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  Back to Marco Island 2010 Conference Marco Island 2010 Faculty and Staff

The Conference Faculty

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Crystal Jackson is Associate Director of Legal Advocacy at the American Diabetes Association (ADA)'s National Office in Alexandria, Virginia. Her primary responsibility is managing the Association's Safe at School Campaign. Crystal is considered a national authority on the rights of students with diabetes and has spoken at conferences and forums throughout the United States and internationally on how to effectively advocate on behalf of students with diabetes, training hundreds of parent advocates, attorneys, and health care professionals. A parent of a child with diabetes, Crystal began her advocacy as a volunteer for ADA when she and another parent advocate teamed up to pass the first state diabetes school legislation in the country which provides comprehensive coverage for students with diabetes in Virginia. Simultaneously she pursued a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education resulting in a settlement that is a model for safe and effective diabetes care. Crystal is a former litigation paralegal with the Philadelphia law firm of Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel. She is a contributor to many diabetes publications including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Diabetes Education Program's school guide entitled "Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel" and the ADA's treatise on school issues: "Legal Rights of Students with Diabetes." Crystal is a member of the Virginia Diabetes Council, serves on a number of other diabetes and youth advisory boards, and was most recently appointed to Novo Nordisk's U. S. DAWN Youth Study Advisory Board. She resides in Loudoun County, VA with her family.

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Paul B. Madden, MEd, Director of Advocacy & Education for Diabetes & Obesity for PepsiCo is a family counselor, diabetes educator, business developer, program manager and advocate for people living with and at risk of diabetes. He has served in numerous leadership positions before his role at PepsiCo. He was the Director, Professional Relations & Public Advocacy for the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. Paul has chaired several national and international meetings for professionals, parents, and young people with diabetes. Paul leads advocacy issues, opens business doors and nurtures relationships to gain maximum opportunities to help ensure more focused, successful efforts for people living with diabetes and the professionals, organizations and companies supporting diabetes care and research. He touches the soul of living with diabetes for patients, their families and their professionals.


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Harold Sanco is the 1998 United States National Master's Aerobic Champion and two time bronze medalist at the National Step Challenge Competition. He has been voted Washington, DC's "Best Instructor" by Washingtonian Magazine and the Washington Post. He is an internationally acclaimed instructor having taught in seven countries. His "Urban Funk" aerobics class has been highlighted in People, Allure and "W" magazines. At CWD conference, Harold helps kids and adults learn that exercising can be fun.

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Joe Solowiejczyk, RN, MSW, was President of InBalance Healthcare, a counseling and education service for health care professionals and adults and children with diabetes, for over 10 years. He currently works for LifeScan, as Manager of Diabetes Counseling & Training and is a faculty member of the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute. Joe is healthcare professional who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 47 years, Mr. Solowiejczyk has been able to translate his personal experience into patient care. As a diabetes nurse educator and family therapist, he specializes in assessing how family dynamics impact management of diabetes and designing interventions that result in more effective coping and optimal metabolic control.


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Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Ph.D., C.D.E., Pediatric Psychologist, Associate professor of Psychiatry, Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois. Author of numerous research articles, and a soon-to-be published book on transitioning from pediatric to adult care. Dr. Weissberg-Benchell works with children, teenagers and their families to facilitate adaptation and coping with diabetes and other chronic conditions.


The Teen Faculty

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Natalie Bellini, RN, CDE, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was a young child. Within a year of finishing nursing school, she started to care for people with diabetes, focusing first on diabetes in pregnancy then pediatrics and insulin requiring adults. She has worked on the medical side of camps for children and teens in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She has spoken nationally and internationally as an expert in both working with teens and their parents with diabetes as well as infusion set choice, usage and maintenance. Her fundamental goal when developing the teenage curriculum for Children with Diabetes conferences is that each and every teen that attends finds a passion in life and pursues it. She is currently attending Drexel University part time in order to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Natalie is a senior territory manager with Animas Corporation and mom to her own teen, Erin, who is now a sophomore in college.

