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  Back to 2012 Conference Friends for Life 2012 Youth Faculty

Teen Program Staff

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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 Erin.

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Born in Cleveland, Ohio during the time of the burning of the great Cuyahoga River, Neil Benchell loves to make children laugh. He attended the Family Support Weekend last year for the first time as the spouse of one of the faculty members, but was so lonely roaming the beach by himself that he decided to help with the tweens this year. No doubt he’ll have much more fun than the kids. In his spare time, Neil tries his hand at being a patent litigator.

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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 recently graduated from the University of Michigan.

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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 24 summers Galen has attended Camp Carolina Trails, working his way up through the program staff. Over the last 17 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 10 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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Ben Loebner is the proud father of Sarah (dx 6/2002) and Keith, and husband of Pam (K Staff). He attended his first CWD Friends for Life one month after Sarah was diagnosed, and has been volunteering in various capacities ever since. Ben is an environmental geologist from California who enjoys most sports; he coaches and referees for the American Youth Soccer Organization in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Jose Lopez is a law enforcement officer with thirty years of experience in a major metropolitan police department. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1985 as a rookie officer. His assignments as an officer with type 1 diabetes included patrol, investigations, undercover, SWAT, and he is currently a homicide detective lieutenant. A decorated officer, he was awarded his department's Officer of the Year and Gold Medal of Valor.

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Stacey and Scott Nagel both grew up and still live by the beach in Belle Harbor, New York. Married for 33 years, they have three children: Allison, Daniel, Jesse, and a crazy dog named Roxy! Stacey is a retired special education teacher. Scott is a licensed Optician with a practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 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," they decided in 2003 that it was time to attend a Friends for Life conference. Not one to just sit back and do nothing, Stacey 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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Adriana Rodenheiser was born in Bogota, Colombia where she was trained as an architect. She is the mother of Kenny and wife to Ken. Kenny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003, and the Rodenheiser’s attended their first CWD conference in 2004. They have been involved as CWD staff ever since. Adriana believes attending Friends for Life conferences gives them the opportunity to meet new people, and become better educated with the latest information in the diabetes world. A high school Spanish teacher, Adriana is working on a masters’ degree; she loves working with children of all ages.


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Ken Rodenheiser is a vice-president of specialized equipment market for Aramsco, a national distributor with 18 offices in the environmental, Surface Preparation and Restoration Markets. Ken has worked with the teens since 2004. Every year he looks forward to attend Friends for Life conference in July, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.


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Marissa Town, 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 the Cincinnati, Ohio area. 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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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.

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Charles E. Wiedmeyer DVM, PhD, DACVP is an associate professor of veterinary clinical pathology at the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbia, Missouri. He earned his veterinary degree and PhD in veterinary pathology from the University of Illinois. In addition, he is a board-certified veterinary clinical pathologist. Dr. Wiedmeyer's specialty is applying technology to better monitor diabetic veterinary patients. His emphasis in this field is working with dogs and cats but has experience with horse, cows and pigs. Dr. Wiedmeyer has published numerous articles and given many presentations regarding the use of continuous glucose monitoring in veterinary patients and is considered the authority on this subject as it relates to veterinary medicine. Besides research, Dr. Wiedmeyer teaches veterinary students and offers leadership mentoring to a wide diversity of individuals within the veterinary profession.

Tween Program Staff

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Justin Abel attended his first CWD conference in 2002 after his daughter Sailor 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 young adult volunteer with CWD.


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Carolyn Billetdeaux graduated from NYU with a degree in international business and Spanish and currently works as a sustainability consultant. She is older sister to Sam, who has had diabetes for over 13 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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Martyn Carr, age 24, lives in Scotland. He is a qualified car mechanic and is studying a HNC Care and Administrative Practice, and has applied to university to study nursing. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was five years old. Martyn and his family have participated in the last eight Friends for Life conferences and helped out at the last three UK Friends for Life conferences. Martyn has worked with the Elementary and Tween age groups. He loves helping out and being with his other friends at CWD conferences.


