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  Back to FFL Orlando 2016 Report 2016 FFL Orlando Report: Sunday

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Sunday morning at Friends for Life. Always a time for tears (happy and sad), hugs, selfies, group photos, thank you’s, and see-you-very-soons. Friends for Life 2016. See you next year!

Closing thoughts from Laura:

For me, the last day of Friends for Life is the culmination of thousands upon thousands of hours of planning and effort by hundreds of people. I count myself as extraordinarily lucky to be able to stand at the front of this particular parade. It is an honor.

Before closing the book on this year and beginning in earnest on next year’s FFL, I want to acknowledge the following truly amazing and gifted people, in no particular order except the flow of my brain as I think about the conference and write this final note.

Scott Kyllo – You drop what you’re doing and fly from wherever you are in the world to organize and run ‘everything IT’ at our conferences. You are worth your weight in gold, and we love you! Martin Yaravitz and Bailey Meredith – thanks for supporting Scott this year full time, and I hope we didn’t scare you off -- we want you back next year!

Ash Head – Your baby girl was doing her last performance – and graduation - at the London Contemporary Dance School on FFL Friday, and you still made it to Orlando earlier in the week to get the Exhibit Hall organized, open, and running under the capable hands of Chad Kyllo. You’re amazing. Thank you. And congrats to Phoebe!

Jo Stroud and Kristen Seiz – What a team you guys are. From the year-long menu planning (which is way more in depth than most people realize) to the food analyses for carb counts, to the actual presentation of the items on the buffets, along with the yellow and green and sometimes mysteriously disappearing table cards, you took care of every detail. Thanks for your special attention to food allergies. You kept people safe and gave parents peace of mind. Kathryn Hitchcock, thanks for all of your help as well. You’ll soon have that RD!

Retinal Screening Team – I’ve never seen a more focused group than the RST at Friends for Life. From Dr. Ben’s prep work with his team months before the conference, to the very long hours (yes, sometimes I know you were still working while we were enjoying down time and social events), to the follow up articles in publication, this is a top-notch and dedicated group. Jim Stroud, thanks for taking leadership from the CWD end of things, organizing the ‘front office’ and keeping the flow moving. You guys were awesome.

Carolyn Billetdeaux, Sierra Abel, Zak Elarbi, James Stroud, Intissar Ben Halim, and Erin Randall - Sibs Leaders – What a huge amount of planning and work, and TLC, went into every Orange Team session. I know you all sometimes struggle in establishing your footing in conferences and feeling the importance of what you do. Know this: It matters. Tremendously. Carolyn, thanks for being the first sibs voice all those years ago and taking leadership of what has become the Sibs Program. Congratulations on FFL, and on moving forward in your graduate program in Madrid in 2017! Your mama is proud.

Green Team – Kelsey Martin and Maryam Elarbi, you guys – along with Korey Hood - did a great job getting this off the ground in 2016. I’m looking forward to seeing how your program grows!

Youth Program Leaders – I am so very proud of all of you. We had some significant changes this year: people coming/going/shifting roles. Long-time, very talented and capable staff moving into leadership roles. New schedules, and trying to incorporate new ideas and activities, while clarifying and focusing on learning objectives. Most people don’t realize that behind every activity you do with your age group, there are learning objectives. You make it look easy; it’s not. Congratulations on working through transitions and having an overall superb youth program this year. And to all of your age group staff who brought the activities to life for the kids – Well done!

Grandparents Team - Heather Speer, Peggy Scoggin, Pam Loebner, and Jane Hunsche – Despite some very last minute challenges with your staffing and faculty, you guys did a wonderful job leading three full days of sessions for the Grandparents with an abbreviated crew! Your dedication to this group just shines, and it is so much appreciated. I’m looking forward to next year, and full staffing!

Chris Kakol – photographer extraordinaire – I don’t know how you do it, year after year, getting the best photos ever. You capture the very best moments. Thanks for spending a week with us each July.

Julia Mattingly – Hey Y’All! I can hear your voice any time I picture the registration counter. Your team includes some of the most welcoming, friendly faces – and most organized individuals in FFL-world. You take 800 big yellow registration envelopes and 2,000 name badges and a full week schedule, and help each person – whether attendee, exhibitor, or sponsor - make sense of it. What a talented bunch. Can’t wait to see your faces at South Registration next July.

Nabil Elarbi, Tom Karlya, Lauren Lanning, David and Marie Jarcho – the First Timers team. You welcome deer-in-the-headlights, nervous first-timers, and you make them feel right at home. It’s magic. I love watching you work.

Sports Central – I’ve never met a more energetic and talented group than your team. Jimmy and Liz Dodson, you and your athletes have a gift of making fitness important and fun to those who set foot in Sports Central. Cypress 1 was packed every time your doors opened, and that is a reflection of your elbow grease and tremendous dedication. It’s also a reflection of each of you. You are good people, you care about kids, and it shows. Novo Nordisk – the same goes for you. Thank you for sponsoring Sports Central year after year so that we can continue to bring this to FFL.

FFL Support Team – “You were everywhere and nowhere.” Someone said that to me after the conference – they knew that the FFLST was present and watching over everything, and keeping things as they should be at Friends for Life. You were there and visible with black polo shirts and smiley pins – a resource when needed. We so appreciate you. You give me peace of mind, which is huge at an event like FFL. Donna and Bob Cope and Chris Tull, thanks for taking the helm and organizing the week.

FFL Faculty – Many of you have been around the block with us a few times. Some of you were brand new to FFL and CWD. Some of you were in brand new roles and exploring new territory. The Spanish track was new this year, coordinated by Mila and Jimmy Ferrer. The Mom’s track coordinated by Lauren Lanning was new as well. Great start, and I’m excited to see what next year brings! To all of you – heartfelt thanks for sharing your time and knowledge.

Volunteers – Each year, there are roughly 200 individuals who volunteer their time at Friends for Life. They may work long hours and multiple days (such as our Room Captains) or short and focused hours (such as Banquet decorating or Quilt set-up). Each job is important, and each helps FFL be what it is – a unique experience built by all of us. Thank you.

T1 Adults – Thanks for sharing your needs candidly and helping us to grow. I appreciate your leap of faith in recognizing that an organization called Children with Diabetes can and does offer you a home base every July.

Brenda Hitchcock – You are the jack of all trades – you do whatever is needed precisely when it’s needed, and you are one of the most helpful people I know. Thank you for all you do, not just during FFL, but every single day as the First Mom of CWD.

Neal Billetdeaux – You’ve had a few years off, and you were back this year helping all week with so many different things that I barely saw you! You kept me moving forward, made sure I ate my PBJ each day, and had my requisite glass of red wine every night. You are my safety net and my home, wherever we are.

Jeff Hitchcock – Yes. Until we all wear orange bracelets.

Carolyn and Sam – Thank you for being the inspiration and the future. In my heart, it all starts with you.

See you all next year. Friends for Life, July 4-9, 2017, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.


Just a Wee Hug for Jill

Getting the annual photo with Laura

Jesse gets a selfie with Ernie

The triplets are growing!

Families -- that's what FFL is all about

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Last Updated: Wednesday August 10, 2016 21:07:02
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