What kind of name is “Friends for Life” for a conference? Well, I’ll tell you that the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference is just like it sounds! It’s for families and adults of individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to come together for six days and truly leave making new friends for life.
My daughter Aly is ten years old. This was her first time flying, my first time ever having to deal with flying with diabetes (TSA and all). We went through the security lines at both Kansas City International and Orlando International airports with absolutely no issues.
This year’s conference was held at the Orlando World Center Marriott from July 1–6, and the facilities were beautiful. We had an amazing view of the pool area from our hotel room.
Attending the conference was truly a surprise for us. We were awarded a family scholarship from the Diabetes Scholars Foundation and also received a scholarship to attend the Diabetes MasterLab from the Diabetes Hands Foundation. I had always heard great things about Friends for Life from others who had attended, and I must say that I 100% agree with them.
My daughter Alyse has attended diabetes camp and is active in our local support group here in Kansas City, but while attending those local events, she has never seemed to connect as much with other kids who also live with type 1 diabetes as she did at the Friends for Life conference.
As her mother, seeing her make with new friends who are also dealing with either T1D themselves or those who are supporting a sibling living with T1D was truly magical. I have never seen her so happy to wake up each day and go to her tween sessions with her friends. In the tween sessions, they covered topics like Trivia and Carb Counting, Problem Solving and Stress, and other fun events such as Harold Time (workout), Sports Central, and DJ Miles. My daughter said, “It was awesome and I never wanted to leave. I wanted to live there with my new friends.”
This conference had so many amazing people presenting on so many topics such as Parenting Your Tween, Support through Social Media, Diabetes Advocates Masterlab, Positive Caregiving, Family Teamwork in Diabetes Management, The Bionic Pancreas, Type 1 Diabetes in School, and many more great topics. I wish I could have attended every single session—the ones I attended were amazing and helped me understand T1D, my daughter, her feelings, and how to best manage it all.
As parents, we know diabetes is a 24/7/365 job and being with other attendees who know exactly how you feel is such a relief, because they know what it’s like to have a full day of swimming and fun and a night of low blood sugars, or our kiddos getting a stomach bug and dealing with high blood sugars and ketones. Just being surrounded by these families in a room makes you know that you are not alone! There is always someone there to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, or a joyful dance when your child checks their own blood sugar or changes their own site for the first time.
There were so many fun things to do in addition to the sessions: The Exhibitors Hall, Adult Casino Night, Family Movie Night, Friends for Life Banquet, Teen and Tween Dances, Teen Offsite Day, and you cannot forget the Diabetes Scholars Foundation Fundraiser. We had a blast attending many of these events! You never know what the amazing sponsors like Dexcom, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, BD, Diabetes Research Institute, Tandem Diabetes Care, OmniPod, Animas Corp, Medtronic, Perrigo Diabetes Care, and The Helmsley Trust have planned during the fun events. There was a flash mob, blankets, warrior helmets, light-up toys, and amazing food.
As a parent it was great being able to let loose with others living with T1D in their lives and show my daughter that just because you have type 1 diabetes does not mean that it is a burden and nothing can stop you from reaching your dreams. We met Ryan Reed (NASCAR driver), Phil Southerland (founder of Team NovoNordisk), Jay Hewitt (Ironman triathlete), and Kevin Covais (Victor from Good Luck Charlie). They never let type 1 diabetes stop them from achieving their dreams. Having this experience can renew your passion as a parent and help you to inspire your child to chase their dreams. They are a person first and type 1 diabetes just tags along.
Attending the Friends for Life conference is truly life-changing, and I highly recommend it. In the words of the amazing Moira McCarthy: You are a diabetes super hero!
If you would like to read the tweets, you can check out the hashtag #CWDFFL14 on Twitter or Facebook or you can look for my handle @Khuckabay. I live-tweeted every session that I went to, including Glu’s very own Bill and Anna about their experience in the bionic pancreas study.
I hope to see you and your family at next year’s Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference at Coronado Springs resort. You can get more information here.