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  Back to Conferences 2012 Friends for Life Conference Report

Friends for Life 2012 Logo

July 4th was mid-week this year, and the Friends for Life schedule was a little different than usual. What should one do? Arrive early? Arrive on the Wednesday holiday? Arrive in time for the opening Keynote on Thursday morning? Decisions, decisions. By Thursday at 7:00 a.m., well over 3,000 participants had arrived – and by the afternoon, we had run out of the 800 First Timer ribbons ordered for this event (with more First Timers still arriving). Welcome to the 13th annual Friends for Life Orlando conference!

The Marriott World Center was 'home' for CWD during Friends for Life week. All week long, posters showing the beautiful faces of CWD kids lined the main halls of the convention center, reminding everyone of what this event is all about – friends, support, and education. By Monday afternoon when the posters went up claiming the convention space as ours for the week, even the hotel staff began to comment on the special adults and children who comprise Friends for Life and CWD.

While hundreds of families arrived on Friday and Saturday prior to the holiday to enjoy the Resort and the Orlando theme parks, the FFL move-in crew -- about 30 adults and teens -- arrived on Sunday and rolled up their sleeves to get to work first thing Monday morning. The team moved six storage units of conference materials, moving each box by hand into a UHaul truck, and then by hand off the truck into the Convention Center. It was hot, sweaty work, and our amazing team got all of the boxes and equipment moved by mid-afternoon Monday so that Registration and Sports Central might open first thing Tuesday morning. Mike Schurig once again coordinated this effort, and he did an amazing job!

Conference participants joined us from nearly every continent – from as far away as Australia, Colombia, the UK, Kuwait, and South Africa. A group of Italian teens and chaperones flew from Milan to Orlando, renewing the relationship between CWD and AAGD Milano begun in 2004.

A growing contingent of adults with type 1 and their partners and families joined FFL this year – numbering several hundred! From college age through older adults, these participants comprised a very significant (and fun!) group of FFL'ers – and we are so happy that they joined us! Their input and reflection certainly lent a different perspective and 'feel' – and will continue to do so as we move forward to future conferences.

The First-Timers represented nearly a third of our conference participants this year. They had some very special activities – and their own First Timers Welcome Area - to help them meet each other and feel more at home at the Friends for Life conference. First Timer Hospitality coordinators Nabil Elarbi, Lauren Lanning, and Tom Karlya did a great job at making everyone feel welcome. Thank you as well to the many 'old timers,' both kids and adults, who volunteered their time, experience, and hugs to the first timers welcome area which was open Tuesday and Wednesday. And many thanks to Sanofi-Aventis for sponsoring the First-Timers reception and welcome area.

Many VIPs were on hand throughout the conference to meet and inspire the children and families, including Indy Car Driver Charlie Kimball, Ironman Triathlete Jay Hewitt, and NFL Player Kendall Simmons, all sponsored by Novo Nordisk. Team Type 1 was also present in sessions for the kids and adults, as well as in the exhibit hall. Many thanks to Phil Southerland, Missy Foy, and Sebastien Sasseville, for taking the time from their busy training schedules to spend a few days with our CWD families – and many thanks to Sanofi-Aventis for sponsorship of these wonderful and personable athletes. Snow-boarding World Cup competitor Mike Fisher also joined our conference VIPs, flying all the way from Canada to join us for the week. Many thanks to LifeScan, Inc. for sponsoring his participation at FFL.

Crystal Bowersox – with her powerful voice and wonderful onstage energy – joined us once again this year for the Family and Friends Banquet on Thursday evening. Additionally, Crystal spent time with the elementary and tween age groups in their Friday programming. She truly enjoyed interacting with the kids, and they loved that she was 'just one of the gang' during their Friday sessions. Green bracelet and all.

Sports Central was back this year in a great space offering lots of activities – and something new… the CWDecathlon! Sponsored by Novo Nordisk, Sports Central – coordinated by Liz and Jimmy Dodson - provided a place for kids and adults alike to get some exercise and enjoy companionship and a little friendly competition! Many thanks to Harold Sanco, Mike Welsh, and Carolyn Billetdeaux for organizing this first year of the CWDecathlon. It was a lot of work getting those 10 events off the ground for all of the age groups – and 2012 was a great start. Sports Central was a busy, busy place thanks to the great energy, enthusiasm, and supervision of Jen Alexander, Judith and Danny Ambrosini, the entire King family, Ryan DeGroff, James and Ben Stroud, Alex Bush, Deb Ruppert, Jaime Molyneux, Garrett Cope, Trevor Tull, Alison Van Vleck, Rick Philbin, and Ben Tzeel.

Exhibit Hall hours were a little different this year because of the holiday schedule. The Hall opened on Friday in conjunction with a Grand Opening Lunch sponsored by Roche, and continued with Saturday hours featuring a lunch sponsored by Lilly Diabetes, and a Quilt for Life Scavenger Hunt. Many participants commented that they enjoyed the Saturday hours in particular, as there weren't sessions offered at the same time, and they could leisurely explore the hall and spend a lot of time asking questions of the many exhibitors and sponsors.

The 2012 Orlando Friends for Life conference was supported by the efforts, energies, and plain old elbow grease of about 200 volunteers. These volunteers range from CWD staff who leave their regular jobs and give their time to this conference for over a week, to first timers who volunteer a couple of hours helping here and there, learning the ropes. These people hold the conference together, watch over your children, monitor sessions, and in general, move everything forward in a very special way. We all owe them many, many thanks for their partnership.

Finally – our deepest thanks to the sponsors who supported this conference and who each year allow us to make it bigger and better: Novo Nordisk, LifeScan, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly & Company, Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, Tandem Diabetes Care, Medtronic Diabetes, the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, and JDRF. On behalf of the thousands of people you touched at Friends for Life 2012, we are so grateful for your friendship and support.

 

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Jen Alexander shows off the first Green Bracelet of Friends for Life 2012
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We had so many first timer families that we ran out of "First Timer" ribbons
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FFL 2012 had the largest number of adults with type 1 and their families
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Crystal Bowersox wore a green bracelet and performed at the banquet
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Ed Damiano and his team were a highlight of the Dessert with the Faculty
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The teen dance was spectacular, as always
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With friends departing early on Sunday, some people stayed up all night on Saturday
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Green and Orange ... Friends for Life
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Last Updated: Wednesday March 26, 2014 13:36:07
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