Tween Team

Our Tween Team oversees programming for our Fiffles aged 9 to 12.

Melissa Geren was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995. She went to her first Friends for Life Orlando Conference in 2003 and has been attending Friends for Life conferences ever since. Melissa is mom to Maddax (born December 2021), wife to Zach and has three siblings, Sarah, Kayla, and Matthew (diagnosed at age two). Melissa works in marketing in Chicago and loves the Windy City. In addition to working with Tweens at Friends for Life Conferences each year, Melissa is currently a board member for Children with Diabetes.

Sarah Johnston is mom (to Reese), wife (to Russ), sister (to Melissa, Kayla, and Matthew) and daughter (to Dave and Chris Pawlowski). Two of Sarah's siblings have had type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years. With a bachelor's degree in Education and Psychology, Sarah is a STEM teacher in a project based classroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since the age of 10, Sarah spends a week where everyone understands all that comes with type 1 diabetes. Now, Sarah brings her own daughter and husband to spend time with others just like Aunt Melissa and Uncle Matthew. This is a great time to reconnect as a family and catch up with friends from all over the world. Sarah is excited to be a Tween Leader, where hands-on activities lead to learning and friends for life.

Erica Smith

Erica Smith was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in January 2004. Erica attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2004 with her family and has only missed one conference since, which she thoroughly regrets. She graduated from Texas A&M University with a Health Education degree. Erica currently resides in Round Rock, TX with her husband and son Weston (born April 2022). She is a Second Grade teacher in the Austin area. Erica says that Friends for Life conferences are the best part of her year and she is very grateful for all the friends she has made at conferences. She is extremely excited to be a leader on the Tween Team!

Ryan Anglani, BS, ED, is married to Todd and is the proud mother of Gavin (who was diagnosed with type 1 in 2012) and Kaitlyn. She along with her family live in sunny south Florida. She is a high school reading teacher and loves every day she gets to spend with her students. Her family first attended Friends for life in 2015 and have attended almost every conference since. As soon as they found Friends for Life, they knew they had found a connection they couldn’t live without. There are so many positive connections that can be found at Friends for Life. It really changed their whole view and outlook on type 1 for the better. Ryan’s favorite hobbies are paddle boarding, spending time on the beach, and boating.

Jessica Carey, MBA volunteers with the Tween Program. She is the proud mother of James, who was diagnosed with T1D in February of 2021. With a background in performing arts and education, Jessica has taught middle and high school theatre in three states, directed many theatre productions, and planned large scale summer learning experiences for students across the country. Currently, Jessica works as the Head of Customer Success for a software company in Washington, D.C., which allows her the flexibility to assist with her son’s diabetes care. In her spare time Jessica loves reading, crafts, and is a very devoted baseball mom.

Chelsea Carr has grown up around diabetes; her brother Jeremy was diagnosed in 2000. She attended her first Friends for Life conference with her family in 2003 and has been to many CWD conferences since that time. It was through the FFL conferences that she first met her husband, Martyn. They welcomed a son, Owynn, in May 2021. Chelsea now lives in Glasgow and works as a data analyst for Vodafone UK. She is also an aerialist and spends all of her free time hanging from the rafters on a trapeze in various venues around the UK!

Kira Dobson, FNP-BC, CDCES, CPT, BC-ADM, is a first time volunteer this year. She is mother to Kairi (green bracelet tween) and Jacob (orange bracelet teen). While she was already a nurse practitioner in Internal Medicine, once her daughter, Kairi, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2018, she pivoted her career to focus primarily on diabetes management and education. She has spearheaded projects in her community to advance the use of technology in management for type 1 and type 2 in primary care. During their first FFL, she realized the importance of having a support network within the type 1 community for all members of the family. "Even with fifteen years of healthcare experience, nothing prepared me or our family for that impact and emotional toll that Kairi’s type 1 and celiac diagnoses would play on our lives. During our first FFL, I think we were all able to finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing we weren’t alone. The first thought that comes to mind when I think of Friends for Life is that it's life changing." She looks forward to working with your tweens at this year’s conference and reconnecting with her Friends for Life.

John Gallagher was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011. He has attended Friends for Life Orlando since 2013 and is excited to be part of the Tween Team again this year. He currently lives in Lewisburg, WV, and graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. John is a current second year osteopathic medical student at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. He has previously worked as an EMT for the last five years and in the Brusko Lab at the University of Florida Diabetes Institute. “CWD means to me a place where I can relax and simultaneously forget about diabetes for a while but also learn so many new things about living with type 1 diabetes."

Erin Graffeo was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in January 1991. She was diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago. Professionally, Erin holds six teaching certifications and enjoys teaching first grade in Long Island, New York. She resides in West Babylon, New York with her husband Anthony. Friends for Life is the highlight of her year. Erin looks forward to volunteering with the Tween Team this year.

