Our Elementary Staff oversee programming for our Fiffles aged six to eight.
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.”
Marisa Fox, RN, BSN, is a nurse in Portland, Oregon and has worked on an inpatient acute care floor for the past seven years. She is the oldest sibling to two sisters, Jessica and Erica, both living with type 1 diabetes. Marisa attended her first conference in 2005 and now loves working with the elementary group.
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 15th 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!
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 one of the Elementary Team leaders 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.
Cody Ankerman attended his first FFL conference in 2018 with his girlfriend Adrianne, who has diabetes. Cody works in Cincinnati for Bicycle Playing Cards. Some of Cody's hobbies include cooking and watching and playing sports. He's so excited to work on the Elementary staff this year!
Emma Bragg recently graduated from Creighton University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Psychology. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2008 and attended her first Friends for Life Orlando Conference in 2012. Emma is so excited to be part of the staff for the second year. She has made so many memories throughout her years at FFL. She hopes to help create the comforting feeling of acceptance, understanding, and hope that makes FFL a special place.
Sarah Collura, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, has been a diabetes educator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for eight years. Sarah attended the University of Dayton for her undergraduate studies and The University of Pittsburgh for her Master’s degree in dietetics. Sarah loves working with people with diabetes and became especially interested in working as a diabetes educator after volunteering at multiple diabetes camps. Sarah enjoys running, cooking, and spending time with her dog Zoey. She is thrilled to be a part of the FFL conference!
Adrianne Cornette was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on March 27, 2007. She attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2008 and has been coming ever since. Adrianne just completed her third year in medical school at the University of Kentucky. She plans on applying to Pediatrics for residency, with the hope of becoming a pediatric endocrinologist! FFL was one of the reasons Adrianne decided to pursue a career in medicine. Adrianne has been volunteering with the Elementary staff since 2014 and is looking forward to another year with the kids!
Timothy Hitchcock has been attending Friends For Life Orlando since its inception. In 2013 he began volunteering in the Elementary Program, and absolutely loves working with the kids. He recently moved to Boulder, CO seeking new opportunities within his field of study, Astrophysics. Tim has really enjoyed his new surroundings in Colorado, and is very grateful for his new life. In his free time, Tim likes to spend time with friends.
Monica Lanning is a recent graduate from the Stanford University Physician Assistant program and is hoping to have her first clinical job by the time she’s at FFL this year! Before her studies, Monica worked as a clinical research coordinator at Stanford focused on improving quality of life in people with type 1 diabetes. She has had diabetes since she was two years old and has been to every single Friends for Life Orlando conference as well as many regionals. Monica loves to do crafts, play board games, and travel. She is excited to re-connect with her fiffles and continue learning from the FFL family!
Brianna Peach is 26 years old and is the big sister of Hannah Peach, 22, who has had type 1 diabetes since 2004. She has attended Friends for Life Orlando since 2005 and has never missed a conference. Brianna is a senior at Tennessee Tech University studying to become a physical therapist. She loves all of her friends here at FFL and has really made friends for life.
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 volunteering again this year and to see all of her FFLs!
Kayla Sachs is from Libertyville Illinois. She recently graduated from Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she received her Bachelor's in Elementary Education with a minor in reading. Her younger brother Will was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 13 months old. Kayla has participated in Friends for Life Orlando for five years and has created so many memories with her new friends. She is very excited to come back to the Elementary Team this year!
Emily Swenarton attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2014 only months after her brother, Sean, was diagnosed with type 1. Since then, Emily has been involved in supporting families with type 1 including participating in JDRF walks as well as volunteering at camps for children with type 1. Emily encourages friends and families to attend Friends for Life because of the valuable knowledge and life-long friends that she has made over the past eight years. Emily graduated in May, 2021 from The University of Scranton with a degree in exercise science and will be attending Xavier University in the fall, for an accelerated nursing BSN program. She is very excited to be on the CWD staff again this year!
Matthew Van Eperen has two loved ones with type 1 diabetes (Melisssa Geren and Matthew Pawlowski) and has attended several Friends for Life conferences. Matt graduated from Marquette University in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and minors in International Affairs and German Studies. He then obtained his Juris Doctorate at Marquette in May 2020. Matt currently works as a contracts specialist at UW-Madison. He is excited to again be with the Elementary Team. Matt is the husband to Kayla Van Eperen and father to David.
Kiraina Young is 28 years old and has had type 1 diabetes for 17 years. She was diagnosed in April 2005, shortly after moving from the Bahamas to sunny Florida where she is a lover of all things Disney and can often be heard humming a Disney show tune. She has attended Friends for Life Orlando for the last 10 years and is looking forward to being back amongst the diabetic community after a whole year away. She enjoys reading, musicals, playing video games, and hanging out with her friends and family! She can't wait for another phenomenal year with the elementary staff!
Indicates elementary staff member with diabetes