formerly a neat freak with a penchant for perfect linen closets and sparkling baseboards, Catherine's new goal in life is to become a model of the laid back mom who simply manages the chaos with as cheerful an attitude as possible. She loves everything about the CWD conferences, but is particularly fond of the fact that it is four days filled with children and poolside friends, but completely lacking in dishes and laundry.

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Liza Mastrototaro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1996. She has been involved with many CWD conferences and programs since attending the first event in Orlando in June 2000. Liza lives in Massachusetts with her mom, dad, and brother. She has been a JDRF Children's Congress delegate and is a Clara Barton Diabetes Camp alumnus. Currently a sophomore in college, Liza is studying psychology and working part-time at an animal rescue and rehabilitation center.

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Chelsea Meredith, fresh from her final year of high school, has grown up around diabetes for the past nine 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 enjoys working with the younger set. Chelsea is also an aerialist intending to run away with the circus, after a few years of college, of course! She spends all of her free time dancing and/or hanging from the rafters on a trapeze.

  Friends for Life 2009 Conference and Expo  
  Introduction - Partners & Sponsors - Exhibitors - Convention Center Map  
  Faculty - Youth Faculty - Grandparent Faculty - CWD Staff - Special Guests  
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Last Updated: Monday December 07, 2009 13:08:42
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