Jeff Hitchcock is the founder, president, and Chief Executive Officer of Children with Diabetes. After earning a degree in computational mathematics in 1981, Jeff worked in high tech and traveled the world, meeting Brenda, who would become his wife, in Africa. In September of 1989, their first child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of two. Jeff worked in defense related industries until 1995, when he started a small internet company and launched Children with Diabetes to share his family's experience caring for a child with T1D. Jeff also serves on the Board of Directors for the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (DPAC). Jeff received the 2021 ISPAD Hero Award for his work on Children with Diabetes.
Carolyn Billetdeaux, MBA, has worn almost every 'hat' over her 20+ years working with CWD – from youth attendee to volunteer to youth program leader to her new roles as Conference Volunteers and Training Coordinator and Food and Beverage Coordinator. Be sure to say "hi" as you see her running around the buffets at mealtime! She brings over two decades of experience as a sibling of someone with T1D (hi Sam!) and she played a key role in developing the Orange Team youth program at Friends for Life conferences, which focuses on providing support for siblings and others who love people with T1D. Carolyn loves spending time with her Friends for Life family and enjoys helping CWD continue to grow and evolve.
A finicky connoisseur of hotel meeting space, cappuccino, and kid-friendly cheese and fruit platters, Laura Billetdeaux is CWD's VP of Education and Programs. Since the first CWD event in June 2000, Laura has organized Friends for Life conferences, always keeping in mind the true purpose of Children with Diabetes — education and support of families with type 1, and always keeping in mind why it all works – the efforts of so many dedicated individuals. Laura lives in Manchester, Michigan with her husband Neal. They are parents of Sam and Carolyn, who both serve as faculty at Friends for Life conferences as time allows.
Leigh Fickling, JD, MEd, MS, serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Children with Diabetes. Leigh is responsible for the day-to-day operational leadership of the organization and for the oversight and implementation of the organization's strategic plan. Leigh's daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2013 at the age of three. Leigh is a subject matter expert in the implementation of accommodations for people with diabetes in the classroom, workplace, and beyond. The Friends for Life conferences are the highlight of the year for the Fickling family and they can't imagine trying to dia-beat-this without their circle of friends.
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 Connecticut 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.
Rob Freund, RN, EMT-P, is a career EMS lieutenant/paramedic for the Baltimore County Fire Department. He has also been in the field of emergency medical care for almost 20 years as an ER nurse. He attended his first Friends for Life Orlando conference in 2012 and was greatly impressed with the educational programs offered.
Ed Grand, along with wife Shelley and son Parker (diagnosed in 2002 at age three), has attended every Friends for Life July conference since 2003. Ed credits FFL for Parker’s successful diabetes management and for his success in the start of his journey in life. Ed states, “For that we are grateful and volunteer in hope that others may have the same successes.“ Besides the night time BG monitoring, Ed works as a banker, is an avid runner, and enjoys volunteering for California's La Purisima Mission State Historic Park.
Jen Hanson, BKin, BEd, MEd, CDCES, has grown up with type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed in 1987, she has never let diabetes stop her from pursuing her passion. Jen’s early beginnings as a campfire-loving, bug-catching, mud-puddle-jumping, tree-climbing tot sparked in her a love for the natural world that has been fostered and grown into a full-blown passion for everything outdoors. Jen is the Executive Director of Connected in Motion (CIM), and spends her days organizing retreats and adventure programs for adults with type 1 diabetes. She also works with the CIM Team to run Friends for Life Canada. Jen became a CDE in 2017 focusing on diabetes and exercise. Jen loves volunteering with Children with Diabetes as it gives her an opportunity to work with youth with diabetes and give them the gift of connection.
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, is editor of the “Ask the Diabetes Team” section of the Children with Diabetes website, and helps out in countless ways at Friends for Life conferences.
Rachel Knight has music in her heart but no insulin production in her pancreas. Diagnosed at the age of 10, she never let diabetes stop her. She is currently a music teacher and musical theater director in Menlo Park, CA, and teaches children in Preschool through 5th grade. Most of Rachel's student's think she is part robot and get a kick out of spotting her robots (Omni, Riley, and Dex), asking where they are, and even trying to touch them. Rachel believes that her tendency to over pack is because of her diabetes. She likes to be over prepared and generally has glucose tabs, juice boxes, and overtapes on her person at any time. Rachel lives in the San Francisco Bay Area near her parents, sister, and two nephews. Rachel always looks forward to FFL events and can't wait to work with this years IT Staff.
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.
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 of Keith, who earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 2017, got married a few weeks later to Ellen, and just celebrated his son Jonah’s first birthday. The family attended their first CWD 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 is a California public elementary school teacher who has 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.
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 every Friends for Life 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."
Carolyn Meredith is mom to Chelsea, Jeremy (dx’d May 2000), and Bailey and wife to Rich. Carolyn and her family attended their first Friends for Life conference in 2003 and have been involved with CWD ever since. Carolyn works with Rich managing the storage facility and works with the Support Team as central communications during the conference. For her day job, Carolyn is the Data Management Tech at an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida. She enjoys meeting and sharing with other CWD families. “Friends for Life is a place where everyone ‘gets it’ and you can share your own experiences to help others newer to T1D.”
