FFL2023 Website Cover_1200x400

Report from Friends for Life Orlando 2023

From the moment that you arrive at the lobby of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, you are greeted with the sweet smell of passion hibiscus. It’s an almost intoxicating feeling when you enter and see the grounds of the hotel and convention center. The friendly cast members are ready to assist from the moment that you walk through the door on arrival day until the last second before checking out for your hotel stay. Guests are greeted with the familiar phrase, “Welcome Home,” and suddenly your heart feels settled and almost magical. Today, as I sip my lukewarm coffee back at my home office in North Carolina, my mind is full of memories from Friends for Life Orlando 2023. I wish that someone were piping the scent of passion hibiscus through my house; I long to be with my Fiffles. I can’t wait to share with you all some of the highlights from our annual conference. Let’s grab our coffee and pretend that we are gathering together on a cozy chair and sofa in the Barcelona Lounge at the hotel and recap FFL Orlando 2023!

Landing in Space

This year, our Friends for Life Orlando conference brought together almost 1,800 attendees from all across the world for an out of this world experience (cue the Space Theme). Children with Diabetes was honored to be able to host 30 scholarship families and participants as part of the conference. Our guests began arriving at staggered times during the weekend of July 1, 2023. Some families arrived early and visited the Disney Parks or Universal Studies and enjoyed some pre-conference leisure time. Others arrived closer to the start of the conference and were ready to blast off into space with their Friends for Life. Several attendees decorated their windows and doors at the hotel to let other guests that were passing by in the hallways know that they were attending the FFL conference. Many people enjoyed lounging in the different pools on the property, which they found was a great way to cool off from the hot Florida sun. The familiar sites of diabetes…people with visible CGM sensors and insulin pumps…started to fill the hallways and the restaurants on property. At this moment, it truly felt like home.

Meeting Fellow Space Travelers

Conference registration took place throughout the week in the North Registration area. Attendees were greeted with hugs and friendly welcomes from our volunteer teams that manage our Registration process. Additionally, first timers to the conference were greeted by our volunteer First Timer team. Each day, the First Timer team provided helpful information to attendees with giant signs that detailed the daily schedule, meetups, and prompts for discussion about what to expect in the day ahead. Directly across from the Registration and First Timer space stations, CWD hosted a merchandise table that contained space themed conference pins and stickers, silicone bracelets and beaded bracelets, and shirts for sale that help to support our conference scholarship funds. One of my favorite parts of the conference happens at Registration when we are given our orange or green wristbands. Wristbands (and name tags on lanyards) are a quick way to visibly identify who is a conference attendee. Green bands are given to people that have diabetes and orange bands are given to those that love someone with diabetes. Yellow wrist bands are distributed to people that have Celiac Disease or who eat gluten free. When in the hotel and in Orlando for the conference, I find myself constantly searching the wrists of other individuals for FFL wristbands. When I find someone wearing one, I know that I am with my family.

Flight Plan

Conference sessions were held Wednesday through Friday with sessions lasting between an hour to an hour and a half. Youth attendees are divided up into age-appropriate categories (Kiddie Kove, Elementary, Tween, and Teen). Youth Fiffles go to program sessions that are carefully planned during our retreat each January. Sessions are geared to support people with diabetes and their orange band counterparts (those that are siblings or the children of an adult with type one). The youth sessions are a mixture of education and fun and help all kids learn how to live their best lives with diabetes. On Wednesday, adults had an opportunity to spend the day in focus groups, product theaters, and sessions presented by our generous sponsors. The focus group sessions may have been discussing new technology and advancements by insulin pump manufacturers or developers or could have been seeking feedback from patients with diabetes that will help to shape new product lines or enhance customer service. In addition, our friends from the University of Florida were on hand to screen relatives of those with type 1 diabetes. On Thursday and Friday, adult attendees had the opportunity to hear from our world-renowned faculty members as they presented concurrent sessions on all sorts of topics ranging from the psychological aspects of being a parent or a person with diabetes to proper foot health for people with diabetes. Some sessions were discussion group format while others were more lecture style presentations. All of the faculty members were generous with their time and knowledge and often spent extra time in the hallways and during meals meeting with people and answering additional questions.

