Off the Dial

Our Time at Friends For Life

I’m going to guess I had one of the more unusual experiences at Children With Diabetes Friends For Life. After hearing about it for years, this was my first time at the annual conference. I was excited attend seminars and join in the fun. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.

We arrived on Wednesday and got off to a great start.  We met a fun family from Texas during the welcoming dinner and Benny had a blast at the expo, playing games and visiting different booths and vendors.

Thursday, Benny met Jackson, the dog with diabetes(!) at breakfast and then went to the ice breaker session for his age group. Animas had asked me to tape some interviews, so I met my crew and we got to work.

Benny meets Jackson

Benny meets Jackson

After lunch, though, Benny’s stomach started to hurt.  We rested and got ready for the big banquet.  No dice. He felt too bad to go. After a rough night, Benny got sick early Friday morning (amazing how much you can clean with hotel washcloths and Shout wipes). He felt a lot better, but we stayed in the room pretty much all day.

After a day of rest, we tried to take advantage of what was left. Saturday’s Family Day meant no seminars or speakers, but we were able to play at Sports Central, try our hand at the hardest scavenger hunt ever, meet Disney characters at an ice cream social and attend a wonderful dinner and magic show to benefit the  Diabetes Scholars Foundation.

It wasn’t quite the experience I’d hoped for, but it was fun to hold a microphone again and interview fascinating people. Benny didn’t attend sessions with the children his age, but he made some fun friends (Hi, Aaron, Hannah & Andrew!) and he loved spotting teenagers wearing pumps. Thanks to all who chatted with him and made him feel a lot older than eight.

I can’t wait to come back, hopefully next year, and really dig deeper into the educational part of the conference. It was incredible to be in a place where almost everyone is wearing a pump, sporting a CGM or carrying a meter.  I already miss the buffets with the carb counts for every single item of food and drink!

It’s hard to explain the feeling of good will that I experienced at this conference, even with our limited time.  When your child is diagnosed with diabetes you’re suddenly in a club you never asked to join.  Friends For Life gives you the feeling you’ve joined a family you never knew you had.  I’d love to experience more of that.

Friends For Life Collage

Friends For Life Collage

Disclosure: Animas sent me and Benny to the conference, but they didn’t ask me to write anything about them. The interviews I conducted for Animas will likely remain in-house at Johnson & Johnson, but I’ll let you know if and when you can see any of them. I also recorded a few on my own and will post those at www.staceysimms.com in the days and weeks to come. 

CWD Friends For Life – Kris Freeman

I’m always grateful when people share their inspiring stories of living with type 1 diabetes. Sometimes, though, I’m just in awe.

Kris Freeman was diagnosed while training for the 2002 Winter Olympics. He was told he could no longer compete on an elite level, but apparently, he disagreed.

Three Olympics later, Freeman is the only acknowledged type 1 diabetic endurance athlete in Olympic history. He talked with me at the CWD FFL expo:

 

CWD Friends For Life – Jeff Hitchcock

I’m at the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference this week. It’s a unique event. Picture a professional and educational conference crossed with summer camp for kids and their families.

CWD itself was started by Jeff Hitchcock more than 20 years ago, after his then two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with type 1. I was thrilled to meet him and spend a few minutes chatting.

JeffHitchcock

At the Quilt For Life display at CWD FFL

 

D-Camp

I’m a huge fan of summer camp.  Sleep-away camp, residential camp, whatever it’s called now. I spent the better part of 8 summers away from home and it helped make me who I am.

This is Benny’s second year away at diabetes camp.  He goes to a week-long program where all campers and most counselors and staff have type 1.  This is from the last day of the session: