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  Back to Conferences 2010 Friends for Life Conference Report

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It was one of the hottest weeks on the books – heat indices well over 100 degrees – during the last week in June as the CWD crew arrived in Orlando for Friends for Life 2010 set-up. Conference families arrived on Friday and Saturday to have a bit of vacation before the event started, and they connected daily at the pool and in the restaurants and food court at the hotel. By Tuesday, over three thousand people from nearly every state in the U.S. and a dozen countries traveled to Orlando, Florida, for this event, which was held from June 29 to July 4 at the Marriott World Center Resort, the largest Marriott in the world!

Sunday was UHaul loading day for the moving team. They met at noon, drove over to the storage facility, and emptied 4 storage units of registration and conference materials into the truck, including about 6,000 t-shirts, 100 giant cases of glucose tabs (thank you, Dex4!), at least 1,000 ponchos (just in case!), and assorted other necessities to support the families and adults who would be on site for the next week. Many thanks to the moving crew: Bob Schmidt, Rhon, Diamond and Bob Marquess, Jeremy Meredith, Marc Biondilillo, Betty and Frank Parker, the whole Kyllo family, Mike Schurig, Sam Billetdeaux, and Sara McNeeley. They earned their grouper sandwiches by the pool on Sunday afternoon!

Monday was move-in to the registration area (unload that giant UHaul!) with crew additions Chris Tull, Ash Head, and Tim Hitchcock. The registration team, led by Julia Mattingly, Jo Stroud, Betty Smith, Brenda Hitchcock, and Jill Karlya managed to fit what they immediately needed in the Cypress registration area, and stored the rest, easily at hand, behind the Sports Central area. The MWC Convention Center started to look like 'home' as the CWD signs went up, the kids collages were set up on easels (11 years worth!), and our good friends at BetesNow set up their filming and video area.

There were about 800 first timers this year, representing families from across the U.S. and internationally. The First-Timers all wore ribbons on their name badges so that we could find them easily and welcome them! The First-Timers represented about a quarter of our conference participants this year. They had some very special activities – and their own First Timers Welcome Area - to help them meet each other and feel more at home at the Friends for Life conference. First Timer Hospitality coordinators Nabil Elarbi, Lauren Lanning, Tom Karlya, and Teresa Littlefield did a great job at making everyone feel welcome. Thank you as well to the many 'old timers,' both kids and adults, who volunteered their time, experience, and hugs to the first timers welcome area which was open Tuesday through Thursday. Hats off to Sanofi-Aventis for sponsoring the First-Timers reception and welcome area.

Also tremendously busy on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday was Ed Mattingly – with his CWD Chauffeur hat on! Ed volunteered his time and energy picking up CWD staff and speakers at the airport, and getting everyone safely to the hotel. It's such a nice feeling to have a warm CWD smile awaiting you at Baggage Claim! Thanks, Ed!

Dr. Ben Szirth and his staff from the New Jersey School of Medicine, Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Science were on site in the Washington Room from Tuesday evening to Friday offering free retinal screening to Friends for Life participants with type 1 diabetes. This is the fourth year that Dr. Szirth has offered these screenings, and they are invaluable to our conference attendees. Thank you, Dr. Ben, for bringing your staff to spend the week with us!

This year, the Exhibit Hall was in a new space, Cypress 2 and 3, which is a brand new ballroom designed specifically for exhibits and large crowds. We expanded the aisle space this year to afford everyone a bit more elbow room; the exhibit hall was very crowded on Wednesday evening at the gala opening reception sponsored by Roche Diagnostics (which was very fun and had very yummy food including 6 carving stations and several thousand chocolate dipped strawberries), and on Thursday and Friday there was adequate space to roam around and adequate time to ask questions of those sponsors and exhibitors who bring the products that our CWD families use. The Exhibit Hall was also home to the Quilt for Life this year. Over 725 quilt panels were displayed.

Many VIPs were on hand throughout the conference to meet and inspire the kids and families, including Olympic Cross Country Skier Kris Freeman, world-class UK Sculler Lucy Walczak, Peaks and Poles Champion Will Cross, USA Triathlete Jay Hewitt, Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson, Team Type 1, Race Car Driver Charlie Kimball, Outdoor Adventurer Jimmy Dodson, and Distance Swimmer Jen Alexander. Dan Hurley, author of Diabetes Rising, was also present in the exhibit hall to meet-n-greet families and kids. And finally, Jackson the Dog, participated in our Friends for Life gathering; Jackson has type 1 diabetes and wears a continuous sensor. He was joined by his owner Dr. Mike Richards (a veterinarian) and Dr. Chuck Wiedmeyer (a veterinarian who works with many animals with type 1 diabetes).

Sports Central was back this year in a great space offering lots of activities! Sponsored by Novo Nordisk, Sports Central provided a place for kids and adults alike to get some exercise playing basketball, soccer, volleyball, dodgeball or simply working out on the mats with hula hoops, jump ropes, or weights. Sports Central offered Open Gym on Tuesday and Weds, and then evening hours on Thurs and Friday. There were specific times for the kids to spend with the athletes and sports activities on Thursday and Friday during sessions. There were many more Sports Central staff and volunteers than in prior years; many thanks to Coordinator Rick Philbin and SC staff Judith and Danny Ambrosini, Jimmy Dodson, Jen Alexander, Kurt Bauman, Lucy Walczak, Ryan DeGroff, and Ben Stroud, and to the many, many volunteers who gave their energy (and sweat) to keep things running smoothly in the area.

On Saturday, most families relaxed by the pool and dodged the occasional thunderstorm. The Marriott World Center had a very energetic and fun DJ on site to keep the hotel guests involved; all in all, a very fun day. CWD wrapped up the evening with a Dessert Reception intended to bring everyone back together for a re-connect at the end of the day. More chocolate strawberries!

Many thanks to the parents who staffed the CWD Central area by the pool on Saturday through the following Sunday (eight days!). CWD Central provided an area where FFL'ers could connect, where they could get emergency glucose tabs or a glass of water, and where they could store insulin pumps and insulin away from the extreme heat.

This year's Friends for Life was supported by the efforts, energies, and plain old elbow grease of about 200 volunteers. These volunteers range from CWD staff who leave their regular jobs and give their time to this conference for over a week to first timers who volunteer a couple of hours helping here and there, learning the ropes. And everything in between. These people hold the conference together, watch over your children, monitor sessions, and in general, move everything forward in a very special way. We all owe them many, many thanks for their partnership.

Finally – our deepest thanks to the sponsors and partners who supported this conference and who each year allow us to make it bigger and better: Novo Nordisk, LifeScan, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly and Company, Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, Tandem Diabetes Care, DexCom, Medtronic Diabetes, Unomedical, the American Diabetes Association, Dex4, the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. On behalf of the thousands of people you touched at Friends for Life 2010, we are so grateful for your friendship and support.

 

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Many families arrived early, enjoyed the pool, and hung out at the "CWD Central" area
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Louis traveled back from Australia to connect with his many CWD friends, including Ellen, Kara, Jessie, Sarah, and Ashley
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Roche hosted a diabetes bloggers summit on Tuesday, and several of the bloggers stayed on to experience Friends for Life
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The Exhibit Hall opened on Wednesday evening
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Thursday evening's banquet had a disco theme -- complete with Tom and Nicole as Tony Manero and Stephanie
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Families heard from many exceptional speakers, including Desmond Schatz, MD, from Gainesville
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Explorer Will Cross closed with "Reaching Your Own Personal Summit"
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Last Updated: Tuesday March 25, 2014 12:15:35
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