Welcome, Friends for Life First Timer!
We’re really glad you’re here. And while it may be your first time at a Friends for Life event, it’s a first time for ALL OF US when it comes to holding this conference virtually, so we’re going to learn together. This page will be updated regularly to reflect frequently asked questions and information about the live, virtual conference events, so be sure to check back and see what’s new. If you review this page, visit our VFFLO FAQ page, and still have questions, please reach out to us using our Contact Page.
We’re here to help, and we’re really glad you’re here with us.
See below for links, information, and some history of Children with Diabetes and our Friends for Life events. The conference is virtual this year, but the friends are most certainly “for life.”
What is Friends for Life?
Friends for Life is the name of the conferences we hold around the country. Since 2000, we’ve hosted a gathering of friends and families affected by diabetes, bringing them together with world-renowned clinicians and diabetes specialists, diabetes industry partners, and diabetes lifestyle companies for an event that literally changes lives. It’s a place to connect with people who really understand life with diabetes.
How did the first Friends for Life start?
Over the last twenty years, Children with Diabetes has been celebrating and educating through our Friends for Life conferences, but the first conference was the answer to one CWD mom’s email asking, “Our family has a vacation planned the first week in June at Disney World. Would anyone like to come with us?”
And when 550 people showed up, they realized they were on to something. Read Laura Billetdeaux’s story about that email and what happened next by clicking the button below.
Why is it called “Friends for Life?”
Our first conference took place in 2000 (see below for that story), and the conference shirts said, "Letting Kids be Kids.” The following year, the t-shirts said, "It's a New Day in Diabetes" (2001). The conference name was in flux … until the conclusion of the 2001 conference.
Just as the 2001 conference was ending, then-teenaged Marissa Hitchcock (Jeff Hitchcock’s daughter, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of two), said to Jeff, "I cannot wait until next year when I see all of my friends. It's like they're my friends for life."
And from that moment on, the conference became Friends for Life.
What is a Fiffle?
“Fiffles” are the out-loud way of saying the acronym “FFL,” which stands for “Friends for Life.” Whether you call them “eff-eff-ells” or “fiffles,” the connections you make at Friends for Life will help make living with diabetes easier. You can read about the power of Fiffles in Leigh Fickling’s essay, “Won’t You Be My Fiffle?”
What’s the deal with the green and orange bracelets?
We’ve mentioned Team Green and Team Orange in a lot of our conference materials, and you’ve probably seen references to green and orange bracelets, too. Essentially, people at Friends for Life conferences can wear two different bracelets to signify their relationship with diabetes: people with diabetes wear a green bracelet, and people who do not have diabetes wear an orange bracelet. You can read the origin story of the green and orange bracelets by clicking the button below.
What is the exhibit hall?
Before COVID-19, our in-person Friends for Life events included an exhibit hall, featuring sponsors and their informative, fun-for-families booths, spaces where diabetes advocacy organizations and lifestyle companies came together to share their products and information, and a bunch of loud, fun games and giveaways for people to enjoy. On Wednesday evening, when the exhibit hall ribbon was cut for the Grand Opening, FFL attendees would stream into the exhibit hall ... the laughter and excitement could be heard throughout Coronado Springs!
This year, we're not able to replicate that in-person excitement, but our generous sponsors and partners have really upped their digital game, working with the CWD team to create a Virtual Exhibit Hall where VFFLO attendees can visit with sponsors, get the most current diabetes industry information, and even have some fun. We're proud to be bringing our Exhibit Hall to VFFLO, and we're really grateful that our sponsors and our supporters have worked with us to see our vision for this year's virtual event come to life.
How does Virtual Friends for Life Orlando (VFFLO) differ from an in-person Friends for Life event?
Oooh, that one is a bit trickier, as our conferences have always been in person in the past. COVID-19 has changed the way we connect, as a community, but it has not changed our need for connection, which is why we didn’t hesitate to bring Friends for Life into a virtual format. It’s been an interesting transition, but one we’re proud to have made so quickly.
What won’t we be able to offer? Well, the hugs, for one thing. The South Registration area of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is famous – especially on Tuesday and Wednesday - for happy screeches of recognition (after looking at someone’s name badge and realizing you’ve been talking to them online for months) followed by big hugs. We won’t be able to sit together poolside with low supplies and watch our kids play in the water. And we won’t be able to rub elbows with the volunteers, presenters and brand new FFLs as we work our way through the buffet lines or the coffee queues in the Coronado and Veracruz hallways. Those are the personal connection times that many attendees say make FFL life-changing and like no other experience.
But we do aim to bring as much magic to Virtual Friends for Life as possible. You’ll see that our program includes nearly all of our tried-and-true social events, from the Family and Friends Banquet on Thursday evening through the Farewell Breakfast on Sunday morning. We even have a Teen Prom on Saturday. DJ Miles and his team – the same folks who join us in person for all of our social events in Disney – will take the helm for the music and entertainment at these events. Suspend disbelief – ignore that you’re at home in your living room – dress up, and join us for these fun events! We're also doing what we can to recreate that opportunity to connect in the Coronado and Fiesta Hallways by providing open meeting rooms in Zoom where FFL attendees can drop in to say hi and chat with their old friends, and even make some new ones.
What else will our virtual event offer? COVID can’t stop us from providing education and connection to our CWD family! And while we aren’t able to connect in person, because of the global health circumstances, we’ll be providing the same educational information from sessions, the same discussion groups for people to connect with their peers, and ways for people to celebrate their lives with diabetes. Virtual Friends for Life Orlando is not the same as our in-person events, but this digital conference is the bridge to keep us connected during these unusual times. We’re not able to exchange hugs and handshakes, but we can get in touch emotionally, and we can become, and continue to be, friends for life.
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