Staff_Faculty

Youth Program Staff

Teen Program Staff

Brian Grant, BSN, RN, CDCES, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003. He loves working with people who have diabetes, and is looking forward to serving as Teen Leader at the Friends for Life Orlando conference. He currently resides in Mechanicsburg, PA and works for Dexcom.

Hannah Opdenaker was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in February of 1999 and has been attending the Children With Diabetes Conferences since 2001. She is the Associate Director for a non-profit theater in Philadelphia, where she acts as a grant writer, program director, and occasional performer. Hannah is excited to serve as a Teen Leader at the Friends for Life conferences.

Tween Program Staff

Chris Freund, BSN, RN, attended her first Friends for Life Conference after her daughter Molly was diagnosed with diabetes in March 2005 at the age of six. She has been a pediatric emergency department nurse for 15+ years and loves working with kids. She is also mom to Andrew, Elizabeth and Benjamin who have grown up with CWD.

Melissa Geren was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995. She went to her first Friends for Life Orlando Conference in 2003 and has been attending Friends for Life conferences ever since. Melissa is mom to Maddax (born December 2021), wife to Zach and has three siblings, Sarah, Kayla, and Matthew (diagnosed at age two). Melissa works in marketing in Chicago and loves the Windy City. Aside from working with Tweens at Friends for Life Conferences each year, Melissa is currently a board member for Children with Diabetes.

Zach Geren is husband to Melissa Geren, diagnosed at age four. Zach attended his first conference in 2015 and has enjoyed every FFL since. Each conference, Zach looks forward to spending time with the friends he's made, as well as making new ones. Zach graduated from Marquette University Law School and works as an attorney in Chicago. Zach loves to watch and play almost every sport, but especially enjoys playing basketball, tennis, football, and frisbee.

Lauren Salko lives in Park City, Utah and is graduate of Saint Anselm College. Lauren is professional skier who competes around the world in SkiCross. When she is not skiing, Lauren loves mountain biking and doing triathlons. As a person with diabetes, Lauren is very passionate about working with Children with Diabetes and could not be more excited to be a part of the youth programming staff this year!

Jessica Wisniewski, MSc, lives in Philadelphia and is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. She currently works as a project manager in the healthcare industry. Jessica loves traveling, playing competitive volleyball, and spending time outdoors. Jessica was diagnosed with diabetes 18 years ago and has attended many Friends for Life conferences. She is excited to be on the teen staff this year and to return to the conference as a staff member after missing a few years.

Elementary Program Staff

Sunshine Abel, RN, is the proud mother of Sierra and Sailor. She attended her first Friends for Life Conference with her family in 2002, after her daughter Sailor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was two years old. After attending that conference, Sunshine immediately knew she had found a new family and a new home. It was where kids with type 1 can look around and see other kids just like themselves checking their blood sugars and giving insulin. She then made it her mission to get her whole family involved anyway she could, to give back. Sunshine started volunteering in 2005 and has been working as a nurse and lead HCP in the Friends for Life youth programming since 2006. “To FFL First Timer families: At diagnosis, my husband and I thought what in the world do we do now. How will this disease ever be part of our everyday lives. It turned our lives upside down. Finding CWD and attending that first FFL, we realized this is where our T1D journey begins. It is where we gain knowledge that is golden and given irreplaceable tools to help better manage our lives now that we are living it with type 1. It is where we learn how to better educate those around us in our everyday lives. It’s therapy for ourselves as a parent trying to navigate through the emotions. But most of all, FFL is where we turn to for support when we need it and to give it, to the parent who just can’t get their child’s blood sugar up at 3 am. Having a child with type 1 diabetes makes me feel like I can conquer anything.”

Ashley Dasika is super excited to be working on youth staff this year. She has been coming to FFL conferences since the age of 4 when her younger sister was diagnosed at 11 months old. She didn’t wear an orange bracelet for long, though, because a year later, Ashley was diagnosed herself at age 5 despite no family history of type 1 diabetes. Her family has made every Orlando FFL conference since. FFL is something they look forward to every summer. Ashley loves working with kids and is also a camp counselor at diabetes summer camp! Ashley now attends college in Boston. In her free time, you can find Ashley biking, hiking, or traveling.

