Diabetes Jeopardy Answer #13 for D-Month. She said “Let’s Meet” in 1999 and Created the Largest Gathering of D-Families on Earth.

Laura Billetdeaux…and the answer is who is Laura Billetdeaux.

In 1999 Laura contacted people online to say that she and her family would be traveling to Florida and if they wanted to meet, they could discuss family dynamic dealing with diabetes.  Laura, who has a son with diabetes, thought that only good could come out of this gathering and sharing together.  She was correct.

She never thought that an incredible 500 people would show up and it would be the dawning of what has become the largest gathering of families with diabetes anywhere on earth.  The Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference has well north of 3200 people each year where attendees are treated to a buffet of the top professionals in the diabetes world of empowering, managing, and researching for a cure of diabetes.

It has become a family affair with every person in Laura’s family playing a role. people from all across the globe come to the event each year and due to the ‘well-oiled’ organization and planned activity, it is a week they will never forget.

From the CWD website, a little insight about Laura and this amazing program:
A finicky connoisseur of hotel meeting space, cappuccino, and kid-friendly cheese and fruit platters, Laura Billetdeaux is CWD’s VP of Education and Programs. Since 2000, Laura has organized every single CWD conference, always keeping in mind the true purpose of CWD – education and support of families with type 1, and always keeping in mind why it all works – the efforts of so many dedicated individuals. Laura lives in Manchester, Michigan with husband Neal, who graciously and energetically assists with the conference teen programs. They are parents of Sam and Carolyn who both serve as youth faculty at CWD conferences as time allows.

There are scholarships available to those who need financial assistance; everyone should go to this conference, even just once…..your life will change forever.

For Diabetes Awareness Month:
This month, I will be highlighting someone in the diabetes community.  They may be people you know, or might not know, but they give of themselves to make this world, our world, with diabetes a special place.   I will not get to everyone this month, but it is my hope that perhaps you can be introduced to some of those you may not know.

I’m certainly not the definitive on who should be included….you are.  If you think I should include someone, shoot me an email at tkarlya@drif.org and I will do what I can to include that person as well.  Welcome to diabetes awareness month.

I am a diabetes dad.

Please visit my Diabetes Dad FB Page and hit ‘like’.

Diabetes Baseball

BaseballIt was 1999.

I had been active on the CWD chatrooms for a while.  It was a great way to obtain information.  During that time, back when, chats were more like a thread of sentences than anything else.  One person would write something and someone else would add to it, and the conversation would grow.

It was sort of cool.  People we did not know, trying to help others.  Even back when, some conversations were animated and passionate.

There was a woman, her name was Laura.  She had a son with diabetes named Sam.  I can almost still remember her post about heading down to Florida and asking if anyone wanted to meet her there.

Well be careful what you ask for because people started to say yes.  Not 15 or 20 people; not 100 or 200 people; but 500 people said they would meet her in Florida.  It was the beginning of a turning point in our lives.

Someone had taken an online group of people, who only knew each other through the internet, and was about to make them Friends for Life.  And many of us are.  We are a family.

Now when I say family, I mean just that….a family.  I do not mean just some sugar-coated (pun intended) sweet la-dee-daa type family……..I mean a real family.  We are there for each other.  We, enjoy each other, laugh together, we party together, we mourn together, we cry together and  you know what, from time to time we even piss each other off.  But we come back to each other.  You see in a family, when you love each other, you really cannot distance yourself because you are just that, a family.

Within that family are thousands of people.  Literally.  It is also the greatest resource we could ever know or have at our disposal.  Knowledge is power; and at our fingertips is a keg of dynamite worth of knowledge.  We are all so fortunate.

Many people have no idea of both the amount of time Laura Billetdeaux and Jeff Hitchcock spend making this work and the amount of personal sacrifice given over the years to keep CWD up and running.  

Things do not ‘just happen’.  Things do not ‘just get done’.