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Marissa Hitchcock, BSN, RN, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 24 months old. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing in 2009 and works as a nurse in Tampa, Florida. She loves working with kids who have diabetes. Marissa brings her experiences as a diabetes camp counselor, nurse, and young adult with diabetes as she works with kids and teens at CWD's conferences.

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Galen Horton was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 15. That summer, at the direction of his healthcare team, he attended a camp in North Carolina for children with diabetes. For the last 22 summers Galen has attended Camp Carolina Trails, working his way up through the program staff. Over the last 15 years, Galen has been a program director for the teenagers at Carolina Trails working to develop leadership and communication skills, fostering a positive mental attitude, and encouraging a strong sense of self-confidence and motivation for his campers through challenging, high adventure programs. Nearly 8 years ago, Galen joined the sales organization at Animas Corporation to marry his work life and his personal passion and commitment for helping others cope with their diabetes. Galen lives in North Carolina with his wife, Kelly, and his 3 children, Tanner, Riley, and Eli.

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Jeff Schmidt is dad to Brandon and Rhiannon, husband to Brandy, and "Schmidty" to the CWD teens. Jeff has been a Marine for the last 16 years and is currently stationed in North Carolina. Jeff has served as CWD staff for several years (since the family attended their first conference), working with both the tween and teen groups. He also has been an advocate for military families receiving the assistance they need. Jeff loves working with the kids at CWD conferences and is continually amazed by their strength and determination.

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Chris Tull is first and foremost Trevor's dad and Bernadette's husband. Since Trevor's diagnosis in late 2002, Chris served as a Legislative Chair and Diabetes Advocate, lobbying in his local districts and on Capitol Hill for diabetes funding and awareness. After attending his first CWD conference in 2003, Chris became very involved with CWD conferences, serving as staff for the teen program and overseeing all security matters for each and every conference. His diabetes claim to fame? In his eagerness to remove the air bubbles from Trevor's syringe the first time he gave a shot, he flicked it so hard that he bent the needle, causing his son to proclaim, "Oh, Dad's going to be good at this!" Chris is a police officer in Virginia Beach, and a former Marine.

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Jim Vail was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 19 while he was a sophomore at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Jim graduated with a degree in Media Communications and was a producer for CNBC Business news in Washington, D.C., for nine years all the while wrestling with the unpredictability of NPH and Regular insulin. After finally going on a pump in October of 2001 and 'getting his life back,' Jim pursued Animas Corporation, the maker of his insulin pump, for a job and a chance to reach others with diabetes. Jim made the jump from CNBC and has been with Animas Corporation since April 2002.

The Tween Faculty

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Justin Abel attended his first CWD conference in 2002 after his daughter Saylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2001. Once he started attending more CWD conferences, his wife Sunshine did not have to twist his arm for him to realize he wanted to get more involved. He is also dad to Sierra, who is a teen volunteer with CWD.


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Carolyn Billetdeaux is a senior in college studying international business and Spanish. She is older sister to Sam, who has had diabetes for almost ten years. Carolyn presents type 1 diabetes as a family disease: it affects everyone. She was a founding member of IDYA and founded the Supplies branch of the Children with Diabetes Foundation in 2003. She loves traveling and meeting other CWD families.

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Kathryn Hitchcock is in college studying fashion design. She has grown up with diabetes — she's Marissa's sister. Kathryn has helped at many diabetes events and has considerable experience working with young kids with diabetes.


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Melissa Ringley, R.N., C.D.E., became a registered nurse in 1991. Shortly afterward, Elizabeth, her 3 year old daughter, was diagnosed with diabetes. It became abundantly clear to Melissa that she should learn all she could to help her daughter maintain a healthy and happy life with diabetes. Melissa has dedicated her entire career to diabetes since that moment. She brings her own personal experience to CWD families and understands the many stages of development and how diabetes impacts both the patient and family. Melissa's previous career as a certified diabetes educator has included a variety of settings including diabetes education centers, multi-physician practices, and hospitals. Melissa's expertise is in insulin pump therapy in children. She has been working with Animas Corporation since 2001. At Animas, she has worked both nationally and internationally as a clinical manager and she is now a Territory Manager in Tennessee. Her daughter is now a junior in college.

