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  Back to Friends for Life 2008 Conference Friends for Life 2008 Youth Programming Faculty

Teen Programming Staff

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Natalie Bellini, R.N., C.D.E., has had diabetes since she was a young child and within a year of finishing nursing school started to care for people with diabetes, first focusing on high risk pregnancy and then pediatrics and insulin-requiring adults. She has lectured both nationally and internationally to clinicians, patients and their families. Natalie has worked with children and adults of all ages and has assisted in initiating and expanding pump programs at numerous hospitals and private practices. She is currently a Clinical Sales Specialist with Ethicon, a division of Johnson and Johnson. She enjoys working with children and teens, and has a second full-time job as mom to her daughter, Erin, who is now in college.

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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.

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Neal Billetdeaux, from Michigan, has learned to be a diabetes advocate from kids Carolyn and Sam, who are now both college students. His most frequent complaint to wife, Laura, is that he doesn't have enough vacation time to make it to all the CWD conferences! Neal is a principal in a landscape architecture firm in Ann Arbor. His CWD 'claim to fame' is that - in a sleep-deprived stupor one night - he awoke to his alarm at 2 a.m. and tried to test one of the yellow labs. He's a great dad with a great sense of humor!

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Robert Schmidt is a CWD dad with 20 years of active duty service in the United States Marine Corp -- and still counting. Husband to Rebecca and father of two, Robert's active duty job entails Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Secret Service Ops. However, he finds that dealing with his son Zachary's type 1 diabetes can be more frustrating and unpredictable. Robert states, "I have enjoyed all times spent with the CWD staff and families at any event, and I want to give back in any way I can for what CWD has given to my family."

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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.

Tween Programming Staff

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Kim Kelly, Pharm. D., BCPS, FCCP, is Director of the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute, North America. Dr. Kelly has a lengthy and distinguished career involving patient care, academic medicine, and organizational involvement including President of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Chairman of the ACCP Research Institute, and Board of Directors of the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association. His research and experience have included a number of publications, participation on editorial boards and review panels of several journals, involvement in medical curriculum development, and various committees of professional organizations. Currently, his activities center around developing diabetes health management and educational programs for various health care providers and provider organizations. Delighted to work with children and teens alike, Dr. Kelly participated as a volunteer in the Orlando and Universal City Friends for Life conferences, where he became 'hooked' in working with the wonderful CWD kids and families. He joined CWD as 'regular faculty' in 2004, focusing on the Tween programming and providing presentations on various topics to parents as well.

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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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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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Libby Nordstrom graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Journalism and is currently pursuing a second degree in accounting so she can become a CPA. Her involvement with diabetes started in 2001 when her grandniece, Saylor, was diagnosed two months short of her third birthday. She attended her first CWD conference, on pumping, in San Diego in 2005 where she learned so much - and met so many fantastic people - that she decided to make CWD a part of her life and the annual CWD Friends For Life conference a not-to-be-missed event!

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Don Plotts is dad to Jessica, Tyler and Annie and husband to Holly. Jessica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and their lives haven't been the same since. Shortly after Jessica was diagnosed, their entire family decided they wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with diabetes. In addition to serving as the Sports Director for diabetes camp for the past 6 years, Don has also run marathons and ridden in the Tour De Cures to raise money and lobbied congress to change policies. In 2006, Don was finally able to tie his passion and career together, joining Animas. Don is currently the Manager of Sales Training and recently relocated his family from sunny Florida, north to Pennsylvania ... go figure!

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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.

Elementary Programming Staff

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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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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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Brian Foster, MSE, ACSM-HFS, is a territory manager with Animas Corporation. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Diabetes Scholars Foundation, is a member of Triabetes (a team of diabetics that compete in triathlons) and is the coach for the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation's marathon team, the Diabetes Action Team. Brian left a career in education and pursued the diabetes industry within weeks after starting on his first Animas insulin pump in 2002. Brian was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age seven, and for that reason is a special fit for our elementary staff – he can relate. He is married to Tricia Stewart (another faculty member of Children with Diabetes) and is the proud parent of two Labrador retrievers, Max and Milo.

