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Conference Report from Friends for Life UK 2018

The myth that it always rains in Scotland was dispersed by the wonderfully sunny weather, albeit a tad chilly, which embraced our second T-1 Today UK Children With Diabetes Conference.

Crieff Hydro was the home for our Friends For Life Conference 2018 with participants coming from across the UK, Ireland and the US. While many families had been living with T-1 diabetes for quite some time, there were quite a number of newly diagnosed families. This year we had 114 first timers, which was amazing, and although many parents knew one another from the various Facebook pages, they had never met before Friday 27th October. Whilst it can be daunting meeting for the first time, particularly not knowing what the weekend holds, the atmosphere soon became electric as smiles, hugs, tears and laughter very quickly had everyone at ease as we became a “family.”

The Conference began on Friday morning with our Platinum Sponsors –- Abbott, Insulet and Tandem -- hosting Focus Groups for the second year running. These were well received with lots of information being given and questions answered. We intend to have the Focus Groups before the Conference gets underway from now on. During the Focus Groups our children aged 12 and under were in Big Country enjoying fun and games there. A big thank you to our staff – Shayne, Laura, Martyn, Ella-Mae and Katie – who looked after our children during this time.

Many thanks to Penny and Glynn Robinson and the registration team for co-ordinating the registration area, handing out our registration packs and being on hand during the weekend to answer all the queries; to Phoebe Head and Rebekah Sutherland for taking charge of the stickers for the badge decorating and Rosa Martin for keeping a watchful eye on the quilt signing.

The Exhibition Hall opened on Friday afternoon with our Platinum Sponsors being joined by Dexcom, our Gold Sponsor, Diabetes UK, DRWF, JDRF, our Charity exhibitors and TrialNet. Thank you, thank you, thank you to each and every one of you for your continued support. T-1 Today UK would not be able to hold conferences at all if it were not down to the continued and generous support received from you. There is nothing quite like our community and your support makes an enormous difference to each and every person attending the conference.

Many thanks to our wonderful faculty: Douglas Cairns, Ed Damiano, Gavin Griffiths, Ash Head, Aileen Hillis, Jackie Jacombs, Brian Kennon, Scott Kyllo, John Pemberton, Sid Sharma and Jill Weissberg-Benchell, who, once more, in their own ways helped our families understand the most challenging aspects T-1 throws at us. They offered a wide range of topics, discussions and hands-on experience to those both new to diabetes management and those who have been at it a long time. Their sessions were moving, informative, exciting, inspirational, passionate, innovative and delivered with great humour. Their continued commitment to T-1 Today UK is great appreciated by us all, not only in presenting their sessions, but also being available to speak with the families during the weekend, which was a great help and comfort to many. We look forward to continuing and developing our relationship in years to come.

The Conference Opening Keynote was presented by Ed Damiano who flew in from Boston for the weekend. Thank you Ed for making such a long journey to kick-start our 2018 Conference and we look forward to welcoming you back. During this session the children were at their respective Icebreaker sessions and it was not long before new friendships were cemented.

Saturday and Sunday consisted of sessions with the Teens, Tweens and Elementary aged children all heading off to their own separate areas, the youngest children going into Big Country with our childcare team, parents and grandparents having both general sessions as well as breakout sessions with more specific topics and our T-1 Young Adults and their partners enjoying a couple of sessions designed specifically for them.

The sessions for all of the children, from the tiny ones to the teens, were interesting, fun, and interactive and each filled with joy and laughter thanks to our dedicated Youth Programme Leaders and staff without whose hard work, enthusiasm, talent and energy, the weekend would not have been as memorable as is it is. What each and every one of them brought was fun and laughter. The children had a wonderful time and every first timer was put at ease very quickly. They all learned so much, in such little time, and all were grinning from ear to ear from the very first session on Friday to the very last on Sunday. Many thanks to Shayne Weldon, Ella-Mae Campling, Jude Kennon, Karen Marcelino, Katie Sellis (childcare), Laura Braid, Suzanne Caldwell, Nicola Carpenter, Rosalind Carr, Saheela Mohammed, Rebekah Sutherland, Conn Walsh, Tracey Yuill (Elementary) Martyn Carr, Scott Graham, Shona Murray, Liz Phipps, Jamie Sutherland, Becky Thomson, Marissa Wylie (Tweens), Neil Benchell, Helen Campling, Neil Carpenter, Jake Head, Phoebe Head, Leah Mackenzie, Jon Peel, Mark Wheller (Teens) for your incredible energy and positive attitudes. The children and parents loved you.

This year the Teens and their staff ventured into Action Glen to partake in both Aloft and Woodland Combat on Sunday. The smiles, laughter, squeals and camouflaged faces were indicative of the fun experienced by all as they were put through their paces either high up in the trees or scrambling around in the undergrowth.

Sincere thanks also to Ash Head and David Sutherland for heading Sports Central activities for Tweens and Elementary. Everyone enjoyed being able to participate outside in the grounds of Crieff Hydro. However, I don’t know who was more exhausted by the strenuous games and activities – the kids or Ash and David!

Our new Food and Beveridge Team, John Pemberton, Chelsea Carr and David Sutherland did a sterling job pulling together some great, healthy menus with the portion sizes and carb counts being undertaken by our new dietitian John. Warren and Andy, the Executive and Head Chefs at the hotel were amazed that we spent so much time and effort on this particular area of our conference but it is probably the most important aspect of the weekend. It allows the parents to feel a bit more relaxed allowing their youngsters to eat with their friends knowing that the carb counts are done for them.

Scott Kyllo, our AV/IT support person worked tirelessly from the time he arrived at Crieff on Wednesday until he left on Monday. Scott flew in from Falls Church, Virginia and flew out to Niagara Falls - three FFL Conferences in three different countries over three weekends – what an achievement. Thank you so much Scott for everything and making it all happen when it should. We definitely could not do this without you.

To Laura and Jeff, thank you for all your support and encouragement over the past year. You, too, increased your air miles significantly from Virginia-Scotland-Canada and, hopefully, are now enjoying a well-earned rest, at least for a wee while.

Thanks to Chris Sutton, Martin Carr and Marc Hillis for keeping everything running smoothly in their respective areas.

And so onto next year. Let’s make it bigger and better. Tell all your friend about us. Come and join the fun for Friends for Life UK 2019 on 25th-27th October 2019 at Staverton Estate in Daventry. Hope to see you there.

-- Gwen Sutherland, T-1 Today UK Trustee

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