Friends for Life Orlando 2021 Conference Report

A Look Back at Friends for Life Orlando 2021

We came, we saw, we Fiffled!

Thank you, THANK YOU to our CWD family for the most incredible, Fiffle-affirming experience of 2021. Being back together in Orlando this year was exactly the kind of magic and reconnection we were looking for, and we're so grateful for the opportunity and the science that made it all possible.

For this year’s FFL Orlando 2021, we were able to gather together about 1,000 of our friends for life at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort. We had friends from the USA and Canada in attendance, with 41 states plus DC and Puerto Rico represented. Adults with diabetes outnumbered children with diabetes again this year, showing how our program has grown up with our Fiffles.

Laura Billetdeaux, CWD’s VP of Education and Programs, said, “Friends for Life Orlando was exactly what I’d hoped it would be… an opportunity to come together in person to learn, to laugh, to hug, to simply be with each other. The hugs are what I, personally, most needed. I’m so thrilled that we were able to hold this gathering in person this year, and I extend my huge appreciation and thanks to all of the speakers, volunteers, sponsors, and exhibitors who showed up with positivity, flexibility, and excitement. Your support and willingness to give it a try made it all happen!”

"It was so wonderful to see our FFL family - new and returning - after so much time apart. It was re-energizing to be around everyone who really 'gets it' and to help everyone feel the same sense of hope, welcome, and support until we meet again next year,” said Marissa Town, CWD’s Clinical Director.

We hosted focus groups and some special meet-ups on Wednesday, including a Grandparents Guidelines session and a DPAC Champions reception, as well as our First Timers Orientation for our 300 First Timers! The Exhibit Hall had its Grand Opening on Wednesday evening, which was sponsored by Tandem Diabetes Care. It featured presentations and games with our generous sponsors: Diamond Level Sponsors Lilly Diabetes and Novo Nordisk, Gold Level Sponsors Abbott, Dexcom, Omnipod, and Tandem Diabetes Care; Bronze Level Sponsors Medtronic and Xeris Pharmaceuticals; and Friends of CWD Level Beta Bionics, CBDCE, ConvaTec, diabeloop, Diabetes Research Institute, JDRF/Beyond Type 1, OneTouch, Provention Bio, and Zealand Pharma.

Thursday morning kicked off a full day of youth programming and sessions for adults, starting with our keynote breakfast, sponsored by Lilly Diabetes, featuring our Richard Rubin Memorial Opening Keynote. Adults and children alike had the chance to reconnect during snack breaks and meals in between education sessions with our world-class faculty. The day ended with our Friends and Family Banquet, sponsored by Novo Nordisk.

Friday was another full day of sessions for adults and parents, with the younger Friends for Life sharing stories and information in our youth sessions. The day closed with a keynote on Why Advocacy Matters, followed by Family Movie Night, sponsored by Dexcom, and the Adults Beach Party, sponsored by Omnipod. We also hosted Desserts and Posters with the Faculty. Saturday was a day for Fiffles to relax and hang out with one another, with the Family Carnival Night, sponsored by Medtronic, closing out the evening.

Sunday morning was our Farewell Breakfast, complete with visits from Disney characters, where we said “See you soon!” to our new Friends for Life.

Matthew Point, CWD’s Director of Advancement, shared his thoughts. “Looking back at last winter, the thought of us being together, in person, in July seemed like a lofty and unlikely goal... but, we did it! Thank you to everyone for trusting CWD and coming to Orlando! Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with us; many people, myself included, now view FFL Orlando 2021 as the best week since COVID started. It only charged my batteries and got me even more excited for the next thing to come! Thank you again for joining us - we can't wait to see you again next year.”

“Things are very different today than they were a year ago,” said CWD’s Editorial Director, Kerri Sparling. “Thanks very much to COVID vaccine availability, our community is able to carefully and cautiously gather together once more. And while not every family is able to or comfortable with traveling just yet, we’re taking steps forward as a community to reunite and forge ahead on this journey with diabetes. And now we can begin to slowly, carefully, add some words we’ve been missing back into our repertoire: safety, science … and hugs. I’m proud that the FFL family, albeit a smaller group, could gather together this summer. I’m looking forward to seeing as many Fiffles as possible in 2022.”

While we did not record every session, the ones we did capture are currently available for viewing. You can watch the FFL Orlando 2021 livestream videos here, and you’ll just need to enter your email address in order to access the page. These will be viewable until the end of the summer.

Being together, after two years apart, made every member of the CWD team feel so grateful.  CWD’s President and founder, Jeff Hitchcock, said, “As I look through the thousands of photos from FFL Orlando 2021, I can’t help but feel incredible gratitude. I am grateful for the families who joined us after being apart for two years, creating new and renewing old friendships and sharing the magic of Friends for Life. I am grateful for our staff and faculty, who put together an amazing conference in a few short months.  I am grateful for our sponsors, who believed in us and trusted us to deliver a safe conference for our families and their teams. And I am grateful for the incredible scientists and teams from so many companies who brought vaccines to the world that kept us safe. All are heroes, and all truly are our friends for life.”

Thank you to our generous sponsors

Friends for Life Orlando was brought to you by the volunteers and staff of Children with Diabetes (T-1 Today, Inc.), a non-profit focused on caring today while preparing for the cure tomorrow. Please consider a donation to help us continue to bring these conferences to you.

Your tax-deductible donation makes Friends for Life, and other CWD programs like it, happen. You can make a gift to Children with Diabetes at cwd.is/give.