Smiley Squad

The Smiley Squad staffs registration, First Timers, and serves as Room Captains

Lauren Lanning

Lauren Lanning is the very proud mom of Monica, dx 8/96, a recent Physician Assistant graduate, and Sarah, an engineer. Lauren became involved with CWD shortly after Monica was diagnosed in 1996. She has been involved in the conferences since the very first gathering in Orlando in 2000, where she volunteered to make name badges. Since then, Lauren has run Registration and then the Elementary program. This year, Lauren is excited to continue as leader of the MOFFLs and First Timers. She lives in Colorado and loves traveling, riding her bicycle and volunteering as a JDRF Ride coach.

Julia Mattingly is proud mom of Hannah and Ethan, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in July of 1998 at 10 months old and started pumping when he was three years old. Julia has attended almost every Friends for Life Orlando conference and most of the regionals as well. Julia coordinates registration at each conference, and you can always find her when you need a smile and hug. Julia loves coordinating registration and being able to meet and talk to everyone who attends. Her favorite Friends for Life memory is from 2000 when she met all of her CWD email moms in Orlando for the first time. She also loves to see the smiles on her children’s faces when they re-connect with their CWD friends each summer. "Coming to Friends for Life has changed our lives. I have friends that 'get it' and what we as moms go through. But mostly, it has helped teach Ethan how to take care of himself, to live his best life on his own and taught us all how to give back to the CWD community."

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 four-legged fur baby, Gus. Come say hi!

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12, Michelle Auerbach blogs at her home base, Love, Light, and Insulin. She is passionate about dedicating her time to raising awareness for Type 1, along with other chronic illnesses. Michelle is the co-founder of Chronic Love Club, an online community whose vision is that with kindness and support for one another, we can get through anything. As a freelance writer, she has contributed to different health-related websites and publications. Michelle lives in Montreal, Quebec with her sidekick rescue cat named Big and is always excited to see her Friends for Life.

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!

Joan Benedetto is mom to Jayce, diagnosed at 18 months, and three adult children. She attended her first FFL conference in 2015 and has attended every year since, including several regional conferences. Joan brings her background as a management trainer within the food industry with an emphasis on creating the ultimate guest experience. She also served as a revitalization specialist. Her favorite thing to do at FFL, besides greeting Fiffles, is looking for and welcoming First Timers. Joan's hobbies are mosaics and applique quilting with wool. Joan is delighted to be joining the First Timers Team!

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.

Kristin Deltano is a proud mom to two young adults with type 1 diabetes, Abby and Matthew. Abby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 11 years old in 2016 and Matthew received his diagnosis 18 months later at age 14 in 2017. Kristin and her family have been attending Friends for Life Orlando since 2018 and are thankful for the connections and community created with other families who understand the T1D life. She specializes in relationship marketing in the sewing industry with Juki Junkies and Gigi’s Fabric Shop. Through Strawberry Sun Studio, her online brand, Kristin has created a way for families to celebrate life’s wins and Diaversaries by offering celebration banners, cards, and décor. She is committed to encouraging and inspiring those with invisible challenges.

Greg Dooley and his wife, Kristina, are the proud parents of triplets, Mia, Isa, and Max. Their daughter, Isa, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in August 2012 just before her second birthday. Greg serves on the Board of Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit organization changing what it means to live with diabetes. He also serves on the Board of Journey Biosciences, a US-based biotechnology company dedicated to fundamentally improving diabetes care. Greg is a corporate finance executive with more than 20 years experience and lives in Northeast Ohio with his family. Greg is excited to meet new families at Friends for Life this year as part of the Smiley Squad!

Kristina Dooley

Kristina Dooley is from Ohio and is mom to triplets Isa, Mia and Max. Isa was diagnosed with type 1 in August of 2012, just before her second birthday. The Dooley family has attended the Friends for Life Conference since 2013 and count it as a highlight of every year (especially the themed banquets and DocuDiabetes!). Kristina is a Certified Educational Planner and loves traveling to visit colleges around the country. She is thrilled to be part of the Smiley Squad this year!

Helen Finegold attended her first Friends for Life conference in 2018 and has been coming back as a volunteer ever since. She lives and works in New Jersey with her husband Will (dx 2004). Helen looks forward to FFL each year to learn about new technologies and reconnect with friends new and old. Outside of working with Children with Diabetes, Helen enjoys photography, travel, and spending time with her two cats.