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Amanda Ferraro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003 at 13 and Celiac Disease in 2009 at 19. Now 20, she is currently pumping with Omnipod (getting help from her CGMS-Navigator) and continuing to search for new gluten free foods. Amanda doesn't let diabetes or celiac stand in her way of accomplishing anything she sets out to do. Only the strong survive. Amanda is a junior nursing student in Minnesota.


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Kelsey Martin was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 12, and attended her first CWD conference two months later. She's since become an active volunteer and plans any vacation/free time around coming to CWD events. Kelsey remains active with her local JDRF chapter, and was the sole Kansas delegate to the 2007 Children's Congress. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism and business, and works in the public relations industry.


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Sarah Melendez, BSN, RN, graduated from West Chester University's nursing program in August 2010. After her son Brady was diagnosed in 2004, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, with a future focus in pediatric endocrinology. In 2005, Sarah and Brady attended their first CWD conference and it has become an integral part of their lives every year. Currently, Sarah lives outside of Philadelphia and works as an Orthopaedic RN at Northeast Orthopaedic's Muscle, Bone and Joint Center in Philadelphia.

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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. Don served as the Sports Director for a diabetes camp for six years, has run marathons and ridden in Tour De Cures to raise money and also lobbied congress to change policies. In 2006, Don was finally able to tie his passion and career together, joining Animas. Don and his family currently reside in Nashville, TN.

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Melissa Pawlowski is a public relations major at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age four. Melissa has three siblings, Sarah, Kayla and Matthew. Matthew also has type 1 diabetes. Melissa enjoys attending Friends For Life Conferences and has been attending since 2003 with her family. Melissa loves working with CWD kids and is glad to be part of the CWD staff.


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Kenny Rodenheiser, 21, will earn his Bachelors in Nursing from Ramapo College of New Jersey this spring, 2012. Kenny would eventually like to become a CDE. Kenny was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003 and has continued to be as energetic as before he was diagnosed. He has been an active part of the CWD community for eight years, and looks forward to helping others enjoy similar conference experiences. Kenny enjoys sports, especially soccer, volleyball, and hockey.


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Robert Schmidt is a CWD dad with 22 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 than military life. 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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Lynn Smits is the mother of two wonderful daughters, Wendy and Caroline. Caroline was diagnosed with diabetes in July 2001 at age 8. The family attended their first Friends for Life Conference in 2003 and they have been attending conferences ever since. Immediately after their first conference, Lynn went home and found a new endocrinologist for Caroline after seeing first-hand that there was a better way to manage diabetes. While diabetes is always there, Lynn and her family have chosen to incorporate it into their lives and not to make it the focus of everyday life. At home in Aiken, SC, Lynn is a social worker who coordinates services for people with autism.

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Adam Town, BSN, RN, graduated from the University of Cincinnati's nursing program in 2009. Adam enjoys working with all children and is interested in pediatric nursing. He lives and works in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. Adam enjoys sports of all kinds with a particular interest in baseball. Adam's wife Marissa has had type 1 diabetes for over 22 years.

Elementary Program Staff

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Sierra Abel is attending the University of Cincinnati where she is studying journalism. She is the older sister to Sailor Abel, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2001. Sierra attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, where she was in the elementary group. She has now worked her way through all the programs, graduating from the teens at FFL 2011. Sierra and her family have been involved with CWD for many years now and she is excited to finally work with the kids.

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Sunshine Abel, LVN, is the mother of two beautiful girls, Sierra and Sailor. She attended her first CWD conference with her family in 2002, after Sailor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Sunshine immediately knew she had found a new family and a new home where kids were experiencing the same thing as Sailor. She then made it her mission to involve her whole family. Sunshine and husband Justin have volunteered for several years at Friends for Life and CWD conferences.


