Annual Friends for Life Conference Not Just for Kids Anymore (Continued)


Thousands flock to the Woodstock of type 1 diabetes

Homeward Bound

As the event wraps up, families and adults find it hard to let go. It has become a tradition for attendees to try to wear their bracelets for as long as they can; a tangible reminder of what they felt at this event.

Why? Because FFL creates a world for all – adults and children with type 1, and their families – where hope is real, information is readily available, every food has a carb count, and everyone gets it.

Denise Cotton admits it was a financial hardship to get there, but said she has every intention of making it happen again and again. "This is an investment into our family and into the future of our eight-year-old," she said. "Even if we have to give up other things, we will make this happen."

Wendy Ort, an adult with type 1 who has attended many times, agrees. "If you have to rob a bank, the jail time is probably worth it," she joked. Ort said while she'd met many other adults with type 1 online, seeing them in person at FFL is irreplaceable. "FFL weeds out the imposters," she said. "And I laugh at the adults who hesitate because it has ‘children' in the name. It's about all of us. I do whatever I have to to get there each year. I cannot imagine missing it."

Stacy Nagel of New York, who first attended back in 2003 with her husband and then-small son Jesse, who has type 1, still plans her year around it. "Jesse is grown now, but he still says, ‘I have to go or I will just die,' " said Nagel. "You know, I totally get it. The feeling you get there: it's just all about the love. It's….it's the Woodstock of type 1 diabetes. We would not miss it for the world."

Registration is open for Friends for Life 2013, which takes place July 9-14, 2013 at the Disney Coronado Springs. Go to for more information.

The Evolution of Friends for Life

1995: Desperate to connect with other parents of children with diabetes, Jeff and Brenda Hitchcock create and instantly find a community, even if it is using dial up.

2000: The CWD community has grown and now has a website and email list. One CWD parent, Laura Billetdeaux, sends a note to the list that says, "Anyone want to meet up for a vacation in Orlando?" 110 families reply "yes," and Friends for Life is born.

2002: The Quilt for Life is first displayed at Friends for Life.

2006: CWD has begun supplementing the FFL with regional programs through the year. The Philadelphia event this year is the first of many to sell out.

2007: CWD hosts its first of many conferences outside of the US, this one in Canada. Programs are now held in the UK and are planned for other nations as well.

2008: Friends for Life now hosts over 2,000 guests and features its first Posters from researchers, as well as CGM trials.

2010: Now hosting over 3,000 people, FFL outgrows its site and has to move to the largest hotels available in Orlando.

Moira McCarthy is a well-known diabetes blogger ( and a well-known national speaker on raising a child with diabetes. She is the author of the best-selling "The Everything Parents Guide to Juvenile Diabetes" and of the upcoming book "Raising Teens with Diabetes: A Parent Survival Guide."

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Last Modified Date: July 17, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
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