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Friends for Life 2008 Logo

Three thousand people from nearly every state in the U.S. and fifteen countries traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the ninth annual conference, Friends for Life 2008. The conference was held from July 23-27 at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World ... CWD's second time at this venue! Over one thousand children were in attendance, joining a growing group of parents, grandparents, and young adults!

Families began gathering at the hotel on the weekend prior to the conference, and by Monday evening, over 200 CWD families were on site (by Wednesday, this grew to 600 families!). Many wore conference tee shirts from previous years, so CWD families were easy to spot around the resort. Parents and kids acquainted themselves with the Renaissance Orlando Resort facilities, including the pool and play areas, as well as the nearby parks and shopping venues. CWD staff and volunteers were already hard at work on Monday, with hundreds of registration envelopes to stuff, thousands of shirts to unpack and stack by size, and exhibitor packets to ready.

There were 900 first timers this year, representing families from across the U.S. and internationally. The First-Timers all wore lavender ribbons on their name badges so that we could find them easily and welcome them! The First-Timers represented about 30% of our conference participants this year. Incredible. We are so glad that they joined us!

This year, the Exhibit Hall was in Oceans Ballroom 1-8, and had more exhibitors than ever! There were some very fun features for kids and adults alike in the booths, including a personalized 'What Does Diabetes Mean to Me?' t-shirt making area, Dance Dance Revolution, thatched huts, Wii galore, and other kid-friendly games and activities. The exhibit hall was absolutely mobbed on Wednesday evening, and stayed busy throughout the conference, including Free Friday when it was open to the public.

Many VIPs were on hand throughout the conference to meet and inspire the kids and families, including USA Triathlete Jay Hewitt, Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson, Mr. USA Doug Burns, Ultramarathoner Missy Foy, Distance Swimmer Jen Alexander, NBA star Chris Dudley, Prima Ballerina Zippora Karz, several Team Type 1 champion bikers, and climber Sebastien Sasseville, who summited Mt. Everest several weeks earlier.

Several musicians joined the conference and provided both planned and impromptu entertainment throughout the week. Nikki Lang played and sang at the Teen Dinner Dance on Friday evening. And on Saturday evening after a day at the park, there was an impromptu performance by several of our Russian and Lithuanian student participants, joined by Nikki. The audience started with just a few people listening to the students play the guitar, and soon spilled over to nearly fill the lobby in front of Oceans Ballroom!

Sports Central, this time in a roving format, was a hit again this year and was once again sponsored by Novo Nordisk. Pulled together by CWD Sports Coordinator Rick Philbin, there was a steady flow of sports activities and sports panels (interaction with the athletes) on Thursday and Friday. Many thanks to the wonderful DESA athletes who volunteered to staff Sports Central and lead the sessions!

Also sponsored by Novo Nordisk – CWD's Cyber Center! This featured 10 computer kiosks which allowed parents to check email or browse on the internet from Wednesday through Friday. It was much-needed and allowed many parents to 'stay connected' while participating in the conference!

Friends for Life sponsor companies held over 40 Focus Groups on Wednesday – the largest offering of focus groups that CWD has ever offered. These groups included some very diverse topics this year, and the discussion was lively and beneficial to both the participants and the group leaders. The groups were an excellent opportunity for exchange of information in a small group format prior to the larger sessions of the actual conference. CWD plans to hold them again next year.

On Saturday, over 1,500 people spent the day at Universal Orlando as part of the Education for Children with Diabetes Foundation Benefit Day. Families began the day with a group breakfast and then headed on buses to Universal Orlando. Families had a choice of visiting either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure – and then we all met for lunch at CityWalk, where we enjoyed a wonderful BBQ ... in air conditioning! While the heat throughout the day was a challenging, the Guest Assistance Cards helped us work around the heat and keep everyone healthy. Many thanks to Animas Corporation and CDEs Linda Clapp, Kristi Stroub, and Mary Babin, for being on call at the park and providing diabetes support during the day.

This year's Friends for Life was supported by the efforts, energies, and plain old elbow grease of over 100 volunteers. These volunteers range from CWD staff who leave their regular jobs and give their time to this conference for a full week to first timers who volunteer a couple of hours helping here and there, learning the ropes. And everything in between. 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 and partners who supported this conference and who each year allow us to make it bigger and better: Abbott Diabetes Care, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi-Aventis, LifeScan, Animas Corporation, Bayer HealthCare, Diabetes Care, Eli Lilly and Company, Medtronic Diabetes, Roche Diagnostics, the American Diabetes Association, Smiths Medical MD, Inc., Insulet Corporation, Pelikan Technologies, SPLENDA®. Unomedical, Dex4, the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, and Nipro Diabetes Systems. On behalf of the thousands of people you touched at Friends for Life, we are so grateful for your friendship and support.

 

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The Collages of Kids now includes a Collage of Adults
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New this year was the First Timers Hospitality Group, led by Katie Daugherty and Nabil Elarbi with help from Sam Billetdeaux and Kelsey Martin. Here Katie greets one of the new CWD families.
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Pumpy -- the mascot of Roche Diagnostics -- had the honor this year of cutting the ceremonial ribbon to open the exhibit hall on Wednesday evening
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Supported by Platiunum Education Partner Abbott Diabetes Care, Richard Rubin presented the opening keynote address, welcoming everyone to the Children with Diabetes family
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Friends for Life is also very much about friends -- making new and reconnecting with old
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During Friday's Dessert with the Faculty, faculty members presented their latest scientific posters and had a chance to chat one-on-one with parents.
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Once again, a team from the Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Science from the New Jersey Medical School, supported by Topcon, offered free retinal screening to CWD kids and families.
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Last Updated: Monday February 11, 2013 16:15:06
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