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Lorraine Anderson, BSc, RD, CDE, is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator. She has had type 1 diabetes for over 30 years and believes that having diabetes has made her a stronger and healthier person. Currently Lorraine is employed as a Clinical Manager with Animas Canada working in the Toronto area and is very passionate about insulin pump therapy. She enjoys working with kids with type 1 diabetes at Camp Huronda in the summer months and is a busy full-time mom to her three children Nicholas, Nathan and Kara.


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Kristen Della Sala has been living with type 1 diabetes since July 8, 2009 and has been attending the CWD conferences since 2007 when her older brother was diagnosed. Now she is a Freshman Nutrition Major at Rutgers University where she intends to become a Registered Dietitian and eventually a Certified Diabetes Educator. Transitioning from attending the conferences in the beginning as a sibling and then as a diabetic herself, she is excited to make the transition once more into becoming a staff member.


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Ralph Della Sala is a student at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Ralph was diagnosed four years ago and attended his first conference just two weeks after diagnosis. His sister, Kristen, was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two years ago. Ralph is grateful for the opportunity to give back to CWD and is thankful for everything CWD has done for him.


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Connor Dunlap will be attending Fordham University this fall to study Theatrical Arts. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age nine in 2003. He first attended Friends for Life in 2006 and has loved every second that has followed. Connor is grateful to have the opportunity to give back to the organization that brought him so much hope and joy. Thanks CWD!

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Maryam Elarbi was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 10 in 2003 and began attending CWD conferences in 2004. Now age 18 and a freshman at Bryn Mawr College, Maryam enjoys reading (especially Jane Austen and Kurt Vonnegut), writing, blogging for Diabetes Self-Management, and competing with her three brothers in the new Dance Central 2 game on Kinect. One of her favorite CWD memories includes listening to Jay Hewitt speak with all of her friends and waiting for the moment they all say, “How bad do you want it?” together with Jay. Favorite memories also include watching Joe Solowiejczyk being honored for living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years, and meeting Louis and his family from Australia for the first time.

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Lynet Fox is the mother of three girls, Marisa (19), Jessica (17), and Erica (15). She attended her first CWD conference in 2004 after Erica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She has not missed a Friends for Life Conference since first attending. Her daughter, Jessica, was diagnosed in December 2010 at the age of 16. Lynet currently teaches high school physics. The entire family looks forward to conference in Orlando each summer. She has volunteered in different capacities at Friends for Life conferences over the past six years.

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Kim Kaar has been involved with CWD as both parent and volunteer since her son Alex was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 18 months old in February 2000. When not advocating, educating, or raising research funds for pediatric disease, Kim enjoys any opportunity to work with special needs children at her local elementary school. It is there that she also enjoys Chairing the school's Cultural Arts Committee. Kim, her husband Marko, and their three children live on the shoreline in southeastern Connecticut.


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Kaitlyn Karlya is a CWD kid and is a student at Stony Brook University (Class of 2012) in New York where she is pursuing her undergraduate studies on a pathway to become a physician's assistant with an emphasis in diabetes. She is also a member of the Medford Ambulance Corp in her hometown on Long Island. She has had diabetes since she was diagnosed at age two 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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Alyssa Kyllo runs on insulin! She is 21 years old and currently attending Thompson Rivers University in hopes of pursuing a career in Animal Health. At the age of seven, Alyssa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, two years after her brother had been diagnosed. Alyssa's FFL experience started in Pasadena in 2002, followed with Los Angeles (2004), Orlando (2006 and 2010), Seattle (2008, 2009 and 2011), Toronto (2009) and Vancouver (2010). Diabetes doesn't stop Alyssa's passion for the sport of curling, and she has learned that the key to performance is staying on top of her diabetes. At the age of eight, she started attending Camp Kakhamela, a camp for children with diabetes, and continued through their leadership program to become a counselor. At the moment she is living in Kamloops, B.C., and will be the senior counselor for the Kamloops BCSPCA this summer. Alyssa loves working with the CWD kids!


