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  Back to 2007 Conference Report Report from Friends for Life 2007

Harold Sanco -- Human Caffeine (really, that's his nickname). Cool music. A just-under-a-mile track around the Coronado Resort's lake. Rick Philbin in running shoes. Humid, humid, humid! Ready, set, GO! And the kids and parents were off and running! Thus began Thursday at Friends for Life.

As everyone showed up for a yummy and healthy breakfast, Jonathan Smedley from Fun Run Sponsor Novo Nordisk had the kids – all winners – come up on stage to receive a medal for finishing the race. Over 200 people participated in the run, despite the heat -- and about 100 kids went home with medals. At breakfast, both gluten free buffet and regular buffets were available and every item on every buffet was marked with a portion size and carb count. Many thanks to CWD Dietitian Mike Schurig for providing this valuable information to everyone! Also, thanks to the Food Police, er, supervisors – Tricia Stewart, Bill Grigsby, Christina Pardo, and several other volunteers - for helping Mike staff the buffet tables and keep an eye on any concerns.

Shortly before 9 a.m., the kids headed to their sessions, the little ones got settled in childcare, and everyone readied for the keynote address by RADM Kenneth Moritsugu, the Acting Surgeon General of the United States. RADM Moritsugu commended parents for taking the time and initiative to be active learners and active participants in their children's diabetes management. He strongly encouraged families to be health-literate and to stay on top of the research and cutting-edge advancements in type 1 diabetes. He also shared that he is a pump-wearer, and that some days he is just as exhausted as everyone else in the room with the minute by minute attention that his own diabetes management requires. RADM Moritsugu emphasized that he was a CWD family member just like everyone else in the room, and he told the group of 1,000 listeners how much he enjoyed interacting with them and hearing their inspiring stories.

Thursday sessions continued with a wide variety of topics on both a beginners and more advanced level. There were sessions on pumping and multiple daily injections; sessions about what to do with diabetes at school, and sessions about managing hypoglycemia. Dr. Fran Kaufman led a session about healthy living concepts for people with type 1 diabetes (i.e., I have diabetes – now what do I do to take care of myself?). There was also a discussion group for grandparents, one about anger management, and one about how to talk to teens. It was a busy day. CWD was happy to welcome back as faculty Gary Scheiner, John Walsh, Betty Brackenridge, Crystal Jackson, Natalie Bellini, Joe Solowiejczyk, Fran Kaufman, Bob Bulgarelli, Irl Hirsch, Scott Scolnick, Rick Philbin, Bruce Buckingham, Richard Rubin, and Henry Anhalt.

The kids had an absolutely fabulous time on Thursday. Elementary sessions were offered for children ages 6-9. Elementary leaders Lauren Lanning and Michelle Rago – along with literally dozens of staff and helpers – pulled together an exciting day that included an ice breaker, some time with the VIP athletes in Sports Central, an hour in the Coronado's big pool, and some candid discussion time. Big thank yous to Kathryn Hitchcock, Malcolm Lazarow, and Monica Lanning for leading the discussion groups with Dr. Darrell Wilson and Dr. Richard Rubin.

The Tweeners (ages 10-12) day was also jam-packed with fun activities! Led by Melissa Ringley and Kim Kelly, the tweener sessions included an ice breaker (with some Harold Sanco aerobic time), discussion and play time in Sports Central with the VIP athletes, and two discussion groups – one for tweeners with diabetes and one for siblings. Thanks to Sam Billetdeaux and Kelsey Martin, along with Dr. Darrell Wilson, for leading the diabetes discussion group, and many thanks to Carolyn Billetdeaux and Richard Rubin for leading the siblings discussion group. Also on Thursday, the tweeners interacted with some of the Friends for Life Special Guests in a session entitled Experiences. Country singer George Canyon, Miss America Nicole Johnson, and champion biker Phil Southerland all spent time with the 10, 11, and 12 year old groups. They shared their insights about growing up and becoming successful people with diabetes. And the kids had excellent questions for them!

The teens (ages 13-18) had a busy day as well. Teen staff Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Chris Tull, Jeff Schmidt, Katie Daugherty, Nabil Elarbi, and Neal Billetdeaux immediately divided the larger group of 225 into more manageable smaller groups and discussed the ground rules for the conference. The one main rule? The teens needed to participate in all four sessions on Thursday in order to join the MGM Day on Friday. Ground rules set, checklists distributed… and the teens were up and moving. The teen day included a Scavenger Hunt, time with the VIP athletes and sports panel, and discussion groups about having diabetes, being a sibling of someone with diabetes, and dealing with stress in general. Thank you to Carolyn Billetdeaux and Joe Solowiejczyk for facilitating the siblings discussion group!

In Sports Central, sponsored by Novo Nordisk, CWD Sports Coordinator Rick Philbin organized a panel of athletes that were so very helpful, interesting, and inspirational. They included Adam Morrison, Jay Leeuwenburg, Chris Dudley, Doug Burns, Phil Southerland, Monique Hanley, Harry Mahaffey, Missy Foy, Jen Alexander, and others. After interacting with the kids, the athletes took the kids to different parts of Sports Central for some games and exercise. It was hot, but fun. And exercise is such an important part of managing diabetes!

