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Friends for Life Winter 2020 Conference Report

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On December 4, 5, and 6, 2020, the CWD team gathered again to bring Friends for Life to our community via virtual conference.  After nine months of dealing with COVID-19 and adjusting to using our computers to connect our community, our team had a good grasp on delivering FFL to our friends through the magic of Zoom. And our community and sponsors showed up for us once again, showing that not even a global health crisis can break the support of the diabetes community.

On Friday, we hosted two CWD-centric focus groups (one on in person conferences and one on the CWD digital offerings), as well as a focus group from Medtronic. On Friday evening, Stacey Simms held her "Wait, Wait, Don't Poke Me" diabetes game show, and the Tandem Diabetes Care team had a live Q&A and concert event with singer Amanda Jo. We also hosted dedicated hours for the Friends for Life Winter 2020 Exhibition Hall, featuring our founding sponsors, Dexcom and Lilly Diabetes, and our supporting sponsors, Beta Bionics, Omnipod, Medtronic, and Tandem Diabetes Care.

Saturday was "Psychosocial Saturday," with sessions and discussions focusing on the emotional and mental experience of life with diabetes. Maureen Monaghan, PhD, CDE hosted a webinar about Helping Parents with Transitions, Kerri Sparling, Cherise Shockley, and Scott Johnson had a candid discussion about Finding Support in Social Media, Dr. Sean Oser held an open discussion about Burnout for Adults with T1D, and then we headed back into the Exhibit Hall for special guests, videos, and Q&A with our sponsors.

The afternoon sessions included a Safe Zone for Significant Others panel discussion, featuring Tamara Oser, MD and Grace Grande-Cassell, a really important session on Body Image and Disordered Eating with Noor Alramahi, Daniele Hargenrader, Asha Brown, and Jessie Wong, and Positive Caregiving with Dr. Monaghan. The evening closed with discussion groups for moms, for dads, and for couples. Between each session block, our amazing Youth Leaders hosted sessions for our Youth Team Green and Team Orange.

On Sunday, our session focus was on Science and Advocacy.  The morning keynote was Diabetes Advocacy in the Post-Election U.S. with Stewart Perry and George Huntley and sponsored by Lilly Diabetes, following by a block of Youth sessions. We even had open "hallway" discussions just for Tweens and Teens, helping kids connect with one another like they would in-person. Late morning sessions included Carbohydrate Controversies: How Low Should You Go? with Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, The Science of Exercise with Mike Riddell, PhD, and then another engaging block of Youth meet-ups and Tween and Teen hallways. Our last sessions of the day were Diabetes and Cultural Sensitivity with Kajal Gandhi, DO, MPH, and Hybrid Closed Loop Systems: The Next Evolution of Diabetes Management with Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE.

We invite you to watch the replays of nine of our sessions! These will be viewable until January 31, 2021.

"They've had fun, They've seen their friends. There's been virtual hugs and lots of laughs! Oh, how my heart smiles to see them and watch them interact with their tribe! But ... I can already hear it in their voices, I can see it on their faces, as each hour passes and they realize our FFL time is once again coming to an end. Already, they are making plans to chat on video games, to text, and try to hold on to all that is orange and green ... the colors that make their lives so doable on this type 1 journey! With excitement, we will all wait, and wonder and hope, that we will all be together again soon. Thank you CWD, for always being exactly what we need!" shared Leila Blue.

"The [Friends for Life Winter] conference came at a time when we needed an infusion of CWD/FFL. Seeing dear friends, hearing our children reconnect through the wonder of zoom, and sharing our own individual successes and challenges, means the world to all of us. Thank you, Children with Diabetes, Jeff, Laura, and the myriad of others who made this possible. What an incredible community to be a part of," said Pamela Kessler Loebner.

And after a full weekend of connections, information, and inspiration, we were done ... for now.  🙂

Friends for Life is a reminder that you are not alone. An endless thank you to the volunteers, sponsors, staff, and families who came together to make this event happen. Yes, this year remains the most unusual, and the challenges faced by our community are unprecedented, but that need for connection and support doesn’t go away when we are dealing with a pandemic. Instead, the needs of our community are magnified, and our mission at CWD is to meet those needs, and more, by working to keep our community connected.

Thank you to our generous sponsors

Virtual Friends for Life Orlando 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/give.

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