Tina Ghosn has three children with diabetes. Her daughter completed two undergraduate degrees this spring and will begin working toward her graduate degree this fall. Her oldest son completed his second year of college, and her youngest began his first year of college in 2023. Tina isn’t entirely sure how she will cope with an empty nest; thank goodness for three dogs, three cats, and a whole lot of friends. FFL 2024 will be her 12th FFL Orlando conference since her youngest son was diagnosed in 2007. Tina says, “Friends For Life is more than learning about new technology or the most recent cure research, it’s more than meeting people with diabetes who summit mountains, race cars, win extreme challenge courses, become pro-athletes, or write and perform music. Friends For Life is about the powerful feeling in your chest as you hear the words ‘Us, too’ while you chat with strangers who are just like you and meet kids who are just like yours; it’s in those moments the universe feels smaller and more manageable.”

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.

Brenda Hitchcock is mom to Marissa (dx’d at 24 months), Kathryn, and Tim. She’s worked side-by-side with her husband Jeff on Children with Diabetes since it began in 1995. Brenda brings a mom’s perspective to diabetes care, assists in preparing links for The Weekly Diabetes email newsletter, and helps out in countless ways at Friends for Life conferences.

Jane Hunsche, RN, is the mother of Kara, diagnosed in 2001 at the age of six, and Philip, and wife to Dave. Jane has been advocating for Kara and others with diabetes ever since. She is a Registered Nurse, having worked in Neonatal Intensive Care for 23 years, and has now moved on to working with adults and their families in long term care. Jane is thrilled to be able to give back to CWD families for all that has been given to her family. She says, “Friends For Life has been life changing for us. It allows Kara to feel like she is not alone and to make friends who just ‘get it.’ The education and support we receive surpasses any we receive locally and we have made true friends for life!”

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 Lore-Keyser

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.

LaQuanda Lockhart, MHA, MAT, is a mom of two boys: Landon, her T1D warrior, and Karrai. Landon was diagnosed with T1D on February 6, 2021. After signing up for various emails about T1D, LaQuanda stumbled across Friends for Life. She and her family were able to attend for the first time after Landon was diagnosed just months earlier. What a life changer it was! She loved it so much that she decided to sign up to be a volunteer and continues to do so. Besides being a busy mom, LaQuanda is a science teacher in the Mississippi Delta.

Benny Loebner is married to Pam 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.

Pam Loebner was a California public elementary school teacher who worked in both special education and regular education classrooms for 38 years. Since becoming a CWD mom, Pam has assisted the district nurse with education for families and teachers when newly diagnosed or newly enrolled students arrive. While always working as an advocate for student needs, Pam focuses on being an advocate for equal access to all school activities for children with diabetes. Pam and her family discovered the CWD website 30 minutes after her daughter's diagnosis in June 2002 when Sarah was 9 1/2, and attended their first conference just a month later. "It was like coming home," she says.

Hannah Mattingly is the older sister to Ethan, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1998. Hannah and her family have been to all the Friends for Life Orlando conferences, and many of the regional conferences. Hannah started in childcare at four years old and moved through all the youth programs. She graduated from Spalding University in Louisville Kentucky with a MBA in Health Science & Healthcare Management. Hannah is excited to continue in registration this year to welcome the attendees and reconnect with all her Friends for Life. She likes giving back to the CWD community and is happy her brother has learned how to take care of himself with all the advancements in diabetes.

Midge McBryant is grandma (Mimi) to Jeremy Meredith (dx’d 5/2000), Chelsea, and Bailey, and great grandma to Owynn. She is enjoying retirement after working several years as a real estate paralegal. She loves baseball and the Tampa Bay Rays! She enjoys learning to make pottery items. Midge has attended all Friends For Life Orlando conferences since her first in 2003. She has volunteered for several years in various capacities. She spent her first three conferences attending sessions, learning about type 1 diabetes, and sharing her fears, guilt, and hopes with new friends who “Get It.” Midge is so happy to be a part of the Smiley Squad this year. She loves giving and receiving hugs!

Shari Michaelson hails from Ajax, Ontario. Along with son Tayler (diagnosed in 2004) and daughter Connor, Shari has attended Friends for Life conferences since 2009. After their first FFL Orlando, she realized that every summer has to include FFL. Shari looks forward to volunteering with the Registration Team again this summer. She is thrilled to give back to an organization that has supported her family for so many years. To her, Friends for Life is a uniquely inclusive event where you feel like everyone is family.

Heather Mitchell became a diabetes mom in 2007, when her son Campbell was diagnosed at the age of 9. They were in Australia at the time, so she is bilingual in diabetes terminology. Moving back to the U.S. in 2009, Heather found CWD online and convinced her family to attend their first FFL conference. She used the Disney World location as an incentive to get them to go to Florida in July. They have been coming ever since, including quite a few of the regional conferences as well. Heather has been active with the MOFFL's, while her husband Scott participates with the Dads, and Campbell has been one of the group leaders with the young adults. Her younger son Thomas has also participated in TrialNet and other diabetes related studies.

