Each year in January, the CWD Team meets in Orlando to begin the planning process for our annual Friends for Life conferences. Joining us at the retreat are members of our amazing conference Volunteer Leadership Team. Each year, we have a mission-critical focus and theme that helps guide our discussions and group activities. This year’s focus was on revamping and resetting our youth program curriculums. In addition to planning for our annual conferences, we also have important meetings with Disney cast members, and conduct inventory in our Orlando storage units to determine what supplies may be needed for the year ahead.
On Saturday, our Leadership Retreat kicked off with an All-Group Meeting and presentation from CWD’s President, Founder, and CEO, Jeff Hitchcock, and CWD Treasurer, George Huntley. At this meeting, we discussed the CWD forecast for the year ahead and recapped the amazing events and conferences that took place in 2023. Matt Point (CWD’S Director of Advancement and Programs) and Ashlyn Mills (CWD’s Events and Programs Manager) helped set the stage for the weekend ahead and helped us understand key agenda items and objectives for our working group meetings. Marissa Town (CWD’s Clinical Director), Jen Hanson (CWD’s Youth Program Coordinator), and I explained our overarching goal for the weekend: Youth Program Curriculum Refresh. This Retreat topic came as a result of feedback from conference attendees and conference volunteers in surveys collected at the end of our 2023 conferences. We updated our curriculum to reflect current ISPAD guidelines and ADA guidelines so that our educational content would be age-appropriate and reflective of diabetes today. Additionally, we asked that each programming area develop year-to-year activity outlines (over a three-year period) with new activities and new goals and objectives that fit into six different broad diabetes-based categories. Finally, we committed to providing support to our “orange team” during conference programming (participants who love someone with diabetes—either a sibling, friend, parent, or significant other).
Our very busy Retreat Saturday concluded with a Happy Hour and Dine Around for all participants. It was great to be able to relax with our Fiffles and recap on lessons learned during the first day of our planning sessions. Participants were divided into randomly selected small groups for dinner and headed out to various Disney properties for great food and even better conversations. After finishing up the first day, we headed to bed with full hearts and an even bigger agenda for day two on Sunday.
When it was time to pack our suitcases and store our laptops for our return trips home, we left the Retreat excited about 2024. I know that conference participants are going to love the new activities that we have planned for this year. It’s always so great to be surrounded by our Fiffles, and this weekend was exactly what we needed to fill our hearts and our diabetes toolkits until we meet again in Falls Church.
Until there’s a cure, there’s Friends for Life.
Green and Orange Forever,
Written by Leigh Fickling, JD, MEd, MS