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Lauren Lanning, mom of Monica, 18, dx 8/96, pumping 5/99, CGM 9/05, and Sarah, 15 ... 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. Back home in Denver, she has served on the boards of the JDRF and CWD Foundation. She and her husband Steve have chaired and coached her local JDRF Ride team for many years. Lauren has worked as an elementary school computer teacher and now works at The Children's Diabetes Foundation at Denver as the IT Manager.

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Monica Lanning is 18 years old and has had type 1 diabetes since the age of two. She has been to every single CWD Friends for Life Orlando conference – all 13 of them – and many of the regional conferences. Monica was an International Diabetes Youth Ambassador and a Diabetes Mentor – and she has CWD friends all over the world. Monica refers to her CWD friends as "family" and can't wait for the next "family reunion." This fall, she will attend the University of Chicago. She is excited to give back to the CWD elementary kids what was given to her. This is Monica's first year as CWD Staff!


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Sarah Loebner, age 19, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 9 1/2 in 2002. She attended her first CWD Friends For Life conference exactly a month later, and has returned every year since. She is a student at Scripps College focusing on Human Biology. Her favorite pastimes are playing tennis and soccer, laughing hysterically, and singing. Sarah is so glad to be a member of the CWD staff that gave her so much support, love, and confidence as a younger CWD participant, and she is so excited to make more Friends For Life at this year's conference!

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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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Chelsea Meredith, age 21, has grown up around diabetes for the past twelve 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 is a dance and acrobatics teacher for young children. Chelsea attends the University of South Florida St. Petersburg where she is studying history and philosophy as an honors student. She is also an aerialist intending to run away with the circus, after college, of course! She spends all of her free time hanging from the rafters on a trapeze.

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Jesse Nagel, 20, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 9 1/2 years old. He is a junior at the State University of NY at Buffalo with a major in nursing. Jesse is a member of the crew team and is a senator for the Resident Hall Association. He has traveled to Washington, DC as an advocate with the JDRF Children's Congress and the ADA Call to Congress, and will continue meeting with his representatives until a cure is found. He has attended every FFL Orlando since 2003 as part of the elementary, tween, and teen groups. Jesse is very excited to officially become part of the FFL staff.


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Chris Opdenaker is mom to Hannah and Rachael and wife to Jim. Hannah was diagnosed with diabetes in 1999 at age 3. The Opdenakers first became involved with CWD in 2001 -- they have printed all of the conference t-shirts ever since 2001! Chris states that CWD has been a blessing for her family from day one and continues to be each year. Chris has also been involved in ADA walks and several local pump support programs for children and parents. She is employed as a digital press operator for an advertising company.

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Kara Podjasek was diagnosed with diabetes at age eight, and her family has been involved with CWD and CWD conferences since then. She is in the honors nursing program at Loyola University Chicago, and one day hopes to become a CDE. In addition, Kara enjoys playing lacrosse, working out, and volunteering in the community. Kara's mom, Mary Podjasek, is the President of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation. Kara loves helping out and seeing her friends every year at CWD Conferences.

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Michelle Rago is an attorney and mom of two children with diabetes. Her son Trent was diagnosed at age 4 in 2000. Her family adopted daughter Maya -- diagnosed at one month -- from foster care in 2006. Her daughter Michela is proud to be a "Type 3" caregiver. Michelle is active with the American Diabetes Association Legal Advocacy group. She was awarded the Ben Teel Memorial Prize for Public Service at Harvard (where she founded a homeless shelter); the Charles Evan Hughes Fellowship for Public Service at Columbia Law School (where she represented children in foster care and worked on desegregation); and the Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award (for her work with CWD families).

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Noor Al Ramahi was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 6 in 1995. She's been traveling halfway across the world (from Dubai) every year for the past five years to attend CWD FFL, this time with her newlywed husband as part of their honeymoon. She volunteers at her local hospital and works with newly diagnosed children and their parents to help them cope and show them what a perfectly normal, beautiful life they can lead. Noor and her husband now reside in the Bay Area.


