“Friends for Life” is no exaggeration, come join

Jeff Hitchcock, founder of Children with Diabetes


“Friends for Life” is the annual conference given by the largest online resource for families with type 1 diabetes – Children with Diabetes

This year’s conference is in Orlando, July 5-10th, and you should consider coming if you have a child with diabetes or if you are an adult with type 1 diabetes. Registration is open for 11 more days – till June 17th.

While for many years Children with Diabetes has been, and continues to be, the “go-to” online resource for parents and youngsters. And, Friends for Life, the “go-to” annual conference for parents and their children – this year there is something new – adults with type 1 diabetes are invited. That’s my group, and I can personally attest to the fact that as a type 1 adult I often feel invisible. But show up and you will feel as though everyone in the world has type 1 diabetes as you bump into pumpers and glucose testers at every turn – and that’s in the hallway and the lecture halls, not merely the Exhibition Hall!

Friends for Life was the second diabetes conference I ever attendedin 2007. It was amazing for me to walk into an environment of 2,500 people who were affected by type 1 diabetes.

This year I’m presenting two programs and one workshop on Thursday and Friday mornings: “Flourishing with Diabetes,” “iDSM: inspired Diabetes Self-Management” and a Roche-sponsored session, “P is for Perfection and Knowing It’s Not the Goal.” All will give you tools to better manage your diabetes, and be happier in the process. Here’s the impressive conference program schedule.

In some odd way I have always identified as a child with diabetes having gotten it at the peculiar age of 18; not yet an independently functioning adult, yet living away from home attending college and so bereft of everyday family support. 

What stands out to me about the support for type 1 diabetes is it was begun by parents. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) was begun by parents who gathered to share their grief, questions and experiences about raising children with type 1 diabetes, and then began to advocate, and then created the most powerful type 1 research organization in the United States. JDRF remarkably dedicates $.85 cents of every $1 raised directly to research for a cure.

Children with Diabetes was started by a parent, Jeff Hitchcock, whose daughter Marissa got type 1 at 24 months. Searching in vain for information online about diabetes and children, frustration and purpose led him to start his own web site in 1995. In 2000 Laura Billetdeaux, whose son Sam got type 1 at eight years old, urged for an event that would bring families together so every year they pack their bags, as do thousands, and head to Orlando, Florida where Disney World is also on the conference agenda. 

And each year Laura is at the helm, with staff and volunteers, organizing the conference. This year I happen to know personally, that she does it with the organizational skills of a drill sergeant and the warmth of someone who has just become your new best friend. 

If you have a child with type 1 diabetes, you will find no other bonding experience and wealth of information like this. I know the same will be true for type 1 adults this year. Remember, you can register until June 17. 

As Jeff likes to quote Elliot Joslin, “The person with diabetes who knows the most lives the longest.” And, as Jeff and Laura prove every year, there is nothing like being in a place where you are understood and supported.

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