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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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Anne Mastrototaro lives in western Massachusetts and is a Registered Nurse with twenty years of experience in a variety of disciplines. She has three children, two of whom have type 1 diabetes. Anne has been active in the diabetes community for over thirteen years, with a special interest in legislative and school-related issues. She has been involved with CWD as both Mom and volunteer since the "inaugural conference" in 2000.

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Marissa Hitchcock, now 21, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 24 months old. She is studying to become a pediatric diabetes nurse specialist and loves working with kids who have diabetes. Marissa brings her experiences as a diabetes camp counselor, fourth year nursing student, and young adult with diabetes as she works with the kids at CWD's conferences.

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Elizabeth Vanover has participated in CWD conferences since she was a young teen. She is currently a university student where she enjoys volunteering with Alpha Phi Omega, working with children, playing football, and taking dance lessons. Elizabeth has had diabetes since she was three years old, and she's been a pumper for about nine years.

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Sara McNeeley, now 18, was diagnosed at the age of 9 with type 1 diabetes. She is studying to be a Recording Engineer. In May 2009 she will graduate with a bachelor in Music Business, and plans to pursue her career goal of co-owning a production company. She has been involved with Children with Diabetes since June 2001 and has loved every minute of it.

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Richie Podjasek is 18 years old and just graduated from high school this June. This fall he will attend DePaul University where he will play college soccer and study Finance. Richie is the older brother of Kara, who has had type 1 diabetes for 8 years. Their entire family has been very involved with CWD and CWD conferences for years. Richie's mom, Mary Podjasek, is the President of the Education for Children With Diabetes Foundation, and she also helps coordinate the registration area at each CWD conference.


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Martyn Carr, now 20, lives in Scotland. He is a qualified car mechanic and will be studying nursing in August, hoping to specialize in diabetes so that he can take care of kids with type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was five years old. Martyn and his family have participated in the last five Friends for Life conferences. Martyn has worked with the Elementary Group for the last three years and loves helping out and being with his other friends at the CWD conferences.


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Amanda Ferraro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in June 2003 at age 13 and started pumping a year later with a purple Cozmo. Amanda is a sophomore nursing student at Winona State University in Minnesota. Besides working with kids, Amanda enjoys playing soccer, running, reading and watching movies. Amanda doesn't let diabetes stand in her way of accomplishing anything she sets out to do.


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Giulio Pojer, a student from Italy, spent the 2007 academic year attending an American high school in New York. Giulio has had diabetes since he was six years old (he is now 19) but it has never stopped him. He enjoys snowboarding, mountain-biking, and weight-lifting in the gym in his small village in Italy. Attending high school in the U.S. was an experience that changed and matured him – he loves the U.S. and CWD! He is completing his last year of high school in Italy (high school is longer there than in the U.S.) and is hoping to attend the University of Milan in the future.


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Sebastiano Torini is a 20 year old university student from Milan, Italy, studying engineering. He has had type 1 diabetes since he was three years old, and he now wears an insulin pump. Sebastiano has been involved as a diabetes advocate both in Italy and in the United States, and has participated in several CWD events in both countries. In his free time, Sebastiano enjoys playing soccer, swimming, and running. He also enjoys music and plays the guitar.


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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.

Kindergarten, Pre-K and 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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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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Pam Loebner is a California public elementary school teacher who has worked in both special education and regular education classrooms for 25 years. Since becoming a CWD mom, Pam has assisted the district nurse with education for families and teachers when newly diagnosed or newly enrolled students arrive. While always working as an advocate for student needs, Pam focuses on ensuring equal access to all school activities for children with diabetes. Pam discovered the CWD website 30 minutes after her daughter's diagnosis in June 2002 when Sarah was 9 1/2. Pam and her family haven't missed a CWD conference since. Pam's son, Keith, started volunteering at the first conference when he became friends with Sam Billetdeaux. The family quickly became volunteers and has been a buddy family for the past several years with new attendees.