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Anne Sides, RD, CDE, is all about diabetes. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, and since then she has lived her passion of helping people, especially children with diabetes, understand the disease and effectively manage it to improve the quality of their lives. Since 1994, Anne served as a diabetes educator and dietitian for hospital systems in both Alabama and Mississippi, where she contributed to the care of hundreds of children, teens, and adults with diabetes. Anne now works with Animas Corporation and serves as territory manager for this region. Anne serves as a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Diabetes Education Services (SDES), and was chosen by Animas to be a part of its task force for the development and innovation of new diabetes products and technology. It is Anne's work and special connection with children with diabetes that is the most gratifying and exciting for her, and which leads her each year to do volunteer work with several diabetes-related groups and organizations. This includes serving on the faculty of Camp Seale Harris, a residential diabetes education program held annually at Camp ASCCA near Alexander City, Alabama. Anne and her husband, Terry, reside in Birmingham.

The Elementary Faculty

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Sunshine Abel is the mother of two beautiful girls, Sierra and Saylor. She attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, after Saylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Ever since then, Sunshine knew she had found a new family and a new home where kids were experiencing the same thing as Saylor. She then made it her mission to involve her whole family, including her Aunt Libby. Sunshine, husband Justin, and Aunt Libby all have volunteered for several years at Friends for Life conferences. Sunshine is currently working on an RN degree.


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Sam Billetdeaux, diagnosed at age 8, is determined that diabetes will never get in the way of his life dreams. Sam is an active member of the CWD Young Adult program and has traveled to Denmark, Italy, the UK, and all across the United States to exchange ideas with other CWD teens, young adults, and their families. Sam is an avid athlete and enjoys running and working out with friends. He is a junior in college studying Spanish and the environment.

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Kaitlyn Karlya is a CWD kid and is in her sophomore year At Stony Brook University in New York where she is pursuing her undergraduate studies on a pathway to eventually become a PA with emphasis in the diabetes field. She has had diabetes since she was diagnosed at age 2 in 1992 and has been an advocate for many years. Her experience working with kids includes helping organize the Special Olympics in her home town for four years and also as a camp counselor for three years for the Barton Diabetes Center at their summer camp held on Long Island. The Girl Scout Gold Award recipient has had many other accolades bestowed upon her including one she is most proud; she is a recipient of a 2008 Scholarship from the Diabetes Scholars Foundation.

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Lauren Lanning, mom of Monica, 15, dx 8/96, pumping 5/99, CGM 9/06, and Sarah, 13 ... her CWD "sig line." Lauren became involved with CWD shortly after her daughter was diagnosed in 1996. She has been involved in the CWD diabetes conferences since the very first gathering in Orlando in 2000, where she volunteered to make name badges. Lauren now coordinates the Elementary Programming for every CWD conference. She has been involved in the diabetes community as an advocate for the ADA and JDRF and the Gray Ribbon Campaign. Lauren spoke to the FDA on behalf of parents everywhere, and helped get CGM technology into the hands of the patients. Since then, she has spoken to many groups about CGM technology in real life. Lauren has held executive positions on the JDRF and Children With Diabetes Foundation boards. She is involved in her local Denver diabetes community outreach, and has coordinated her local JDRF bicycle team for many years. She was a Member of the Technical Staff at AT&T Labs before moving to Colorado and becoming full-time mom for a few years. Lauren now works at an investment banking firm as a researcher.

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Carolyn Meredith is mom to Chelsea, Jeremy, and Bailey and wife to Rich. Jeremy was diagnosed with diabetes in May 2000 at the age of 6. He started on an insulin pump in October 2002. Carolyn and her family attended their first Friends for Life conference in 2003 and have been involved with CWD ever since. They have also attended several regional conferences. When not running mom's taxi service, Carolyn works in the office at an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida. She enjoys meeting and sharing with other CWD families.