Space Traveler Nourishment

Meals at the conference were served buffet style in the long hallways of the convention center. Each food item was carefully carb counted by our Nutrition team and posted to a website accessible via a QR code at each meal event. Morning beverage and afternoon snack breaks were held in the exhibit hall allowing attendees to grab a morning or afternoon pick-me-up and visit with our sponsors and exhibitors. A separate gluten free buffet was provided for members of our Yellow band team (those that need to eat gluten free) and cast members from Disney helped to make sure that there was no cross contamination by attendees from one buffet line to the next. The chefs also worked with individuals who had additional nutritional limitations. In the evenings, our meals and treats were out of this world! On Wednesday night, during the opening of the Exhibit hall, space travelers were treated to crudités and desserts. During our annual Friends for Life banquet on Thursday night, guests were treated to a buffet inside of the banquet room. On Friday, attendees at Dexcom’s movie night were treated to popcorn and refreshments and, then, sweet treats during our scientific poster presentations with the faculty. During the Family Fun Night on Saturday, it was so fun to enjoy fruit and big soft pretzels with dipping sauce. Finally, we concluded the conference with our Farewell breakfast complete with mimosas for the adults! Returning to earth, I wish that I had a QR code in my kitchen that magically provided carb counts for our meals at home. Dining seems more lonely and much more full of math now. Haha!

Space Walks and Other Activities

Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, attendees at FFL Orlando had no shortage of sponsored activities to choose from during the conference week. On Tuesday night, our Volunteers were treated to an evening of bowling at Splitsville in Disney Springs at our Volunteer Appreciation event, thanks to our best Friends for Life at Dexcom. Wednesday evening saw the Grand Opening of our Exhibit Hall where attendees could spend time meeting one-on-one with our industry partners, sponsors, and other exhibitors all who were showcasing the best of diabetes products, supplies, events, and much more. On Thursday, we entered Planet Walgreens with our Opening Keynote breakfast and our Annual Friends for Life Banquet sponsored by the generous support of Walgreens. During the conference day on Friday, Omnipod helped to host the DoFFLs dad’s discussion group and the MoFFLs wine and art activity. Friday night brought two conference favorites—movie night and the Adults with T1D event. During Dexcom’s movie night, attendees snuggled in cozy Dexcom blankets and watched the movie Wall-E on a large screen. Later on Friday evening, adults with type one (and their +1s) performed karaoke and danced the night away at a special evening event sponsored by Omnipod. All Access: Team Tandem started off our Saturday morning with a host of special guests and VIPs with type one sponsored by Tandem Diabetes. Saturday evening concluded with the Family Fun Night of giant arcade games and a DJ dance party sponsored by Medtronic and Novo Nordisk. The conference concluded with our tearful goodbyes at the Farewell Breakfast, which was sponsored by Provention Bio. Friends for Life would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors and industry partners. We are so thankful for their continued support and for joining us each year in Orlando. You truly make a difference in the lives of people with diabetes!

End of Mission

As we finish our coffee together today, it’s easy to look back on Friends for Life Orlando 2023 and smile at our out of this world experience! Whether attendees were first timers or had attended for 20 years, the sights and sounds of diabetes were present from the moment that you arrived to Orlando until the minute that you left to go home. Children with Diabetes would love to thank our over 180 volunteers and faculty who worked tirelessly during the week to make sure that this was the best week ever for our attendees. We couldn’t do it without you and you are truly our greatest friends for life! Additionally, the week would not be possible without the generous support from our sponsors, industry partners, and individual donors who helped to support our conference funds and our scholarship program. Thank you for believing in the mission of our organization and helping us provide care today until a cure comes tomorrow. Finally, thank you to the attendees who gave up a week of your lives to join us in Orlando for our conference. We hope that your diabetes fuel tank is full and that you’ve made some lasting memories. I know that I certainly have and I can’t wait until we meet again in White Plains.

Green and Orange Forever

Leigh Fickling
COO, Children with Diabetes


Thank You to Our Sponsors

We could not host 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.

Galaxy Sponsor

Platinum Sponsor

Silver Advocacy Sponsor

Friends for Life Orlando 2023 Exhibitors

Thanks to the 2023 exhibitors who came to spend time in our exhibit hall and to share their information and products with our attendees. Once again, the exhibit hall was a highlight of this year’s event.

  • A Tad Too Sweet
  • Author Morgan Bednarczyk
  • BG Waves
  • Clix Therapy
  • Custom Type 1
  • Diabetes Connections
  • Diabetes Helpers
  • Diabetics Doing Things
  • Diabulimia Helpline
  • dot.COOL
  • Elbowbumpkid Inc
  • Everyday Diabetes Center
  • Expression Med
  • Finding Smiles Coaching
  • Glowcose
  • Glucose Clock Projector
  • Integrated Diabetes Services
  • Invincible
  • Macey’s Believers
  • MBKWear
  • Poke Prize Press
  • Skirt My Pump
  • Stay Put
  • Sticky Jewelry
  • Sugar Medical
  • T1D3dGear
  • The Diabetes Link
  • Tidepool
  • Type One Together
  • University of Florida Diabetes Institute