Friends for Life: Spring Refuel 2021 Conference Report


On March 19, 20, and 21, the CWD staff and volunteers came together to launch Friends for Life: Spring Refuel 2021, via virtual conference.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions on … well, everything this past year, we honed our virtual conference delivery skills and were able to bring our spring conference to life with some new sessions, new faculty, and new ways of connecting, even through Zoom!  And our community and sponsors alike were united in their excitement about FFL Spring Refuel.

On Friday, the evening began with dedicated Virtual Exhibit Hall hours, featuring our founding sponsors, Dexcom, Abbott Freestyle, and Lilly Diabetes, and our supporting sponsors, Omnipod and Tandem Diabetes Care, and open Hallway discussions, where Fiffles could connect and say hi to everyone. At 8 pm, Sean Oser, MD, MPH opened the conference with his space-themed Navigating the Healthcare System advocacy session, which was an amazing presentation with an even more inspiring Q&A session!

Saturday hosted a full day of sessions and meetups, from the Fiffle Hallway, to the Adults with Diabetes + Partners Hallway, to the Young Adults Hallway. Beginner fitness enthusiasts drew inspiration from CWD Board member and Team CWD captain Kenny Rodenheiser, BSN, RN, CDCES, while others honed their exercise expertise with Dessi Zaharieva, PhD and Mike Riddell, PhD. The CWD Youth program included morning ice breakers for all age groups, then met again in the afternoon for an exercise session with the one and only Harold Sanco. Adult and parent morning sessions also included Making Space for Your Emotions, with Jessie Wong, PhD, and a discussion group for significant others with Matt Point, MS, Tamara Oser, MD, and Grace Grande-Cassell.

Dedicated Virtual Exhibit Hall hours kicked off our afternoon sessions, with special presentations from our sponsors. The Exhibit Hall was followed by an “Ask Me Anything” session with Dr. Oser, and a Make Food Make Sense presentation from Kim Rose, RDN, CDCES. The afternoon sessions closed with two discussion groups; one for parents of children with diabetes, led by Leigh Fickling, MEd, MS, JD, Lauren Lanning, Leila Blue, Greg Dooley, and one for parents who have diabetes, led by Rayhan Lal, MD, MPH, PhD, Kenny Rodenheiser, BSN, RN, CDCES, Noor Al Ramahi, and Kerri Sparling.

The afternoon rolled into open discussion hallways with special topic focuses, like the Mom with T1D Kids Conversation, or the Dads of T1D Kids Conversation, or the DIY and Looping Conversation.  A First Timer meetup closed out the evening as families readied themselves for Sunday!

CWD 2017 Smiley For Faculty

"Great to hang out at the end of the conference. I feel like I got to know some folks and have pleasant conversations. It's nice to have that connection and I hope I'll get to again sometime. Thank you for this conference! I came in with a lot of shyness and worry but I'm leaving quite happy."

FFL Spring Refuel attendee

Sunday opened with Digital Health During COVID … and Beyond with Alanna Landry RN, CDCES and George Huntley, running concurrently with a session on Knowing Your Rights, featuring John Griffin.  Youth sessions also took place, including a field trip with Ranger Parker for our youngest Fiffles, hallway meetups for the Tweens, Tech Talk with Rayhan for the Teen group, and then an all-ages workout with Harold. Afternoon sessions for parents and adults included Advocacy in College, presented by Leigh Fickling, Med, MS, JD and Matt Point, MS, as well as Advocacy in the K-12 System with Melissa Schwaber.  The Virtual Exhibit Hall opened back up after lunch, with sponsors holding live “office hours” as well as discussions and interviews.

Late afternoon sessions included Getting Your Voice Heard as a BIPOC with Diabetes, featuring Ananta Addala, DO, Kyle Banks, Katarina Yabut, Taylor Johnson, and moderated by Phyllisa Deroze, PhD, as well as Advocating as a Person Without Diabetes, with Tamara Oser, MD and Matt Point, MS. Cherise Shockley hosted an interactive session about Telling Your Story, and Irl Hirsch, MS, MACP, Stewart Perry, and Jeff Hitchcock were part of a panel discussion about The Price of Diabetes. The day ended with an inspiring closing keynote from Scott Johnson and Leila Blue about Connecting with Your Diabetes Community.

While we did not record every session, the ones we did capture will be available on our YouTube channel for the next few weeks. The FFL Spring Refuel Playlist is here. These will be viewable until May 1, 2021. We will be adding new recordings over the next few days!

And, after a full weekend of connections, information, and inspiration, we’re hanging up our virtual hats in hopes of our next meeting being an in-person one.  More on that as soon as possible!

In this weird, ever-changing world, Friends for Life is a constant that reminds us we are not alone in this journey with diabetes. We are always so incredibly moved to see the CWD community come together like we did, virtually, for FFL Spring Refuel. And even though we could not physically feel the hugs in the hallway, we felt them in our hearts. Thank you so much to our CWD staff, faculty and our incredible sponsors who made Friends for Life: Spring Refuel a success. Without the countless hours of work from our volunteers and faculty, and the incredible support from our sponsors and donors, weekends like this one wouldn’t happen.

Again, thank you so much for your overwhelming support and participation this weekend - you helped refuel our diabetes tanks. As you know, events like Friends for Life: Spring Refuel would not be possible without our sponsors and donors. Please consider at tax-deductible gift to CWD, in order to support future programming, at cwd.is/givespring2021.

Thank you to our generous sponsors

Friends for Life: Spring Refuel 2021 was brought to you by the volunteers and staff of Children with Diabetes (T-1 Today, Inc.), a non-profit focused on caring today while preparing for the cure tomorrow. We kindly request that you please consider a donation so that we can continue to bring these conferences to you.

Your tax-deductible donation makes Friends for Life, and other CWD programs like it, happen. You can make a gift to Children with Diabetes at cwd.is/givespring2021.