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Michelle Rago is a CWD mom and active member of the parents' list. She graduated from Harvard University (magna cum laude) where she received the Ben Teel Memorial Prize for Public Service. She graduated from Columbia University School of Law, where she represented children in foster care and received a Charles Evans Hughes Fellowship for public service. Michelle's son Trent was diagnosed in 2000 at age 4. Due to the diagnosis, Trent's daycare would not accept him back. Since then, Michelle has become well versed in the changing laws with relation to diabetes and school, insurance coverage, and discrimination on account of diabetes. She is active with the American Diabetes Association Legal Advocacy group. Michelle has recently become an expert on monogenic diabetes, after it was discovered that her adopted daughter Maya had monogenic, not Type 1, diabetes. (Michelle's family adopted Maya from foster care after hearing about her at a CWD conference.) Michelle is also mom to Michela and husband to Tim, both of whom actively participate in diabetes care at home. For her work with CWD families, Michelle was awarded the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award in 2006.

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Adam Town, BSN, age 23, recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati's nursing program. Adam enjoys working with all children and is interested in pediatric nursing. Adam helps children with diabetes as well as their siblings each month at the "Families Living with Diabetes Support Group" in West Chester, Ohio. Adam enjoys sports of all kinds with a particular interest in baseball. Adam has a family history of diabetes but does not have diabetes himself.

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Trevor Tull was diagnosed six years ago at age 13. He has never let diabetes "get in the way" of his goals and dreams. He has participated in the CWD Teen Discussion Panel and CWD Sports Central and continues to participate in the Young Adult Program, Elementary Staff, and successfully raised over $15,000 for JDRF Fundraising Walks. Trevor is an avid roller hockey player, body boarder, and off-road motorcycle riding enthusiast. He is currently in college studying Welding Technology and works part-time.

Childcare

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Mary Babin, RN, BSN, CDE is one of the first clinical employees at Animas Corporation and the first coordinator of childcare for the little ones at the CWD conferences. Mary leads a team of certified diabetes educators providing childcare in a safe environment for kids under age six with and without diabetes. Providing this service alleviates the concerns of many parents of kids with diabetes – allowing them to attend the sessions with peace of mind knowing that their children are cared for by skilled professionals. This supports Mary’s belief that education is the key to successful blood glucose management. As Executive Director of Clinical and Patient Services at Animas, she is responsible for overseeing pump educators and the pump support team throughout the US. Mary has devoted her career to the world of medicine. As a graduate of Eastern University and Presbyterian School of Nursing, Mary has been in intensive care nursing for over 25 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for 10. This busy mom and devoted professional has been involved with CWD since 2001. You can spot her at the conferences-she’s the one with the trail of kids behind her!

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Intissar Ben Halim is mom to Maryam, Zakariyya, Abdalla, and Yaseen, and wife to Nabil. She and her family been involved with CWD conferences since 2004. She enjoys meeting other CWD parents and families and sharing stories and challenges, especially now that she has two teens. She and her family reside in King-of-Prussia, Pennsylvania.

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Kelsey Martin, age 19, was diagnosed at age 12. She attended her first CWD conference two months later, and has since become an active volunteer. Kelsey has worked with first timers, tweens, and elementary-age children at CWD conferences. She is also active in her local chapter of JDRF as an ambassador and volunteer. Kelsey is a journalism major at the University of Missouri and hopes to work in public relations or advertising for a medical company in the future.


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Chelsea Meredith, fresh from her final year of high school, has grown up around diabetes for the past nine years; her brother Jeremy was diagnosed in 2000. She attended her first Friends for Life conference with her family in 2003 and has been to countless CWD events since that time. She loves kids and enjoys working with the younger set. Chelsea is also an aerialist intending to run away with the circus, after a few years of college, of course! She spends all of her free time dancing and/or hanging from the rafters on a trapeze.

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Brandy Schmidt is Jeff's wife (Schmidty to the teens) and mother of two, Brandon, dx'd in 1997, and Rhiannon, dx'd 2009. When Brandon was diagnosed, Brandy came home from the hospital and found CWD on the first search. She has been addicted to CWD since then. She has been an advocate for all military families dealing with diabetes. She helped implement a gluten free policy in San Diego county public schools when Brandon was diagnosed with celiac in 2005. She has been dubbed the "Gluten Free Police" at conferences. Brandy now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids, four dogs and a bearded dragon!

