By Madi Dodge
Having lived with diabetes for most of my life, I know first-hand that support in the fight against this fatal disease can be difficult to find if you don’t know where to look. Organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation provide diabetes camps and retreats to offer support to children, but what families may not know is that there are organizations devoted solely to supporting the ever-growing community of people living with this disease.
Children with Diabetes is an organization that has provided support for children and families with diabetes since 2000. It began with a single family planning a vacation to Orlando. They posted on the internet the location of their hotel and invited other families with diabetes to join them. When they arrived, over a hundred families from thirty five states had travelled to be part of what would become the Children with Diabetes: Friends for Life conference. The next summer, the event was expanded to serve 300 families, and every year since has grown to better serve the diabetes community.
This year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Friends for Life conference, hosted at the Marriot World Conference center. Upon arrival, it wasn’t long before friends from years past got together. The new families went to a new comers banquet, but the true welcome came from the attendees. I’ve never seen a more welcoming group. I was invited into a group of friends within minutes of my arrival, and it was this group of friends that I was with for the remainder of the conference.
Thursday morning after breakfast, the conference dispersed and we were grouped together by age to attend the sessions. The sessions are a great opportunity to gain information on living successfully with diabetes, updates on technology and research, and meet and greets with people working to provide inspiration for people with diabetes. Also, many of the sessions offered at Children with Diabetes consist of talking about the ups and downs of having diabetes, and deciding the best solution with peers. That night, Crystal Bowersox, the runner-up on American Idol season nine, performed during a beach party banquet and showed the audience that she has never let diabetes stop her from following her dreams.
On Friday, the teen group took a trip offsite to visit SeaWorld. SeaWorld is not only fun, but the trip offered an opportunity to show the responsibility crucial to a successful life with diabetes. As children and teens with diabetes, parents aren’t always around to offer guidance on what to eat, how much insulin to take, and when to check blood sugars. Much of that responsibility must lie in the hands of the child. And that’s exactly what was demonstrated on the trip.
Throughout the conference, an exhibit hall was open, where exhibitors displayed products that are important and helpful to people with diabetes. It’s another great way to find out information about the helpful updates and new technology available.
After the farewell breakfast on Sunday, I said goodbye to Orlando and headed back home. It was great to spend the week surrounded by people that understood diabetes and lived with it every day. You truly don’t come across an experience like Children with Diabetes anywhere else. There’s a lot to be said for knowing that I’m not alone in the fight against diabetes, and if you know a child with diabetes, make sure to spread the word.
For more information on the Children with Diabetes: Friends for Life conference, visit www.childrenwithdiabetes.com. Information on local diabetes camps can be found at www.diabetesdestiny.org or www.camppossibillities.org. For information on diabetes, what it means, and how you can get involved in the fight against diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org