It's easy to think of the Children With Diabetes Friends for Life conference as being just that — a conference for children and their families. But it's becoming so much more than that. With the help of some of the DOC's enterprising bloggers, Jeff Hitchcock and team are expanding to include adults with diabetes and their loved ones in the conference programming, and here at the 'Mine, we couldn't be more thrilled. Amy and I are both bummed that we had to miss this year's conference, but we're delighted to bring you this conference recap by Scott Johnson, one of the DOC reps who helped shape this year's Adults with Type 1 agenda.
A Guest Post by Scott Johnson
Every person touched by type 1 diabetes deserves to experience the Friends for Life conference. Regardless of age, if you live with type 1 diabetes, or are a family member or caregiver for someone with type 1 diabetes, you need to find a way to get to this conference.
It is a life-changing event for everyone involved. In 1995, Jeff Hitchcock created the Children with Diabetes website to allow people to talk about type 1 diabetes online. A few years later, one mom, Laura Billetdeaux, said she was going to Florida with her family and asked if anyone would like to meet her there. Five hundred and fifty people showed up. Eleven years later, marking the twelfth Friends for Life conference, attendance is over 3,000 people. The conference itself runs like a well-oiled machine (thanks to the hard work of Jeff, Laura, Mike, and the many incredible volunteers). The education presented during the conferences is rivaled by none, and the love, support, and care for all present is literally tangible. Again, this conference will change your life. It's all bittersweet in many ways.
It is moving to see so many people come together specifically for type 1 diabetes. It's also heartbreaking to see type 1 diabetes in so many people. It is not fair that so many families and tiny little children have to live with this monster that even as an adult I wrestle with daily.
Adults with Type 1?
Do not get caught up in the name of the organization that puts these incredible events together (Children with Diabetes). These events have always been valuable for an adult with type 1 diabetes too. The roster of speakers and presenters is like a diabetes all-star Olympic team, and gets better each year. Above and beyond the heavy-hitters presenting, there were a number of sessions targeted specifically for adults with type 1 (Being a Parent with Type 1 Diabetes, Managing Transitions as Adults, The Challenge of Employment Discrimination, and Burnout Happens, just to name a few). All of the adult sessions that I attended were well represented with a broad range of adults with type 1. I was very happy to see many of our friends from the online community present, but I was even happier to see many adults with type 1 whom I did not know.
There was even a super-sweet (no pun intended) woman who traveled from Columbia for the conference (Hi Ana!). It will be fun to watch this track for adults with type 1 grow. I think we have a lot of valuable insight to share, but even more importantly, we have a lot we can learn from the Friends for Life family.
I see something very special in the people from Friends for Life. Many of these kids and families have grown up with the peer-support Friends for Life offers. I see them growing up positively, and doing a lot to give back everything they've received. They know, without knowing, just how powerful these connections are. They have everything we didn't have while growing up with type 1 diabetes.
It is our responsibility, as people who know just how valuable that camaraderie is, to support the Children with Diabetes organization as best we can. Do you realize just how different your life might be if you had Friends for Life while you were growing up? Let's help them do more. How? First things first: you need to get yourself to a Friends for Life conference. I know it's hard, I know it can be expensive to t, but it will literally change your life. Do anything you can, short of breaking the law, to get yourself there.
Thankfully some groups are working to get more people to FFL, such as the Diabetes Scholars Foundation. If you are in a position to help, they need all they can get. Then what? Simple. Spread the word.
Hear, hear, Scott! And we encourage everyone to pencil in July 4-8, 2012 for next year's conference! Hope to see you there! *
Thanks to the folks at CWD for the photos!