CWD Staff

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Jeff Hitchcock is the creator, editor, webmaster and president of Children with Diabetes. After earning a degree in computational mathematics in 1981, Jeff worked in high tech and traveled the world, meeting Brenda, who would become his wife, in Africa. He worked in defense related industries until 1995, when he started a small Internet company and launched Children with Diabetes. He subsequently worked at LEXIS-NEXIS and Pearson plc on Internet initiatives, and now works full time bringing Children with Diabetes to you.

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Mike Schurig, MS, RD, LD, CDE, serves as Conferences and Content Manager for Children With Diabetes. As a diabetes educator, registered dietitian and person with type 1 diabetes since the age of 12, Mike has had extensive experience in diabetes education with kids and parents. Mike is active with local ADA activities, regional diabetes educator groups, and the CWD website. His interests are insulin pump education and technical advances in diabetes. Mike enjoys visiting the nearby theme parks and enjoying Central Florida with his wife Gayle and his daughter Allyson.

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Nabil Elarbi, father of four wonderful children, resides in King of Prussia, PA. He became involved with diabetes in December 2003, when his daughter Maryam was diagnosed with diabetes at age 10. He spent his first night at the hospital searching the internet for information on his laptop and stumbled onto the CWD website. It was then that he decided that his family was going to attend the 2004 Friends for Life conference in California. The entire family has been hooked ever since and look forward to it as the highlight of their year. Nabil has always had a special touch working with youth and young adults. He enjoys reading, traveling, and promoting health education in under-served communities. Nabil owns a small Healthcare IT consulting firm.

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Brenda Hitchcock is mom to Marissa (dx'd at 24 months), Kathryn, and Tim. She's worked side by side with her husband Jeff on Children with Diabetes since it began in 1995. Brenda brings a mom's perspective to diabetes care, is editor of the "Ask the Diabetes Team" section of the CWD web site, and helps out in countless ways at CWD's conferences.

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Jill Karlya is a mom with three children, two with diabetes. She has been active in virtually every diabetes organization there is either helping to organize an event or implement a neighborhood letter writing campaign. She has consulted with families and implemented numerous endeavors helping children with diabetes across the United States acclimate themselves within the school district. She has also has been instrumental in her local PTA chairing many events, offices, and fund raising events to help the district. She was the Administrative Assistant to a New York State Senator for years and presently works in the Administration Office of the Patchogue-Medford School District. She resides on Long Island.

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Tom Karlya, Vice President of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, is commonly known throughout the diabetes community as Diabetes Dad, his pen name used virtually everywhere, including his monthly column which appears at www.dLife.com/diabetesdad. He has been active in diabetes causes since his daughter, Kaitlyn, was diagnosed in 1992 at the age of 2. Tom has been introduced to the New York State Capitol, testified in Washington, D.C., appeared at diabetes-related events at the United Nations and has lectured, taught, and chaired many conferences, panels and keynotes about being a Diabetes Dad. He also received numerous commendations for his work in the Katrina efforts where he was instrumental in organizing relief efforts to over 10,000 people with diabetes. Tom was awarded The Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award from The Children with Diabetes in 2008. For 12 years as an actor, he starred in the New York City Production of Tony 'N Tina's Wedding, working with the original NY Company and also at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., in Summer of the 17th Doll. His film, lbs., was seen at the Sundance Film Festival, and he appeared in Unsolved Mysteries, Spin City, The Cosby Show, NYPD Blue, Law and Order, America's Most Wanted, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and other shows as well as numerous commercials. If you ask Tom he will tell you that above everything else, he's just a CWD Dad.

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Julia Mattingly is mom to 13 year old Hannah and 11 year old Ethan, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10 months and who started pumping when he was 3. Julia, Ed, and the kids have been to every single Friends for Life conference and most of the regionals as well! Julia coordinates registration at each conference, and you can always find her when you need a smile and a "Hi Y'All!" Julia loves being in charge of the registration area because she gets to meet everyone who walks in the door. Her best CWD memory is from 2001 when she met all of her CWD email buddies in Orlando for the first time. She also loves to see the smiles on her kids' faces when they re-connect with their CWD friends each summer.

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Last Updated: Monday February 24, 2014 14:36:23
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