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Stacey Nagel was born, raised and still lives by the beach in Belle Harbor, New York. Married to Scott, they have three children: Allison, Daniel and Jesse. She is a retired special education teacher of developmentally delayed preschoolers. Jesse was diagnosed in December 2001 when he was 9 years old. While sitting in the hospital, in the wee hours of the night, Stacey discovered the CWD website. After a year of emailing her "imaginary friends," she decided in 2003 that it was time to attend a "Friends for Life" conference. Not one to just sit back and do nothing, she started volunteering at her very first conference, and put Scott to work with the teens in 2006. Jesse has also gotten caught up in the CWD fever by joining the "Youth Faculty."

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Born in Bogota, Colombia, and trained as an architect, Adriana Rodenheiser is mom to Kenny (graduating high school and beginning college in 2008) and wife to Ken. Kenny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003, and the Rodenheisers attended their first CWD conference in 2004. They have been involved as CWD staff ever since. Adriana states, "As parents, we know it is our responsibility to give Kenny all the tools to make his life with diabetes better and his future bright. CWD gives us the hope, knowledge, and support we desperately need." Now a high school Spanish teacher, Adriana loves working with children of all ages. This summer at Friends for Life she will be coordinating the Pre-K 4-year-old group in the childcare area.


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Rebecca Schmidt is a mother of two, an occupational therapist, and a Marine Corps wife for the past 18 years. Just 3 days after a move to Florida in 2002, her 5 year old son (now 11) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Rebecca's mission became clear: to make a difference in her child's school system and to become an advocate for her son and other military families with diabetes. The Schmidts attended their first FFL conference in 2003 and immediately felt the warmth and connection with other CWD families and staff. Military life has not always enabled the Schmidts to attend all conferences but they always stay in close contact with FFL family.

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Catherine Schulz lives in Southern California with her husband Harry and their six children. She was doing okay managing six kids – even with four-month-old twins – when diabetes struck her three-year-old daughter Emma and changed the family dynamic forever. She is currently attending school in pursuit of a psychology degree in the hopes that she might one day help other families facing the struggles that come up when a family member is diagnosed with a chronic illness. Formerly a neat freak with a penchant for perfect linen closets and sparkling baseboards, Catherine's new goal in life is to become a model of the laid back mom who simply manages the chaos with as cheerful an attitude as possible. She loves everything about the CWD conferences, but is particularly fond of the fact that it is four days filled with children and poolside friends, but completely lacking in dishes and laundry.

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Liza Mastrototaro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1996. She has been involved with many CWD conferences and programs since attending the first event in Orlando in June 2000. Liza lives in Massachusetts with her mom, dad, and brother. She has been a JDRF Children's Congress delegate and is a Clara Barton Diabetes Camp alumnus. Currently a freshman in college, Liza is studying psychology and working part-time at an animal rescue and rehabilitation center.

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Tiffany Yuen, age 20, is from Calgary, Canada. She is currently a second year university student in Pennsylvania and enjoys living up the college life American-style! She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 2004 at the age of 16 and attended her first CWD Conference in the summer of 2006. Tiffany sees diabetes as a gift that has brought her many new friends, a strong voice for advocacy and a reminder to celebrate life every day.

  Friends for Life 2008 Conference and Expo  
  Introduction - Registration - FAQs - Special Guests  
  Faculty - Youth Faculty - CWD Staff - 5000 Step Club  
  First Timer Hospitality - Teen Welcome Group - Grandparents  
  Program Overview - Parents & Adults - Youth - Focus Groups - Suggestions - Social Events  
  Sponsors & Partners - Exhibitors - Attendees - Hotel Floor Plan - Bus Schedule  
  FFL Reports from 2007 - 2006 - 2005 - 2004 - 2003 - 2002 - 2001  



                 
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Last Updated: Monday November 17, 2008 09:39:34
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