On Thursday evening, the annual CWD Family and Friends Banquet was held. It was a sold-out event this year, with over 1,400 packing the Coronado Ballroom (the largest group ever). Sponsored by LifeScan and Novo Nordisk, it was truly an amazing evening. Nicole Johnson started the evening's entertainment by sharing her own journey with diabetes, and wishing all of the children in the room nothing but positive experiences as they move forward with their own journeys. The next speakers, Adam Morrison and his mom, shared Adam's journey as a child growing up with diabetes, becoming a college basketball star, and now an NBA star! Adam shared with the kids that it is important to lead by example.

Jeff Hitchcock then presented a Friend for Life award to Richard Rubin for his tireless support of CWD families. Jeff noted that Dr. Rubin has been to every single Friends for Life conference and most of the regional conferences – always there to support and encourage parents and kids. Laura Billetdeaux then had the great honor of presenting a Friend for Life award to her son, Sam, for being the inspiration for CWD conferences. CWD teens Kelsey Martin and Kenny Rodenheiser shared a very moving tribute to Sam, and explained what being a Friend for Life meant to them.

The Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award was presented to Barbra Marche of Newfoundland, Canada, for her advocacy and outreach on behalf of all families with type 1 diabetes in Canada. Barbra traveled with her two sons, Liam and Brandon, from Cape St. George to accept the award. The Natalie Bellini Teens Choice Award was presented to Jim Vail for his amazing energy with the teens – and always impromptu synchronized swimming performances (at nearly every CWD conference, large or small).

Disney's Marty Kamrada was honored with the Unexpected Hero Award. In 2001, after a miserable miscalculation of room nights on the part of CWD (we contracted 2,000 and only used 850), Marty engineered a deal with Disney management such that CWD's enormous penalty (over $100,000) would be waived if CWD would agree to hold the 2003 conference back at the Coronado Springs Resort. We did. And we also stayed for 2005 and 2007 – and we will be back in 2009. Marty saved the day and ensured that our conferences could move forward. By the way, this year, CWD used 3,500 room nights!

As she does each year, Laura then shared a slideshow perspective of CWD conferences during the last year (from Chicago, San Diego, Marco Island, and Friends for Life conferences as well as the New York City and San Francisco family weekends). The theme of the slideshow was Pausing on the Journey – Friends for Life 2007. Laura encouraged everyone in the ballroom to take time to stop along their journey and appreciate friendships, support, and family.

The sponsor awards! Every year, our wonderful sponsors look forward to this time in the banquet, and we didn't let them down. This year's sponsor tribute was emotional and very heart-warming. The sponsors, after receiving their beautiful plaques designed by CWD mom Chris Opdenaker, fanned out throughout the banquet ballroom so that each stood with a table of families. CWD teens Sarah Loebner and Nina Feliciano then sang "For Good" – with the closing line: Because I knew you, I have been changed for good. So true.

Next in line for the evening was country music star George Canyon. George was voted Entertainer of the Year in Canada earlier this year, and his music at our Family and Friends banquet was just incredible. George shared two songs with CWD families – including the favorite "I'll Never Do Better Than You" (no better friends than CWD!). George graciously signed autographs for families, some of whom brought their George Canyon CDs from home!

Closing the Family and Friends banquet entertainment was American Idol's Kevin Covais, who is an absolute favorite among CWD kids and teens. Kevin sang three songs, ending with "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" Indeed. It was great to have Kevin and his dad stay with us throughout the conference and simply be a CWD family.

Finally, Thursday ended with some pretty exuberant singing and dancing in the banquet ballroom. DJ Miles helped everyone welcome Mickey and Minnie, and then kept the younger (and older) group rocking with great music! Across the hall, the teens had their own DJ and a ballroom full of games including glow volleyball, foosball, pool, and shoot the hoops! Everyone had ice cream sundaes at 10 p.m. – what a way to end the day!

Many thanks to all of today's sponsors, including Novo Nordisk, LifeScan, Sanofi-Aventis (the yummy lunch buffet!), Smiths Medical (the healthy snack breaks), McNeil Nutritionals (refreshments in the Exhibit Hall), the American Diabetes Association (supporting the Quilt for Life), and the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation (supporting the Quilt for Life).

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The 2007 Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award, sponsored by LifeScan, was presented to Barb Marche for her leadership and advocacy for children with diabetes in Canada
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Rick Philbin leads the way on the Fun Run in the lovely 7:30 am heat and humidity
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Acting Surgeon General RADM Ken Moritsugu, MD, himself a pumper, opened the sessions with the keynote address
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Dr. Fran Kaufman spoke on Thursday about Healthy Living for People with Type 1 Diabetes
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Betty Brackenridge led the grandparent sessions
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Kids, parents, and grandparents could try out insulin pumps with saline -- and lots sported OmniPods
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Henry Anhalt gave an empassioned presentation about Why We Pump
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Author Jim Hirsch autographed copies of his book, Cheating Destiny, at the Abbott Diabetes Care booth
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The elementary aged kids met with the athletes, including Missy Foy (left) and Adam Morrison (right)
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Canadian country music star George Canyon wore his green bracelet and charmed the audience at the Family and Friends banquet on Thursday evening
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Last Updated: Sunday November 11, 2007 10:19:44
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