Jeremy Meredith was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2000 when he was six years old. Jeremy has been attending Friends for Life Orlando conferences since 2003. He received his Associates of Science in Criminal Justice Technology in 2016, a general AA in 2018, BAS in Public Safety Administration in 2020, and is a certified SCUBA Diver. His biggest reason to come to Friends for Life Orlando is that it is a “vacation” from diabetes that is all about diabetes.
Rich Meredith is dad to Jeremy (dx'd May 2000), Bailey, and Chelsea. He has been involved in CWD since the family attended their first conference in 2003. His day job is working in IT, but on the side he makes "big bowls," hand thrown pottery pieces which have been found at diabetes and community art related fund raising auctions. Rich coordinates the load in and load out of all conference materials. He also oversees the exhibit hall, from set-up to tear down and everything in between for the FFL conference. Children with Diabetes has been a huge part of his family’s life, and they have all made lifelong friendships here.
Ashlyn Mills serves as CWD’s Events and Programs Manager. Ashlyn has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2015 when she was diagnosed at the age of 19. She quickly found her tribe in CWD and attended her first FFL conference less than one year after her diagnosis. By trade, Ashlyn is a licensed physical therapist assistant but the connections diabetes created quickly changed her career path. Ashlyn is passionate about helping people with diabetes and their families connect so they don’t have to do it alone. In her spare time, Ashlyn loves to run, bike, visit Disney World, and camp with her family.
Will Nowak attended his first Friends for Life event in 2018 and has been returning to volunteer with the IT Team ever since. He is interested in learning about new developments in diabetes technology and participating in clinical trials in that space. Will and his wife Helen live in Connecticut with their two cats. He works as a Site Reliability Engineer and outside of work enjoys rock climbing, travel, and searching for the best Fettuccine Alfredo. Will is looking forward to seeing everyone at the next conference!
Kristen O’Dell, MS, RD, CDCES, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of nine, in 1998. Despite her resistance to accepting this diagnosis, it has been the driving force behind her pursuing a career as a dietitian. She earned her Master’s degree in Dietetics at D’Youville College and became a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. Kristen has worked in a children’s clinic, long term care nursing facilities, as an insulin pump trainer, and is now providing diabetes and nutrition counseling through her company, Focused Diabetes Solutions, all while being the Dietitian at CWD FFL conferences. Her goal is to empower people living with diabetes so that they can navigate all the ups and downs of life (and blood sugars). Kristen and her husband, Shawn, have a child, Corwin, plus one on the way. Kristen enjoys cooking and baking in the kitchen, working in the garden, rooting for the Buffalo Bills, traveling around the world, and reading (when she can find a little free time).
Matthew Point, MS, serves as CWD’s Director of Advancement and Programs. Matt is responsible for CWD’s fundraising and development, working with our generous sponsors, and managing our conference scholarship program. In 2013, Matt attended his first CWD event – Friends for Life Orlando. Matt’s favorite part of being involved with CWD & the Friends for Life Conferences is having the opportunity to meet other significant others of people with type 1 diabetes.
Deb Ruppert is so happy to be a part of the Friends for Life team and can’t wait to see old and meet new FFLs. Her dad is her connection to diabetes. Outside of Children with Diabetes, she is a strategic marketing consultant for medical device and healthcare companies and enjoys cooking, college basketball and her four-legged fur baby.
Lauren Salko lives in Park City, Utah and is graduate of Saint Anselm College. Lauren is professional skier who competes around the world in SkiCross. When she is not skiing, Lauren loves mountain biking and doing triathlons. As a person with diabetes, Lauren is very passionate about working with Children with Diabetes and could not be more excited to be a part of the youth programming staff this year!
Jordan Squibb is a Creative Director focusing on post-production for a video and live events production company. He was introduced to type 1 diabetes when he met his wife, Sasha, over 10 years ago and has used his background to tell stories of those living with T1D. He attended his first FFL in 2022 and was instantly hooked and realized there was a lack of video content and wanted to help. You can find Jordan wandering around the conferences with a camera capturing memorable moments. Jordan is a fantasy movie, video game, and sushi-loving dog/cat dad.
Sasha Squibb is a visual communication specialist with a focus in non-profit marketing, serving as CWD's Creative Director. Sasha was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes more than 25 years ago and in a previous role oversaw outreach and marketing initiatives for the T1D community across Southwest Ohio. She is highly passionate about providing education and support for people with T1D and their families.
Marissa Town, BSN, RN, CDCES, is Clinical Director for Children with Diabetes and oversees the medical content on the website and develops the adult programming at Friends for Life conferences. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 2 years old and grew up as an attendee of the Friends for Life conferences since the beginning in 2000. Marissa also works part time at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to help improve health equity for families with T1D.
Indicates staff member with diabetes