Our Room Captains welcome you to each session and introduce our amazing faculty
Deb Ruppert is so happy to be back as a part of the Friends for Life team. Deb started her relationship with Children with Diabetes while in the diabetes industry and looks forward to being a leader with the adult program support team (and supplying stickers for the sticker table!) each year. She’s been actively involved in helping to care for her dad’s diabetes for many years. Outside of FFL, she is head of commercial marketing with Journey Biosciences and loves gardening, cooking, college basketball, and her 4-legged fur baby, Gus. Come say hi!
Joan Bardsley, MBA, RN, CDCES, FAADE, is the assistant vice president of nursing and research integration at MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI) and MedStar Health Corporate Nursing. She has over 40 years of experience in healthcare with a specialty in diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES). Ms. Bardsley has worked for MHRI for 25 years where her previous positions included responsibility for special projects and core scientific services. She is the MHRI representative to the MedStar Health Chief Nurses Council. She has served as co-investigator for the NIH supported inpatient diabetes education project as well as the AHRQ funded We Want to Know Project, which support the Interdisciplinary Model of Care (IMOC). At MedStar Health Corporate Nursing, she is responsible as the executive liaison for administration of the Nursing Collaborative Governance Councils and has served as executive team liaison for a MedStar Wharton Nursing Leader of the Future. MS. Bardsley has published articles and book chapters on many aspects of DMSES and is an invited speaker both nationally and internationally on this topic. She holds an undergraduate degree in nursing from Boston College and a Master’s in Business Administration from The George Washington University. Ms. Bardsley is the past President of the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, past chair of the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education (CBDCE), and Board member of Children with Diabetes. In addition, she is currently serves on several committees for ADCES, CBDCE, and the American Diabetes Association.
Morgan Bednarczyk, MSEd, LPC, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during her senior year of high school in 2011. She first attended FFL Orlando in 2015 as a Young Adult scholarship recipient and has attended every year since. Morgan earned her Masters of Education Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Dayton and is now a licensed professional counselor who specializes in working with children and adolescents. In August 2022, she published a children’s book titled T1D Looks Like Us! A Type 1 Diabetes Story. She loves teaching teaching others about T1D through her book and empowering kids with T1D to follow their dreams. Morgan is excited for another year volunteering at FFL as it’s her favorite week of the year!
Kathy Brown lives in Connecticut with her husband, Eric. She is mom to Connor and Russell (dx’d in 8/2007 at the age of three). She quickly found CWD’s message boards and found a community of people who “get it.” She and Russell have attended FFL conferences since 2014. Kathy volunteered for the Virtual FFL conferences held in 2020 and is thrilled be be working with the Room Captain team this year. At home, Kathy enjoys volunteering and fundraising for diabetes nonprofits and supporting diabetes families. She also enjoys photography, travel and knitting.
Nia Grant has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2007, and has been living her best life every step of the way. Having worked in several professions and traveling the world, Nia has gained a wealth of experience in living life with chronic illness. She plans to continue living adventurously and helping others with diabetes learn to advocate for and navigate through their own adventurous lives.
Tina Hammer learned of Friends for Life after her son Reese was diagnosed in 2019, at age nine. She and her husband Phil also have two older kids and a son-in-law. The family’s first FFL was 2020’s Virtual Orlando conference and Tina didn’t see how it could get any better. They have been attending each year since and the in-person connections made are the answer. Tina is a former molecular biologist turned homeschool mom (of 21 years). Always up for a good experiment, she initiated use of DIY Loop in 2020 and also dabbles with Omnipod5. She is a Moderator and Editor for Loop and Learn and believes that when it comes to type 1, community is everything. Tina started Loop meetups at her first FFL and is excited to serve in the adult program.
Heather Hawco-Gray lives in Whitby, Ontario, with her husband and two grown children. She has been learning about type 1 since December 27, 2004, when someone she loves was diagnosed. She attended her first Friends For Life Conference in Toronto in 2011 and, in 2016, she attended her first FFL Orlando Conference. As a mental health professional, she has attended many conferences over her 32 year career but felt this conference was one of the most informative, educational, supportive, and organized. The atmosphere of the conference made her feel very inspired. She met some amazing volunteers and families and left feeling motivated, hopeful, and connected. She decided then to be a part of something great and has been volunteering in both FFL Orlando and FFL Canada ever since. Heather loves being active, participating in "Mud Girl" races, practicing Muay Thai, traveling and spending time with friends and family.
Dave Hunsche is married to Jane and dad to Kara, diagnosed in 2001, and Philip who all volunteer at Friends for Life. Dave first attended FFL with his family back in 2003 and has been volunteering since 2012. He and his family love going to the Friends for Life conference every year because the friends they made have become family and everybody who attends the conference understands what everyone else is going through.