I think of all of this as I get ready to once again head to have my diabetes-supply-batteries charged up and ready to face this ugly monster called diabetes for another year.  Laura started Friends for Life and it was a step no one else took.  She did.  She communicates with every single one of those who register to come to the conference–numbering well north of 3000.  She started it for her son Sam, she continues it for you.

At some point, when CWD first started, Jeff Hitchcock said; “This needs to get done.”  He took the first step and started.  Jeff loves science and research.  He loves when the science backs the lecturer.  He loves when he looks and sees the amount of people thirsty for, and given, knowledge.

He did it all for one young lady.  The one young lady who made him cry when she took her first shot by herself at camp.  The one young lady who he walked down the aisle and gave to Adam.  And that new love will give Jeff and Brenda a new title; Grandparents; this year.

And behind all of this are Neal (Laura’s husband) and Brenda (Jeff’s wife) who are just as much of the reason that CWD FFL has grown as anything or anyone else.

Doing something you love makes it all worth while. 

So I get ready to go to Florida once again.  The place baseball teams go every winter to begin to get ready for the year ahead.  I go to get ready to face the year ahead in the world of diabetes.  With my Friends for LIfe…………I get to play baseball.

I am a diabetes dad

Please visit my Diabetes Dad FB Page and hit ‘like’.


I Know What (many of) You Did Last Summer……and Many More Should Do It This Year Too!!!!

CWDLogoIt was about this time 13 years ago; perhaps a tad earlier, perhaps in the final weeks of the year before.  I read in a chat room that a woman was heading to Florida with her family and if anyone wanted to meet there, to let her know. 

This was not any chat room.  It was a chat room of all parents who had kids with diabetes.  I knew in my heart that the one man who started it, and was relaying information about diabetes and allowing us the opportunity to be connected, was doing a herculean job.  He was a man who just wanted his daughter to be able to reach out and connect with others; he changed the diabetes world forever.

So I reached out to this woman (as did hundreds of others), and I stated we would love to go; and although none of us would know it, we became part of history.  The Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference (CWD FFL) was born.  That too would change the diabetes world forever.  Click the link above to see EVERYTHING in store for this year.

Jeff Hitchcock and Laura Billetdeaux are probably two of the most brilliant people you will ever meet for a whole bunch of reason but the one that stands out is that they both did something that had never been done before in such a way.  Jeff created Children with Diabetes, and Laura created every conference since that summer in 2000.

Their philosophy of ‘kids with diabetes are still just kids’ is a simplistic phrase with earth shattering complexity that drives them to perfection every year to create a conference that deals with the entire family and how diabetes impacts everyone from sibling, to parents, to grandparents, to children, and also now to adults who live with diabetes every day.  Amazing.

My phrase, albeit a tad politically incorrect, has always been to beg, borrow, or steal but get to a CWD conference and now through the Diabetes Scholars Foundation, there may even be financial help to get your family there as well.

This annual conference (there are also local ones and those in other countries) in Orlando Florida each July has over 3000 people and many state all the time how they feel the personal touch each and every year. 

Education, inspiring stories, inspiring people (in the past there have been American Idol contestants, Professional Race Car Drivers, Olympian Gold Medal Winners, Miss America, and the list goes on and on), and you can also see and touch the latest in technology for the best in management and in the research world.  (not to mention a very famous Mouse and a few of his friends)

Any others who have been there please reply to this article and let others know WHAT YOU thought of past conferences.

See you in Orlando in July (shhhhhh rumor has it that the incredible Moira McCarthy Stanford is giving the welcoming keynote—but don’t tell anyone I told you—PS it’s not really a secret but worthy of the reminder) 🙂 .

So if you have never been, get there this year; whatever it takes.  Your lives will change.  Your lives will be changed forever.  Bring the kids (yup there is childcare), the grandparents, and yourselves.   Newly diagnosed or the new normal has been around too long; CWD FFL.  Be there.
I am a diabetes dad.

Please visit my Diabetes Dad FB Page and hit ‘like’