Report from Friends for Life College Park 2022
For those of us who were lucky enough to attend Friends for Life College Park, we experienced an incredible glimpse back into “normal” life. This was the first Friends for Life conference since COVID-19 began where it felt like it used to be. Sure, there were people wearing masks if they wanted to, and many of us used hand sanitizer more than the pre-COVID days, but the rest was the magic of Friends for Life as it once was.
We talked in close circles to new families who just found us, and even closer circles with our longtime Friends for Life, our Fiffles. There were children running around the hallways of the conference center. They looked like any other children unless you knew to look for the green or orange wristbands and diabetes devices. While their children ran joyfully, the parents shared words and hugs, and swapped contact information to stay connected.
Our attendees included a group of adults with diabetes, including three 50-year diabetes veterans! During the conference, they were awarded the CWD Journey Award by CWD’s Founder Jeff Hitchcock. They were also recognized at the closing keynote. Many adults stated how much they enjoyed the conference sessions, exhibit hall, and opportunities to connect with their peers throughout the weekend.
College Park hosted a variety of sessions including updates on federal laws that affect people with diabetes, keeping children safe in school, diabetes and exercise, and mental health topics. For parents, there were meet ups for moms and dads as well as a parenting session by Psychologist Maureen Monaghan. For adults with T1, there were sessions focusing on how to choose health insurance led by diabetes advocacy experts Stewart Perry and George Huntley, and how to get the most out of automated insulin systems (presenter?).
The youth program was packed full of fun with opportunities to learn and express feelings about diabetes from the perspective of living with T1D, having a sibling with T1D, or having a parent with T1D. They moved and grooved with Harold and some learned about preventing and treating low blood sugars related to exercise in a hands-on way… all while safely in the hands of our knowledgeable, compassionate youth program leaders and volunteers.
There is some magic that happens at Friends for Life conferences, and the magic of the regional conferences is truly something to behold. There is a certain intimacy of the smaller group - 200 attendees versus 2,000 - that fosters connection in a way that is lasting. It allows the staff to get to know the children in the program better and support them and their families in a personalized way.
At a regional FFL, there are more opportunities to share a meal or chat with the world-renowned faculty that attend Friends for Life simply because there are less attendees flocking to them. It’s a more relaxed experience for all in attendance. We hope that you will join us for a regional conference in 2023 – Spring in Seattle and Fall in White Plains!
Thank You to Our Sponsors
We absolutely could not do Friends for Life without our incredibly generous sponsors and donors. Thank you so much for your support and for making it possible for us to come together, in person, each year – we could not do it without you. Our sponsors are responsible for many of the incredibly fun and educational events that happened throughout Friends for Life.