Rebecca B. Jervey has been living with diabetes since 1998 when she was diagnosed just before her second year of high school. Her doctor's comment at the time was, "while I'd never wish this on anyone, I know you'll be ok because you'll treat it like a science experiment." Since then life has been a constant science experiment getting to know how her body reacts to things and picking up as much new technology as she can. She started looping in early 2018 and has since used OpenAPS, Omnipy, AndroidAPS, and FreeAPS at various times (and with various pumps and CGMS). Whenever burnout hits, she switches things up and tries a new technology to bring back the excitement of mastering diabetes. Outside of her diagnosis, she works as a trainer for pharmaceutical companies on a software suite that helps new drugs and devices get submitted to agencies worldwide. She also volunteers as part of the Camp Nejeda Walk-a-Thon committee and as a Moderator for the Loop and Learn Facebook group.
Kristianne Keyser, from Tecumseh, Michigan, is a proud mom of five and an Air Traffic Controller. Her youngest daughter, Isabella, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2016. Her family attended their first Friends for Life Orlando conference the summer after her diagnosis. Kris cannot say enough about the impact that first FFL had on her daughter and their entire family. They have been loyal FFLs ever since. Kris is so excited to be able to volunteer and give back to an organization that has come to mean so much to her family and so many T1D families around the world.
Benny Loebner is married to Pam (First Timers Staff) and the proud father of Sarah (dx 6/2002), who is a Physician Assistant at the University of Washington Diabetes Institute and working with teens this year at FFL. He is also the proud dad to Keith, who earned his PhD at Stanford in 2017 and then got married. Keith and his wife have since added two children to their family. The Loebner family attended their first Friends for Life conference one month after Sarah was diagnosed, and they have been volunteering in various capacities ever since. Benny, an environmental geologist living in Los Altos, California, enjoys most sports and coaches and referees for the American Youth Soccer Organization. He is looking forward to meeting and greeting everyone.
Howard Martin lives near Buffalo, NY, with his wife Bonnie and daughter Sarah, who has type 1 diabetes. Son Sean is currently serving in the US Air Force. After Sarah’s diagnosis in 2009, Howard and family attended their first Friends for Life in 2010, and every one since. Howard recently started an IT consulting business after a 30-year banking career.
Campbell Mitchell was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007. He and his family have attended Friends for Life Orlando since moving back to the United States from Australia in 2009, making new friends each year. Having just finished his undergraduate degree in Social Sciences, Campbell is excited to start as an MPH candidate at the Yale School of Public Health in the fall of 2023.
Bob O’Connell is husband to Colleen (Kiddie Kove Team) and father to Kaileigh (dx’d 1/2007) (Kiddie Kove Team) and Meghan. Bob and his family. Bob and his family live in northeastern Massachusetts and first attended FFL in 2008. They have been attending FFL for several years since. Bob works for Comcast in the southern New Hampshire area and is looking forward to volunteering once again this year to support this very important conference.
Adriana Papp attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2019 after her daughter Brianna's 2018 diagnosis with type 1 diabetes. She has participated in FFL Orlando every summer since then. Adriana enjoys spending time on the beach, volunteering with Friends of Jupiter Beach clean-up, and playing volleyball. She is thrilled to be a first timer volunteer at FFL Orlando 2023!
Brian Quinn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes his freshman year of high school. Having lived with diabetes for more than 25 years at this point, he has been known to say that his diabetes is now legally able to rent a car without paying the extra insurance or age-related prices. Over the years Brian has participated in many JDRF Ride to Cure’s and has clocked more miles on his bike than he ever thought he would. If you see Brian around, feel free to ask him about his love of all things Disney, especially Stitch. He can talk to you about cheese or penguins as well. Brian has been coming to Friends for life for years and as always is excited to be here now.
Georgia Robert advocates for all those living with type 1 diabetes through her volunteer work for JDRF, Beyond Type 1, and Clara Barton/Joslin Diabetes Center. Georgia is particularly committed to raising awareness about the warning signs of type 1, supporting newly diagnosed families, and ensuring all children with type 1 diabetes know they can excel in whatever they choose in life. Georgia's husband has thrived with type 1 diabetes for over 35 years, and one of their sons, Lucas, was diagnosed at the age of five. Georgia lives with her family in Longmeadow, Massachusetts and works as a school administrator in Connecticut.
Scott Suttles is a husband and father to three children, his youngest with type 1 diabetes since her diagnosis at age four. His daughter's experience at FFL 2021 was filled with laughter and new friendships. Scott's crew is excited to return to Orlando this year! Scott works as a speech and language pathologist and assistive technology professional in his local school system, serving first through 12th grades.
Robyn Wright is married to Tom and they are parents to Lauren, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2010 at the age of five, and Parker. Robyn works as a certified clinical medical assistant at an Internal Medicine and Pediatrics private practice in Illinois. Robyn is the primary CCMA for one of the providers. She has attended several FFL conferences with Lauren since 2012. In her free time she loves cuddling with the family’s two rescue pit bulls, listening to music, (mostly Dave Matthews Band), and crafting. Summer and July at Disney are her favorite seasons!
Indicates Room Captain with diabetes