Report from Friends for Life 2006

Two thousand people from 43 states and 11 countries traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the seventh annual conference, Friends for Life 2006. The conference was held from July 19-23, 2006 at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld. One thousand children were in attendance, ranging in age from just two weeks old to over 18 years!

Families began gathering at the hotel on the weekend prior to the conference, and by Monday evening, over 80 CWD families were on site. Many wore conference tee shirts from previous years, so CWD families were easy to spot around the swimming pool, in the hotel atrium, and in the game room of the Renaissance Resort. On Monday evening, conference work began in earnest with registration envelope-stuffing by a very dedicated group of volunteers who were up until 1 a.m. making sure the right name badges got in the right registration envelopes along with the correct number of banquet tickets and blue and white checked wristbands!

There were 115 first timer families this year – roughly 450 people from all over the country (and many international families as well). The First-Timers all wore pink ribbons on their name badges, much to the chagrin of many of the dads! However, identifying First-Timers by a special ribbon was a great way for the 'Old Timers' to find the new families, welcome them, and engage them in the conference right from the start.

This year, the Exhibit Hall in Oceans Ballroom was shared with the Quilt for Life. The beautiful quilts in honor of CWD children lined the outside walls of the ballroom – row upon row of wonderful, unique quilt squares. In the center of the ballroom were fabulous booths and displays from our sponsors and exhibitors. There were some very fun features in the booths: Juggler Noah Moore entertained crowds with his exceptional skills at the LifeScan booth, while an ice carver demonstrated his skills (and made beautiful carvings for the Family and Friends Banquet) at the Novo Nordisk booth, kids competed in shooting hoops at the Roche Diagnostics booth, and a face-painter decorated kids – much to their delight – at the Sanofi-Aventis booth.

Many VIPs were on hand to meet-n-greet the kids and families in the Exhibit Hall, including Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer Gary Hall, Jr. (at the BD booth), Olympic Cross-Country Skier Kris Freeman (at the LifeScan and Lilly booths), Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson-Baker (at the Animas Corporation booth), NFL star Jay Leeuwenburg (at the DESA booth), NBA star Chris Dudley (at the Roche Diagnostics booth), and elite cyclist Phil Southerland (at the Abbott Diabetes Care booth), and Peaks and Poles Champion Will Cross (at the Novo Nordisk booth).

And dLife had a big surprise in store for everyone – they arranged for American Idol star Kevin Covais to perform at the Family and Friends banquet on Thursday evening and to visit with the kids in the Novo Nordisk and LifeScan booths on Friday. What a very special opportunity for so many of our kids! The teens invited Kevin to 'hang out' after the banquet, and he did indeed – shooting hoops with the teens and Chris Dudley down in Sports Central!

And – speaking of Sports Central – it was once again a hit this year. Pulled together by CWD Sports Coordinator Rick Philbin, there was a steady flow of sports activities and sports panels (interaction with the athletes) from Wednesday evening through Friday evening. While the space was a bit smaller than last year, the activities were well-synchronized, and the kids got lots of exercise including basketball, touch football, martial arts, fun competitive games like tug of war and dodgeball – and more. Look forward next year to Rick and Sports Central. He does a great job making sure there is something for everyone!

A number of sponsoring companies held Focus Groups on Wednesday. These groups included some very diverse topics this year, and the discussion was lively and beneficial to both the participants and the group leaders. The groups were an excellent opportunity for exchange of information in a small group format prior to the larger sessions of the actual conference. CWD plans to hold them again next year.

On Saturday, over 1,000 people spent the day at Sea World as part of the Education for Children with Diabetes Foundation Benefit Day, sponsored by Abbott Diabetes Care. Families began the day with an early tour of Sea World, then joined other CWD conference participants in the Sea Harbor Pavilion for a yummy barbecue picnic. An interactive DJ kept us dancing and having fun, while in the adjacent pavilions, face-painting and hair-braiding was available for the kids. Mid-afternoon, the Clydesdales paid a visit to our pavilion, along with several Sea World critters. Many thanks to Animas Corporation for sending CDEs to Sea World to provide diabetes support at the low station during the day.

Finally – our deepest thank to the sponsors who supported this conference and who each year allow us to make it bigger and better. We are so grateful for your friendship and support.

As you read through the report pages, you'll see images with links. The image link sizes are medium (800 pixels wide and about 250 KBytes), large (1280 pixels wide and about 500 KBytes), and full sized (3000+ pixels wide and up to 4 MBytes).


Julia Mattingly's Collages of Kids filled three panels again this year

Pam Loebner once again made the beautiful Friends for Life Signature Quilt Panel

In a big surprise, Kevin Covais from American Idol sang at the Family and Friends Banquet, courtesy of dLife, LifeScan, and Novo Nordisk.

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Last Updated: Thu Aug 03 11:51:58 2006
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