Wendell Mosby's life took a turn when his son Myles was diagnosed with diabetes in 2020. Since then, he and his wife Tiffany have been advocating for diabetes awareness and research. Wendell, who works at Goodwill Industries, oversees their juvenile justice program and has been attending FFL since 2022, after Tiffany discovered it online. The family loves watching Myles swim competitively and discovering new homeschool adventures. They reside in Merrillville, Indiana, with their beloved two year-old mini-GoldenDoodle, Twinkles.

Bob O’Connell is husband to Colleen and father to Kaileigh (dx’d 1/2007) and Meghan. 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 returning to Orlando as a volunteering once again this year to support this very important conference.

Betty Parker, a CWD grandma who lives in Manning, South Carolina, has been coming to Friends for Life conferences since 2004. She has four grandchildren, including Joshua who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 2003. Betty has also attended three regional conferences in Marco Island and the Quilt for Life display in Washington D.C. Betty enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren, playing tennis, exercising, reading, and traveling. She is very happy to volunteer with the Smiley Squad this year.

Jisel Parra has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 20 years. She was diagnosed at the age of 15 and since then she has had a passion to raise awareness about the disease. Jisel has found a way to spin the everyday frustrations and intricacies of living with type 1 diabetes into a life full of purpose. As a mother of two, a wife and a corporate professional, life can get challenging, but in the end she realizes that there is a silver lining to everything. In 2016, Jisel founded A Tad Too Sweet, a medical awareness jewelry and accessories company that encourages individuals living with diabetes to bring awareness and education to the condition. She continues to raise awareness via her social media platforms.

Belinda Peach is mom to Hannah and Brianna. Hannah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in August 2004 at the age of four. Shortly after her diagnosis, they registered for their first Friends for Life conference in 2005. During the lunch break on the first day of the conference, Hannah, then five, asked, “When am I getting my pump?” It was great timing! Hannah started pumping that fall, just a couple weeks after starting kindergarten. Belinda knew after that first conference, given all the friends they’d made and all that they’d learned, that their family would be at every FFL conference. Belinda and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Belinda is an Cloud Engineer for HCA Healthcare.

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.

Michelle Rago ran the elementary program for Friends for Life for more than 10 years during the early years of the conference. She is the parent of two children with diabetes. Her son Trent was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000 at the age of four. Due to the advocacy of Michelle and her husband Tim, Trent was the first child in his endo's practice to be placed on an insulin pump within one month of diagnosis. He is thriving - married with three children. Michelle is also the parent to Maya, who came to Michelle and Tim at nine months old. Maya had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2006 and was on an insulin pump. But, again, due to the advocacy of Michelle, she was found to have neonatal monogenic diabetes. Maya takes twenty-one 5 mg pills of glyburide daily to manage her diabetes.

Tracey Smith

Tracey Smith is mom to Kylee and Joshua, and they live in Suwanee, Georgia. Joshua was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 2003 at the age of three. With all of the overwhelming information given to her as a newly diagnosed mom, Tracey found comfort in the Children with Diabetes website. In 2004, the entire Smith family including Mimi, Betty Parker, attended their first Friends For Life conference in Los Angeles, California. That was all it took to realize that this is where her family needed to be every summer to make life a little easier on everyone. Tracey has since volunteered at every Friends for Life conference. Her favorite time of the year is the Children with Diabetes conference where she reconnects with friends and greets everybody as they check in at the Registration Desk.

Andrew Stone only knows life with T1D, having been diagnosed at 20 months old. Growing up in central California, his family was involved in the diabetes community and attended their first FFL conference in 2004. Andrew went on to graduate from Auburn University, spent three summers guiding canoe trips in Minnesota, and now lives in the Orlando area working as an Operations Supervisor for an airline at MCO. He loves traveling to visit friends and family and going to NASCAR races and other sporting events. Andrew started attending CWD events more frequently and made his CWD friends during and after college, so he is excited to share and grow the community of Young Adults at FFL.

Scott Suttles

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.

Dominique Trappio has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2016, when she was diagnosed as an adult. She is the only member of her family with T1D so she enjoys connecting with others through social media and T1D organizations. Dominique loves to hike and play sports, especially soccer and football. She was a part of the 2022 Atlanta Phoenix Women’s Pro Football Team in the WNFC and has been playing soccer competitively for over 20 years. Dominique also has a diabetic alert dog named Bowie who helps to keep her BG in range. He now loves sports and hiking just as much as Dominique.

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!

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 Smiley Squad member with diabetes