didn’t know about Children with Diabetes® (CWD) until a few years ago when my friend, and fellow diabetes educator, Tami Ross described the Friends for Life® (FFL) conference. Tami attended when she was president of AADE and was overwhelmed with how amazing it was to be at this wonderful event. I was able to attend for the first time in 2015 and was equally impressed! I am fortunate to be here again this year to join Tami, Deborah Greenwood and Michele Laine as we present the session “Is a Career in Health Care Right for You?” for teens and adults who might be thinking about going into health care and/or becoming a diabetes educator.
CWD describes itself as “an organization dedicated to providing education and support to families living with type 1 diabetes.” There is a strong online component where families living with type 1 diabetes can get support from others in the same situation. There is input from health care professionals, as well as active engagement from those with, and affected by, type 1 diabetes.
Jeff Hitchcock began the organization in 1995 after his daughter Marissa was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 2. The website says, “The idea was—and continues to be—to share experiences with other families, so that together, we can all make a difference in the lives of everyone living with type 1 diabetes.” We were thrilled to present Marissa with a copy of AADE’s Desk Reference last year in recognition of achieving her CDE. This year, there are three more from CWD who have achieved their CDE!
“The idea was—and continues to be—to share experiences with other families, so that together, we can all make a difference in the lives of everyone living with type 1 diabetes.”
The conference includes educational sessions, receptions, ceremonies, an exhibit hall, organized sports activities, ice breakers, screenings, research opportunities, focus groups, family movie night, dinners, and dances. The sessions are categorized as science, research, diabetes 101, psychosocial, discussion, exercise, grandparents, college, adult type 1, and legal and advocacy. This year, there is a group of sessions in a Spanish track.
I am in awe of the detail that goes into FFL. There is communication for attendees in advance with reminders and descriptions of the conference and events. The idea that there is programming geared toward grandparents is unique and very needed. Activities are divided by age-group into teens, tweens, and elementary programming. The conference also includes meet ups for moms, dads, single parents, adults with type 1, and significant others. There is childcare available for attendees. Wristbands are worn by all with designation as a person who has diabetes, one who doesn’t have diabetes and for those who eat gluten-free.
But, what is most amazing is to walk through the hallways, the exhibit hall, to attend the sessions, and social events. There are smiles, hugs, and tears: the hope and camaraderie are palpable! Many attendees return year after year. The conference creates, as the title says, friends for life!
I hope that you will become familiar with CWD and FFL and to provide information about this amazing event to those you work with who are affected by diabetes.
About the Author
Karen Kemmis is a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, certified diabetes educator, and also holds certifications in Pilates for rehabilitation and exercise for aging adults. She is based out of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and splits her time between a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate, an outpatient rehabilitation department, and a PT program where she is an adjunct professor.