Report from Sunday through Tuesday
Sunday and Monday were FFL’s official move-in days. Under the guidance of Rich and Carolyn Meredith, several dozen volunteers rolled up their sleeves to help move three storage units worth of conference materials into South Registration, Sports Central, and the Retinal Screening areas. Registration supplies, Sports Central equipment, technology and sound equipment, crates of Quilt squares, glucose tabs, party decorations, youth program supplies, childcare toys. And thousands of FFL t-shirts with our brand new logo. It was hot and strenuous work, but plenty of hands made it go by quickly, and set-up was completed in record time.
Dr. Ben Szirth, Retinal Screening Coordinator Jim Stroud, and their team from the New Jersey Medical School set up three rooms worth of Retinal Screening equipment – the absolute best in the world (seriously) – and prepared for a week of screening participants with type 1 diabetes beginning on Monday afternoon. Sports Central was set-up, well-staffed, and ready to welcome kids of all ages. Many thanks to Liz and Jimmy Dodson for being at the helm of Sports Central all week, and to sponsor Novo Nordisk for the extra support this year. We loved the new Sports Central shirts, and we loved having Charlie Kimball join us for a couple of Sports Central sessions!
Sponsor and Exhibitor Registration opened as well on Monday morning. Since July 4 fell on Tuesday this week – and it was a holiday for most people – Exhibit Hall set-up began on Monday, paused for Tuesday, and resumed on Wednesday early morning. Veracruz North Registration was dedicated to exhibitors and sponsors this year. Many thanks to Brenda Hitchcock, Ginny Gidi, and Lauren Lanning for offering special attention to our wonderful exhibitors and sponsors while regular registration was still being organized and set up!
Tuesday, July 4 was officially the Opening Day of Friends for Life Orlando 2017. Registration opened at 9 a.m., and there was a line of folks waiting to pick up their materials! Julia Mattingly and her registration team welcomed first-timers and old-timers alike – with smiles, hugs, name badges, and green/orange/yellow Tyvek wristbands with the new FFL logo. The First Timers Welcome team, coordinated by Tom Karlya, Lauren Lanning, David and Marie Jarcho, and Nabil Elarbi was busy all day long answering hundreds of questions and reassuring those who were nervous. The name badge decorating table outside Coronado H was busy constantly, and the teen table outside Coronado G had a steady flow of teens and parents stopping by to meet the teen program leaders. Scott Kyllo, Martin Yaravitz, and the IT team divided their time between watching over the registration kiosks, setting up the AV for Wednesday, and making sure all of the behind-the-scenes equipment was functioning efficiently.
TrialNet and Celiac screenings began on Tuesday, and each had an enormous turnout of participants throughout the week. Saline pump trials, held by Tandem Diabetes and Insulet, also were extremely well-attended. Families were very anxious to see, hold, and try the newest technologies!
Also on Tuesday, all of the youth program staff dedicated an afternoon to inservice training with their specific age groups. This allowed all of the staff the opportunity to spend time together, discuss the activities, and prepare materials. There also was a safety review for each team led by our FFL Support Team. Donna Cope and Chris Tull – thank you for coordinating this essential training for all of us. And as always, thank you for your team’s watchful eyes all week.
On Tuesday evening, Dexcom, Inc. most generously sponsored a Staff and Faculty Volunteer Recognition event. This featured award-winning journalist and CNN correspondent Oren Liebermann speaking about his type 1 diagnosis in Nepal while backpacking around the world with his wife. Oren was poignant, funny, and oh-so-clearly a FFL. Following the presentation, the group boarded buses and headed to Disney Springs for an evening of great friends, food… and bowling!
Continuing this year were the ‘Meet-Ups.’ These informal get togethers were scheduled in response to feedback indicating that people wanted opportunities to meet each other before the conference started, and then also during some of the down time throughout the week. The first meet-ups were on Tuesday. CWD Mom Lauren Lanning organized the moms’ meet-ups, Tom Karlya organized the dads’ meet-ups, Matt Point and Sam Billetdeaux organized the Young Adult meet-ups, and Greg and Kristina Dooley organized meet-ups for parents of young kids. These gatherings were a great addition to our formal programming, and we plan to continue them in the future!
For many families, Tuesday was a perfect day to combine some park time with pool time and perhaps even some fireworks viewing, and a great opportunity to meet new friends – now easily identifiable by green, orange, and yellow bracelets.