Dennis Holterman, 25, has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years. Dennis has been coming to Friends For Life since 2013. Currently, he attends Southeast Missouri State University achieving his BA in Performing Arts. After graduation, Dennis plans to move to Los Angeles and become a successful actor, and then use his influence to spread awareness about diabetes. Dennis says, “Friends for Life is a home for people with diabetes to feel accepted and like they fit in. That’s why FFL means so much to me."

Stephanie Holterman has attended Friends for Life Conference since 2012. Her older brother, Dennis, was diagnosed in 2005 with type 1 diabetes. Stephanie is so excited to be apart of the Tween Team and give back to a community she loves. The people at FFL have helped shape her into the person she is today, and she hopes to become that for others as well! She attends the University of Georgia as a history major with a pre-law intent. Along with her studies, she is a member of the Kappa Delta sorority and Miracle, which benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Angela Kaminski

Angela Kaminski is from Flagstaff, Arizona. Her youngest son was diagnosed four years ago with type 1 diabetes. Angela is the Director of a small K-12 school. She lives with her husband, youngest daughter, two youngest sons, and two very spoiled dogs. She has three grown children scattered across the United States. In her free time, Angela likes to hike, camp, play board games, badminton, and spend time around the fire with friends and family. Her first trip in person to Friends for Life Orlando was in 2021. It was life-changing for her and her family! They are very excited to return this year. Angela is extremely excited to volunteer this year and spend time with the tweens all week!

Dan Knox is a classified staff member at a community college living in Tacoma, WA with his fiancé, Alexa. In his spare time, Dan enjoys listening to music, watching movies, and playing Madden. Dan was introduced to Friends for Life through his fiancé, Alexa, who was diagnosed with type 1 in 1997, and has been attending/volunteering at the conference most of her life.

Corey Lackey, hoping to connect with other significant others that are affected by T1D, attended his first Friends for Life conference with his wife Lizzie Lackey (T1) in 2022. He is so grateful for FFL and for it being such a great resource and support for all who are impacted by T1D and is excited to play a bigger part by volunteering in the youth program this year.

Shelby Smith, MBA, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age six in 2003. This will be her 17th Friends for Life Orlando conference. She currently does marketing, communications, web design, and social media management for Florida Gulf Coast University. FFL is her favorite part of the year, and she has made the best friendships from these conferences. In her spare time, Shelby's favorite activities include traveling, going to concerts, and playing with her golden retriever puppy, Scruffy. She looks forward to spending her favorite part of the year with the Tween Team!

Caroline Smits

Caroline Smits was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2001 and attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2003. She loves her busy life as a flight attendant and certified Infant Swimming Resource Instructor in Charlotte, NC. She enjoys exploring new and familiar places in her free time as well as visiting family. Caroline has a passion for service and is excited to help out as part of the Tweens Team!

Jim Stone

Jim Stone attended his first Friends for Life Conference in 2004. His son, Andrew, was diagnosed with type 1 in 1998 at 20 months of age. Jim, wife Julia, and Andrew have all been involved in diabetes advocacy since Andrew’s diagnosis, focusing on diabetes accommodations in school. Jim is a retired Army officer and Public Works manager. He and his wife live in Rolla, Missouri. He has been a Boy Scout leader for many years and enjoys working with the tweens.

Adam Town, BSN, RN, graduated with a Bachelors of Science in nursing from the University of Cincinnati. Adam is a husband to Marissa, who has had type 1 diabetes since she was two, and father to Connor and Everly. He has always enjoyed being a mentor and role model for children and loves to help families, caregivers and significant others of people with diabetes at Friends for Life conferences.

Claudia Velez

Claudia Velez, MSN, RN, CPN, is a bilingual and bicultural pediatric nurse in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is mama to Olivia and wife to Manuel. She has a best friend with type 1 diabetes. After attending Friends for Life Indianapolis in 2022, Claudia worked with the Tween group at Friends for Life Orlando in 2023. She is passionate about working with children, providing support, and empowering families in the community. She is looking forward to learning more about diabetes.

Kiraina Young has been a staunch supporter of Children With Diabetes since attending her first conference in 2011 at the age of 18. She has had diabetes since 2005, shortly after moving from The Bahamas to sunny Florida, where she is an avid reader and enjoyer of all things Disney, Marvel, and musicals. She can't wait for another year surrounded by people who just "Get It" and is looking forward to seeing all of her FIFFLes again. You can find her usually cutting up the dance floor at the social events or sharing a smile and a giant FFL hug throughout the conference.


Indicates Tween Team member with diabetes