Hannah Klippel was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eight and attended her first Friends for Life Conference just four months later. This will be her 14th year participating in Friends for Life conferences, and she is excited for another amazing year with the Elementary team! She is forever grateful for the resources CWD has provided her and her family. Hannah considers her friends made through CWD her family, and she truly can't imagine her life without them!

Kelly Regan is 23 and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of nine. Her first Friends For Life Conference was in 2012, and she has attended every year since then. She recently graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor's in Criminology in December 2020 and now works full-time for the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. Kelly loves attending the conference and has made many Fiffles over the past 10 years. Kelly is super excited to be back on staff this year and to see all of her FFLs!

Kayla Van Eperen has three siblings - two with type 1 - and is mom to David. She has been attending CWD conferences and Friends for Life Orlando since 2003. Kayla graduated in 2017 from Marquette University with a degree in Elementary Education and Communication Studies. She is a 5th-7th grade Math Teacher in Madison, WI. She is very excited to be part of the CWD Youth Program staff this year because it is a place where everyone just “gets it.” It truly is a great opportunity to work with the elementary-aged children to continue the culture of not being alone at Friends for Life.

Kiddie Kove Program Staff

Sailor Abel was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of two. Sailor attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2002 at the age of three. She has worked her way through all of the age groups learning and absorbing all the information she could about type 1 diabetes. She has been volunteering with Kiddie Kove since 2018. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor of science in environmental studies. She is excited for her next adventure! Sailor is so grateful for everything she has experienced growing up through CWD. She has made the very best of friends who have become her family.

Mary Babin, RN, BSN, CDCES, has served as the childcare coordinator since the very first CWD conference. Mary leads a team of certified diabetes educators providing care and fun in a safe environment for kids under age five 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 diabetes management. Mary has devoted her career to the world of medicine. As a graduate of Eastern University and Presbyterian School of Nursing, Mary currently works as a pediatric endocrine specialty nurse and has been a CDE over 25 years! 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!

Rebecca DeLong was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five. She attended her first conference in 2007 in La Jolla, California, and has been attending conferences all over the country since then. Rebecca cannot thank CWD enough for helping her build life-long friendships and an amazing diabetes community. She is excited to continue as a staff member this year and give back to the CWD community!

Parker Grand is excited to be on the Friends for Life staff as CWD has given him so much support and friendship over the years. Parker has attended every Friends for Life conference since his diagnosis at the age of three in 2002. Parker lives in California where he attends college full-time. He is employed by the California State Parks where he coordinates youth programs, leads guided tours and develops new programs to teach children an appreciation for the history and ecology of the parks. Parker loves working with children of all ages. In his free time, you can find him biking, golfing, and volunteering.

Elizabeth Joynes is 18 years old and is the younger sister of Molly who was diagnosed with type 1 in 2005. She has been coming to FFL ever since then and has been to many regional conferences as well. Elizabeth is currently enrolled in an early childhood education program and can't wait to start her senior year in August. After growing up attending FFL, she is super excited to be able to work in Kiddie Kove this year!

Tammy Point, LPN, CDP, currently serves as a Specialty Programs Liaison with Abode Healthcare. She is a former private duty and elementary school nurse who specialized in medically fragile children. Tammy is excited to volunteer at Friends for Life because her son-in-law (and CWD Volunteer), Brian, has been living with T1D since the age of 15. Tammy enjoys spending time with family and her dogs, Chloe and Sonny.

Orange Team Staff

Sarah Lanning has attended Friends for Life since the first conference in 2000. Having grown up through the program, she loves to give back as an orange team leader. Sarah graduated from Georgia Tech with a BS in chemical engineering and currently works as a process engineer in biotech consulting. FFL is a second family to Sarah and she loves to see all the new faces and seeing the impact this organization makes in the lives of staff and attendees.

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Indicates staff member with diabetes

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