Our CWD staff work tirelessly throughout the year to bring CWD and FFL to you
A finicky connoisseur of hotel meeting space, cappuccino, and kid-friendly cheese and fruit platters, Laura Billetdeaux, MS is CWD’s VP of Education and Programs. Since the first CWD event in June 2000, Laura has organized Friends for Life conferences, always keeping in mind the true purpose of Children with Diabetes — education and support of families with type 1, and always keeping in mind why it all works—the efforts of so many dedicated individuals. Laura lives in Manchester, Michigan with her husband Neal. They are parents of Sam, FFL Meet-Ups Coordinator, and Carolyn, CWD’s Volunteer and Training Coordinator.
Jeff Hitchcock is the founder and president of Children with Diabetes. After earning a degree in computational mathematics in 1981, Jeff worked in high tech and traveled the world, meeting Brenda, who would become his wife, in Africa. In September of 1989, their first child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of two. Jeff worked in defense related industries until 1995, when he started a small internet company and launched Children with Diabetes to share his family's experience caring for a child with T1D. He subsequently worked at LEXIS-NEXIS and Pearson plc on Internet initiatives, and now works full time bringing Children with Diabetes to you. Jeff also serves on the Board of Directors for the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (DPAC) and Beta Bionics. Jeff received the 2021 ISPAD Hero Award for his work on Children with Diabetes.
Liz Dodson became a part of the CWD family in 2008 when she started dating her husband Jimmy, who has type 1. She spent several years volunteering in and coordinating Sports Central with Jimmy. Like all FFLs, CWD has given her a diabetes family -- a group of people who understand the unique dynamics of a spousal relationship that includes type 1. Her goal in being involved with CWD is to allow everyone impacted with type 1 to find their FFLs and build their own diabetes family. Her "day job" is in the world of corporate meeting planning, and she is excited to use these skills for CWD as the Conference Logistics Manager.
Jen Hanson, BKin, BEd, MEd, CDCES, has grown up with type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed in 1987, she has never let diabetes stop her from pursuing her passion. Jen’s early beginnings as a campfire-loving, bug-catching, mud-puddle-jumping, tree-climbing tot sparked in her a love for the natural world that has been fostered and grown into a full-blown passion for everything outdoors. Jen is the Executive Director of Connected in Motion (CIM), and spends her days organizing retreats and adventure programs for adults with type 1 diabetes. She also works with the CIM Team to run Friends for Life Canada. Jen became a CDE in 2017 focusing on diabetes and exercise. Jen loves volunteering with Children with Diabetes as it gives her an opportunity to work with youth with diabetes and give them the gift of connection.
Beth Levering is a part-time Project Manager and Administrative Assistant for Children with Diabetes. Beth was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 21, shortly after graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a Communication degree. She lives in the Cincinnati area and is married and a mom to three - two boys and a girl. Beth co-created a support group in the Northern Cincinnati area called “Sisterhood of the Defunct Pancreases" for adult T1 women. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, spending time outdoors, and traveling to new places.
Kristen O’Dell, MS, RD, CDCES, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of nine, in 1998. Despite her resistance to accepting this diagnosis, it has been the driving force behind her pursuing a career as a dietitian. She earned her Master’s degree in Dietetics at D’Youville College and became a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. Kristen has worked in a children’s clinic, long term care nursing facilities, as an insulin pump trainer, and is now providing diabetes and nutrition counseling through her company, Focused Diabetes Solutions, all while being the Dietitian at CWD FFL conferences. Her goal is to empower people living with diabetes so that they can navigate all the ups and downs of life (and blood sugars). Kristen and her husband, Shawn, have a child, Corwin, plus one on the way. Kristen enjoys cooking and baking in the kitchen, working in the garden, rooting for the Buffalo Bills, traveling around the world, and reading (when she can find a little free time).
Matthew Point, MS, serves as CWD’s Director of Advancement. Matt is responsible for CWD’s fundraising and development, working with our generous sponsors, and managing our conference scholarship program. In 2013, Matt attended his first CWD event – Friends for Life Orlando. Matt’s favorite part of being involved with CWD & the Friends for Life Conferences is having the opportunity to meet other significant others of people with type 1 diabetes.
Kerri Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986, diagnosed at the age of seven. She manages her diabetes and lives her life by the mantra “Diabetes doesn’t define me, but it helps explain me.” Kerri is an internationally recognized diabetes advocate. She is the creator and author of Six Until Me, which from May 2005 to May 2019 was one of the most widely-read diabetes patient blogs, reaching a global audience of patients, caregivers, and industry. She has been featured on NPR, US News and World Report, CBNC, Yahoo! Health, LA Times, The Lancet, Whole Living, Disney’s Family.com, and Family Circle, among other national outlets. In addition to her writing, Kerri is a highly-rated speaker and has presented the patient perspective to audiences around the world. She works to raise awareness for diabetes, patient advocacy, and the influence of social media on health outcomes. Her first book, Balancing Diabetes (Spry Publishing), looks at type 1 diabetes in the context of “real life.” Kerri and her husband live in Rhode Island, USA, with their two children. You can follow her writing and the release of her next projects at KerriSparling.com.
Joanne Stroud, MHA, is first and foremost a CWD Mom. Her son Ben was diagnosed in 1998 at the age of 10 and Children with Diabetes quickly became their lifeline. She attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2003 and instantly became hooked, telling Laura she’d do anything (within reason of course!) she could, to assist Children with Diabetes. At one point or another, all of the Strouds, including newly added wives have given back as Friends for Life faculty/staff which is truly what FFL is all about! When not working with CWD, Joanne is a Flight Attendant. She and her newly retired husband Jim, recently relocated to the Seattle, WA area and are enjoying their new adventure.
Marissa Town, BSN, RN, CDCES, has lived with type 1 diabetes for 31 years and has been coming to the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conferences since the beginning in the year 2000. She realized early on that helping other people living with diabetes was what she wanted to devote her life to, so she became a nurse and a diabetes educator. Marissa has worked in a diabetes clinic, as a pump trainer, as a Clinical Research Manager at Stanford University in diabetes research and has recently started as the Clinical Director for CWD. Her main goal is to help improve peoples' quality of life and reduce barriers to quality healthcare. Marissa and her partner Adam have two young children, Connor and Everly, who also enjoy coming to Friends for Life to share their experiences growing up with a mom with type 1 diabetes. Marissa loves game nights, hiking with her dog Baxter, traveling (when it's not a pandemic), and crafting with her kids.
Indicates CWD staff member with diabetes