Report from Friends for Life Orlando 2022
It was so wonderful to be back together the week of July 4 – full strength and in person – at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort for Friends for Life Orlando 2022. Over 1,700 participants gathered for a full week of educational sessions, social activities, and best of all, support and hugs. FFLs traveled from near and far to be together. Forty-five states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico were represented, and participants came from as far away as Indonesia, Colombia, Poland, and the UAE. We had 574 attendees with type 1 diabetes -- 300 adults and 274 youth. A lot were recently diagnosed too: 64 were diagnosed after July 1, 2021, and another 70 were diagnosed after July 1, 2020.
One amazing highlight of the week? Over 40% of the attendees were first timers – that’s over 700 participants we were able to welcome into the FFL family! Another fun highlight? The FFL Safari theme! Exploration, discovery, learning, new friends – everyone was on board with the theme and had so much fun with it. Make sure to take a look at the photo gallery!
We were pleased to feature many new faculty with a variety of credentials, perspectives, and diabetes experiences. We included a few ‘tried-n-true’ sessions from years past, and very much tried to offer new, cutting-edge, and sometimes challenging topics as part of the adult program. Just like the many attendees who joined us in Orlando, many speakers expressed that they were grateful to attend FFL and they enjoyed so many meaningful conversations with families and people with diabetes. They appreciated and found joy in connecting together as a community.
We were excited to see the Friends for Life youth program operating back at full capacity in 2022. The program welcomed nearly 500 participants this year, including those with type 1 diabetes, siblings, friends, and children of parents with diabetes.
Our youngest (0-5 year old) FFLs enjoyed a Safari-themed three days in Kiddie Kove, which included creating safari themed crafts, getting active with Sports Central, and heading out on a Safari adventure! In Elementary, our 6-8 year olds explored the grounds of Coronado on a resort-wide scavenger hunt, did exercises with Harold, and created some very special memory books to take home. Our 9-12 year old Tweens had an action packed few days. They had the chance to meet some very special guests with diabetes including CNN Correspondent, Oren Liebermann, and Athlete and Advocate, Tiana Cooks. The group had the chance to learn about food as fuel for our bodies, and compete with one another during Minute to Win It Challenges. Finally, our Teens had lots of chances to connect and learn with a diabetes tech talk, a session specifically for orange bracelets, and a type 1 themed TikTok Challenge before heading to Animal Kingdom for a day of fun.
While our days were packed full of sessions, milling about in the exhibit hall, and enjoying meals together, the fun continued into the evening at various social events. FFL featured social events large and small all week long. Some, like the Family and Friends Banquet sponsored by Novo Nordisk, were huge themed events involving every single participant. On Friday the littles and their families attended Family Movie Night sponsored by Dexcom, the adults had an exclusive party sponsored by Omnipod, and faculty shared their research posters with attendees over dessert.
We teed off early Saturday morning on the green at the Inaugural Friends for Life Golf Outing. Players of all ages and stages played nine holes to raise funds for the FFL scholarship program. Meanwhile, at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Tandem Diabetes hosted the SuperBowlus, featuring T1D brothers Reid Ferguson, who plays for the Buffalo Bills, and Blake, who plays for the Miami Dolphins. Our friends at Novo Nordisk hosted a tennis clinic with tennis pro and person with diabetes, JC Aragone. During the day, Fiffles mingled about and spent the day together at the pool and the parks. We reconvened later that evening at the Family Carnival—Lenny the Lion was a huge hit—sponsored by Medtronic, and the teens spent the evening at the Teen Dance, breaking it down on the dance floor and taking lots of pictures in the photo booth.
The Moms of Friends for Life (also known as the MoFFLs) gathered for events large and small. MoFFL’s met for informal walks around the lake to have small discussions about the highs and lows of diabetes. There were large crowds of moms who gathered daily at the Barcelona lounge for afternoon happy hours that became so large that it was almost impossible to get everyone into one picture for our social media pages! And, waffles just taste better when you’re with your MoFFLs, right? Breakfast time was also a special time for many moms to meet-up and gather before the conference day started. The MoFFL program concluded with an amazing session of “Mom’s Wine and Crafts” where over 175 moms completed a Board and Brush painting activity as they met and chatted with other moms in their tribe and established friendships that will truly last a lifetime.
The Dads of Friends for Life (now known as the DoFFLs) engaged more dads in discussions tailored to their needs, created interpersonal connections, especially with First Timers, and strengthened FFL identity. Two Morning Walks Around The Lake attracted nearly 30 dads over two days; over 40 attended a Friday night social at the Barcelona lounge after the MoFFLs meet-up. DoFFLs adopted a new, small group discussion format facilitated by two co-chairs and 12 table leaders for Friday’s “Down to Earth” session. Attendance of 78 was 21 more than last year; next year’s attendance should increase since contact data was collected to create regional connections for ongoing support and communication throughout the year. Two Zoom meetings with table leaders prior to the conference and a post-conference After-Action Review identified opportunities to improve next year’s sessions and continue relationship building.
Every year, Friends for Life happens because of the efforts of many, many volunteers. This year was no different. Over 200 volunteers traveled to Orlando and offered a week of their time and expertise to help FFL come to life. While some volunteers were brand new this year, others have been staffing Friends for Life since our very first event in June 2000. We offer each of these amazing people our most heartfelt thanks. We couldn’t do FFL without you!
This year’s Friends for Life was truly one for the record books. One record that we are quite proud to share is that we were able to bring the largest number of scholarship attendees ever to a Friends for Life event. We also received a record 107 applications to receive a scholarship through our online application process. This year we brought 30 families including more than 100 individuals on full scholarship to the event. A full scholarship includes the hotel room for the entire event, full-cost registration for each attendee, as well as $500 in travel for our young adult recipients. We are so honored that we could bring this many attendees and look forward to raising money to bring even more next year.
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 the week at Friends for Life. We also appreciate the sponsors for the incredible booths in this year’s exhibit hall – it was truly remarkable and life-changing.
Friends for Life Orlando 2022 Exhibitors
We also want to thank the 2022 exhibitors who came to spend time in our exhibit hall and to share their information and products with our attendees. The exhibit hall was absolutely a highlight of this year’s event.
- A Kid Again
- A Tad Too Sweet
- College Diabetes Network
- Diabetes Connections
- Diabetes Helpers
- EmpowerMe Diabetes Health
- Glucose Clock Projector LLC
- MBK Wear
- Skirt My Pump
- Stayput Medical
- Sugardrop Sweetwear Company
- Sugar Medical
- Type 1 Tactical