I’m sitting at the Orlando airport and am surrounded by travelers preparing to depart for their destinations across the country. Some are happily sipping their coffee and talking to their travel companions. Some are sleeping quietly while they wait to depart Orlando. Some are dealing with crying children or helping elderly parents and companions navigate the airport while they prepare for whatever is next on their agendas.
I’m here, too. As I stare out the window waiting for the first glance of my incoming airplane, I can’t help but notice the crunchy orange armband on my wrist with the tiny smiley face. It’s my Friends for Life “orange band.” It’s a visible sign that I’ve been with “my people” and my diabetes tribe. It’s my connection to the people who beep, the people who sleep with one eye open while checking over the numbers on a continuous glucose monitor, the people who just get it and understand diabetes without even having to say a single word.
I’m returning from the Children with Diabetes Leadership Retreat at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. I’ve spent the long weekend working with CWD full-time staff and Volunteer Team Leaders who are planning for the 2023 Friends for Life conferences. Our theme for the weekend was “Preparing for Launch” and we did just that…prepared to launch the most amazing set of conferences that Children with Diabetes has ever presented to our families and individuals who are affected by type 1 diabetes.
We started the weekend on Friday with a focused workshop on inclusivity and how CWD provides special accommodations for our attendees who need just a little bit of extra assistance while attending the conferences. Our Youth Program Leaders began the weekend with a refocusing and commitment to providing the best experience for our young Fiffles with just the right combination fun and education about living our best lives with diabetes. Our team met to discuss food and beverage at the conferences and entertainment that will keep us dancing all night long!
On Saturday, we started our day with warm greetings from our Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dr. Ken Moritsugu. Dr. Ken gave updates from the Board of Directors and helped to remind us that we need to continually strive to improve and enhance our programming to become the very best CWD now and into the future. President and Founder Jeff Hitchcock helped to remind us that at the very core of our organization that our mission is to help provide a community and support to individuals living with diabetes. Providing “care today, cure tomorrow.” CWD’s Director of Advancement, Matt Point, gave an update on fundraising and sponsorships, and helped us to understand that there are opportunities available for all of us to help contribute to the financial future of the organization. We spent the rest of the day in breakout meetings focusing on registration, youth programming, doing inventory in the CWD storage units, and so much more. We ended our weekend with a fun dine-around in Disney Springs where we ate with friends and reflected on our launch to the best FFL year ahead.
On Sunday, we regrouped as a larger team and brainstormed on big picture ideas for the year ahead. We worked collaboratively as a team on issues that came out of small group discussions on Saturday and created even more to-do lists for our last day together as a group. We continued to meet in our smaller functional areas and finalized the plans for FFL Seattle, FFL Orlando, and FFL White Plains. At the end of the day, the hallways of Coronado started to fill with suitcases and the tearful goodbyes began for many of our Leadership Team. The goodbyes are always the hardest, aren’t they?
It’s been an amazing weekend planning and focusing on how CWD will launch into 2023. Our theme for this year is a space theme! Look for all sorts of references and images for the theme as we rocket forward into the best year ever. While my orange armband is already starting to fade, the love in my heart for this organization and all of the amazing volunteers who participated this weekend will keep my diabetes fuel tank full for quite a while. I can’t wait to see you all in 2023 at our Friends for Life conferences. It’s going to be out of this world!
Orange and Green Forever,
Written by Leigh Fickling, MEd, MS, JD