Friends for Life Falls Church.

Like the Energizer bunny, Friends for Life just keeps going.

I think Children With Diabetes, the organization that stages the Friends for Life conferences throughout the USA, and in the UK too (and occasionally Canada), would rather be thought of on their own, as opposed to being associated with a battery company. But that aside, after attending many of these now, I am still amazed at how they make each gathering spectacular and unique.

In Falls Church, Virginia last week, I was working the DPAC table in the exhibit space again, like I’ve been doing for a while now. That means I don’t get to get into many sessions, but I do get to see a lot that goes on around the venue. Not backstage pass kind of stuff, but things that I think help me see how much of an undertaking each conference really is.

The first thing I noticed was the update to the sessions in the schedule. More advocacy sessions with Christel Marchand Aprigliano and Stewart Perry. Cynthia Rice from JDRF and Paul Madden from ADA also jumped in here and there.

Also, there were sessions about Succeeding as and Adult and Parenting with Type 1, a Safe Zone discussion for Significant Others of adults with T1D, and two sessions for Grandparents and Occasional Caregivers. I saw a session on Your Legal Rights as a Person With Diabetes. When you’re tackling these subjects, led by smart people like Kerri Sparling, Tamara and Sean Oser, Brian Grant, and Leigh Davis Fickling, you know you’re going to learn something significant without needing a PhD to understand the subject matter.

Unlike some of the other FFL events I’ve been to, this time I was able to see a lot of the staff working in the background to keep things running smoothly. Think about everything that needs to be done: Making sure everything arrives (think T-shirts, badges, and those wonderful green bracelets). Setup and registration. Getting rooms ready with the right amount of tables and chairs, screens to view presentations, and branding material. Coordinating meals and food choices with hotel staff.

That doesn’t even count little extra touches that mean a lot. When someone at registration asked me if I had diabetes (do I get a green bracelet? YES!), then someone else asked, “Do you still have an appendix?”, it was the funniest moment of the entire weekend. I don’t know how they all remember so much.

I’m not kidding… everyone works so hard, yet makes it look so effortless. Many of the first timers I met, from Ohio and North Carolina and Pennsylvania and beyond, really appreciated how they were made to feel at home, and how accessible everyone was. How can I describe it? Friends for Life is a comfortable place where everyone feels like they belong. It’s a conference, while redefining the very meaning of that word. Friends for Life is an experience, not one time, but always.

Here’s your notice: if you live in the eastern half of the USA, you should know that Friends for Life is coming back to Falls Church, Virginia next October. If you can’t make it to the big event at Disney in July, this is a great opportunity to learn a lot, interact with others living the same life you do, and enjoy being part of the biggest group that no one wants to belong to… that just happens to be populated with the most wonderful people. To find out more, go to childrenwithdiabetes.com

Extra: You should definitely read this post by Leigh Fickling over at Six Until Me. This describes FFL maybe better than anything you’ve read above.

**Note: I get nothing for writing about Friends for Life. DPAC paid for my travel and accommodations to Falls Church, Virginia. Opinions on Friends for Life are entirely my own.

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