Friends for Life 2019

For many of us living with diabetes, being together and supporting one another through the day-to-day grind of a chronic condition is what makes us feel like we have meaning.

The notion of that statement was on full display last week at Children With Diabetes’ 20th annual Friends for Life event in Orlando. Young and old, newbie and veteran, all took turns sharing (both lterally and figuratively) and supporting one another.

I was at Friends for Life as a member of CWD’s IT team, helping to set up projectors and sound in rooms, and getting speaker presentations ready to go. Full disclosure: Children With Diabetes paid for my accommodations so I could work on the IT team at FFL. All opinions are my own.

When I think about it, I’ve probably been to four or five out of the last six or seven of these gatherings. But… I’ve never been there as a participant. I’m always working. First it was MasterLab a couple of times, in and out in a day or two. Then I manned the DPAC booth in the exhibit hall for a couple of years. Now, IT and AV tasks.

I say this so you’ll know that my observations are from someone who didn’t attend everything, or really anything, but watched as people who did experienced their best week of the year.

This past week, I saw kids happily run from place to place with smiles on their faces, knowing that no one was going to try to stop them from what they were doing because of their diabetes.

I watched teenagers as they learned to grow into bigger, better versions of themselves, knowing that they will have support from lots of friends and family along the way.

I saw a meeting room packed with people learning about DIY looping, and then participating in a looping workshop that was so popular its time was extended, and the next session, scheduled to take place in the same room, was moved to accommodate the effort.

I saw passionate advocacy sessions led and attended by people who want so much to make a positive impact for everyone living with diabetes, and to teach and learn how to do so.

I witnessed hugs and handshakes. Side conversations and inside jokes. The deep sighs from first-timers who are just starting to rein it all in, and the knowing support from veterans who have been there, and then some.

Behind the scenes was a dedicated staff of individuals, working registration, as room captains, in Sports Central, on the IT team, and handling a number of other roles with empathy and service toward all those attending.

Altogether, it made for an outstanding week of education, networking, and social events that isn’t seen anywhere else in our community. That’s why Friends for Life is so special.

For my part, I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with anyone newly met or that I already knew. Weeks like this have a way of just flying by. To anyone who’s time was short with me, I’m sorry… I’ll try to do better next time.

For so many kids and adults who have diabetes in their lives, Friends for Life is their safe place. Their unique environment. Their hallowed ground.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. A couple of decades ago, there was a dream, and for the 20th time, it came true, for everyone at Friends for Life Orlando.

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Comments

  • Rick Phillips  On July 24, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    I ran into Trip Stoner who said she had the best fun this year. It would be fun to attend the entire thing some day.

    Liked by 1 person

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