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Caroline Smits is a student in the medical assisting program at Aiken Technical College and has been living with type 1 diabetes since July 2001. Caroline and her family attended their first Friends for Life Conference in 2003 and have been involved with CWD ever since. Now that Caroline has gone through all of the youth programs, she is excited to continue reaching out to other families living with diabetes as she becomes part of the CWD staff.

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Wendy Smits is a sophomore nursing student at the University of South Carolina. She and her family attended their first CWD event in 2003, two years after her younger sister, Caroline, was diagnosed with diabetes. Wendy loves working with children and is excited to be working with the elementary kids this year.


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Georgia Spiropoulos is Alexa's Mom. Alexa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 14 months old. Over the past 12 years, Georgia and her husband have watched the diabetes at every developmental stage of Alexa's life. Their most important lesson in this journey was realizing "Alexa will learn how to deal with her diabetes from you." That light bulb moment changed their lives and their advocacy work began. Georgia's volunteer efforts include JDRF fundraising, government advocacy and outreach. She volunteers at the local children's hospital helping newly diagnosed children and their families understand the road ahead. She created outreach programs of support and information sharing within the community. Georgia states, "the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming and that is what I am trying to help families minimize. We love this Friends for Life conference; this will be our third year. This is the week Alexa feels normal and does not have to explain to anyone why she is poking her finger."


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Ashley Troisi, 20, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003 at age 11. She attended her first Friends for Life conference that summer with her family and has been coming ever since. Ashley studied cosmetology and makeup, and she currently works as a makeup artist. She is looking forward to working with the elementary kids this year!

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Jenny Vandevelde lives in San Diego, CA and is a student at San Diego State University, double majoring in Outdoor Recreation and Social Work. Jenny plans to be a Pediatric CDE, adventure tour guide, and/or soccer coach. She loves all sports and is currently addicted to snowboarding -- and yes it does snow in southern California. Jenny has biked through Death Valley twice for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The first ride included 110 degree temperatures and the second ride brought 60 mph headwinds for about 5 hours. In October 2008, she ran as one of the 25 Medtronic Global Heroes in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Both of her pump sites went bad and her timing chip malfunctioned, but despite those little disasters, she had a great time. Last summer Jenny attended her first Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association (DESA) Conference in Toronto as an Insulindependence intern. In her free time she plays soccer, beach soccer, hockey, and basketball. She also volunteers at Camp Wana Kura in Santee, CA every summer.


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Cindy Webb, aka Grandma Cindy, attended her first CWD conference in July 2003. Just three months prior, in March 2003, her granddaughter, Ashley, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three. When a friend emailed her CWD’s website, Cindy and Ashley’s mom, Lisa, immediately registered for the 2003 Orlando conference and took the opportunity to connect with other diabetic families. Their goal was to meet other families living with diabetes while learning how to deal with all the areas of life and family it affects. As a secondary caregiver for Ashley, Grandma Cindy became directly involved with Ashley’s medical care and learning how to care for Ashley and her diabetes. Grandma Cindy works as an accounting consultant and is currently working on her Masters of Science in Accounting (MSA) degree.

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Kevin Woodward is delighted to be on FFL's Youth Faculty for the second year. Kevin is in awe of the courage, determination and positive attitude of CWD kids and has learned so much about diabetes and fighting spirit from these brave kids and Devin. He has been employed by Acme Markets for 37 years, is a devout Orioles and Ravens fan, and enjoys cycling, gardening, cooking, and looks forward to mastering the greens with Crystal Jackson this summer.

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 National Director of Clinical Services at Animas Corporation, she is responsible for overseeing diabetes and pump educators 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 15. 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, MSS, 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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Marisa Fox is a sophomore at East Texas Baptist University. She is studying nursing. This will be her sixth Friends for Life conference to attend since her youngest sister was diagnosed in 2004. Her other sister was diagnosed in December 2010 at the age of 16. Marisa is excited about attending the FFL conference this year and being able to work with the younger kids in childcare.

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Grace Grande-Cassell recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She is beginning her career with an internship at Vogue in New York City this summer. Grace has grown up with a connection to type 1 diabetes because of her grandfather who was diagnosed at age 14. This is her second Friends for Life conference, and she is very excited to be part of the Children With Diabetes community.

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Audrey Greenfield has been involved with CWD conferences since 2001. A strong advocate of empowerment through knowledge and support, Audrey has stressed the importance of Friends for Life conferences to CWD families and to her colleagues within the Diabetes Franchise of Johnson and Johnson. Early in her career, Audrey was a schoolteacher in Brooklyn, New York; she has always enjoyed working with children. Recently retired from her position as Worldwide Vice President of Advocacy and Professional Relations for the Diabetes Franchise of Johnson & Johnson, Audrey now focuses on her most important job -- Becky’s mom! She is thrilled to be working with the childcare program at Friends for Life.


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Devin Jackson is 22 years old and a nursing major at George Mason University. Devin was diagnosed with diabetes at 17 months old and has been actively raising awareness and fighting for a cure ever since. She has been attending CWD conferences since she was 10 and has enjoyed meeting and helping other kids with diabetes. Devin enjoys roller coasters, the beach, and hanging out with friends and family.


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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.

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Kara Martin is mom to Kelsey, diagnosed in November 2002 at age 12, and Austin, a college student. She and her family have been involved in CWD conferences since January 2003. Kara has been active in the Kansas City JDRF Chapter since Kelsey was diagnosed, and tutors inner city elementary children. Kara is also wife to John, and mom to her two furry children, Ruby and Pearl.


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Midge McBryant is grandma to Jeremy (dx'd 5/2000), Chelsea and Bailey. She lives in St. Petersburg, FL and works in a law firm as a paralegal. Midge has been attending Friends for Life conferences since 2003. She enjoys working with children and is a huge Tampa Bay Rays fan!

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Lisa Pitt, a CWD mom to four girls, has been attending conferences since Ashley was diagnosed at age 3 in 2003. Thanks to CWD's thorough education, before the very next conference, Ashley was pumping at age 4. Two of Lisa's other daughters were tested through TrialNet (met through CWD) and found her middle child with 1 of 3 antibodies that have been identified in diabetes. Lisa has been a cardiac night nurse for the last 10 years. She believes constant education is key to managing a chronic illness.


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Helen Rodio, 23, is a recent graduate of The College of New Jersey. Helen has a strong dance background and spent last summer traveling the country teaching middle school and high school dance teams with Universal Dance Association. Currently, Helen is teaching first grade at Folsom Elementary School. This is her second year at the Friends for Life conference, and she is thrilled to be back!


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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!

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Sasha Ullman is 22 years young, and a recent graduate from University of Central Florida, Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Her brother Zack, 24, has had type 1 diabetes since he was 15 months old. She has been supporting him and her family by going to CWD conferences since they began. She will be spending sometime up north in Connecticut working on a sustainable farm, learning about the environment and how to grow her own crops! With her passion for hospitality and cooking she hopes to own and operate a bed and breakfast one day!


  Friends for Life 2012 Conference and Expo  
  Introduction - Registration - Exhibitors - FAQs - Sponsors - Convention Center Map (PDF)  
  Faculty - Youth Faculty - Grandparents Faculty - CWD Staff - Sports Central Staff  
  Schedule: Parents & Adults - Youth  
  Registration - Teen Driving Clinic - Retinal Screening Signup - Childcare Form (PDF)  
  Reports from 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005 - 2004 - 2003 - 2002 - 2001  



                 
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Last Updated: Thursday January 05, 2017 18:38:10
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