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Guest Post: Diabetes Scholars Foundation.

Patients connecting with patients, embracing that psychosocial support, is something I feel so strongly about, and Friends for Life is a conference that hits the mark for me on all of those levels.  Today, my friend, PWD, and fellow FFL faculty member, Natalie Bellini is guest posting about the Diabetes Scholars Foundation, and the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to attend FFL this summer. 

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The lovely NatalieThis year, July 9-14, more than 3,500 people affected by T1D will descend on Disney’s Coronado Springs to meet new people and learn to thrive with T1D at Friends for Life annual conference.

For families, this is different than anything you have ever attended; it is not a drop-off camp for your child, it’s a take the plunge with the child/teen with T1D, siblings and parents.  Children and teens go to their own sessions while parents do the same.  There is a nurse educator in all kids’ sessions, glucose and water stands in every room and people watching out for the ‘green bracelets,’ what every person with diabetes wears for the conference.  The 2013 schedule is already available as plans for this year’s conference started more than 24 months ago.
Interested in research? There is a track for you!  Need emotional support? There is a track for you! Grandparent? They are welcome!  Mom? Dad? Step? Significant other? Spouse? Everyone who is affected by T1D is welcome.
Teens?  Teens are offered time to learn as well as a day at a Disney park to practice what they have learned away from parents, but with a healthcare team there for support.  They meet adults and other teens with T1 that are accomplishing great and small with T1 and are challenged to do so as well.  Parents can feel safe letting the teens be together and look out for each other.  One participant told the staff after the first year of attendance that she barely saw her teen, but that when she did he was grinning ear to ear.  

For young adults there is a separate track to discuss transitioning to college, insurance coverage, new technologies to treating diabetes, stress and so much more.  There is social time in the evenings to meet others and gain insight into how other young adults are managing T1 in the real world. They are paired with another young adult so they can check on each other at night and be a support to each other.

Adults with T1?  Kerri Sparling and Scott Johnson lead the ever-growing group of adults in sessions including pregnancy and T1D, using social media, current research, spouse and significant other support and camaraderie.  As a person with T1 who is a CDE AND has a husband with T1, we both feel a comfort when we walk in the door and are surrounded by so many others living, thriving and struggling. We discuss successes, mistakes, ‘bad’ lows coupled with too many Oreos and laugh and cry together.

What would make this better?  What about every single food served is carbohydrate counted for you? What about a separate buffet at meals for people with celiac?  What about screening for retinopathy without dilation with the latest cameras in the US by the BEST team I have ever met as a nurse? Or screening for celiac?  Or TrialNet? What about meeting the makers of insulin pumps, meters, insulin, glucose, pump accessories and others?  JDRF?  ADA?  DRI? Everyone is there ready and willing to talk to you and yours and answer your questions in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

There are sessions for everyone led by the top researchers, psychologists, physicians and certified diabetes educators. Take a look at the faculty list.

Unfortunately due to economic situations, some families, young adults and adults will never have the ability to attend Friends for Life and participate in this very unique experience.  The Diabetes Scholars Foundation is committed to changing this by providing conference scholarships to families, young adults and adults in need. 

For families, young adults and adults dealing with economic hardship as well as a life threatening illness, the conference has both an immediate and long term impact on them.   Comments from past recipients have been “this was life changing” and “we feel like we are part of a new family”.  To date, over 300 families have been provided the opportunity to attend a diabetes education conference.  Please consider applying for a scholarship at Diabetes Scholars Foundation (DSF) soon as the deadline is April 15th.  

Finally, if you are inspired to help more families and adults come in future years, DSF has a fundraiser Saturday, July 13th right at the Coronado.  They are looking for sponsors, donations and attendees alike.  

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Natalie Bellini, RN, CDE, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was a young child. Within a year of finishing nursing school, she started to care for people with diabetes, focusing first on diabetes in pregnancy then pediatrics and insulin requiring adults. She has spoken nationally and internationally as an expert in both working with teens and their parents with diabetes as well as infusion set choice, usage and maintenance. Her fundamental goal when developing the teenage curriculum for Children with Diabetes conferences is that each and every teen that attends finds a passion in life and pursues it. In 2010, she was a fundamental part in developing and testing the theory of using liraglutide with T1.  She is currently attending Drexel University part time in order to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Currently, Natalie is a senior territory manager with Animas Corporation.


Saturday, July 13th right at the Coronado


Thank you for ALL of the amazing work you do, Natalie.

I am a huge fan of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation, and really appreciate you guys putting this post together to let people know.

Every person touched by T1D needs to experience the magic of Friends for Life, and the Diabetes Scholars Foundation is doing a lot to help people get there.

For everyone out there wondering what they can do to help, even if they can't donate financially or through items to auction off, don't discount the power of simply helping to spread the word.

Thanks again, you guys are awesome.

Thanks Natalie, and thanks Kerri. I'm unable to attend, but happy to donate. Thanks for the reminder!

I attended a FFL Conference (as an adult) about 3 years ago. It was an amazing experience! I've never seen so many T1's in one place as I did there. I sure wish something like FFL had existed when I was first diagnosed, in 1972 and, ironically, immediately following a car trip to a newly-opened Walt Disney World! Keep up the good work, FFL staff!

I would LOVE to attend with my 8yo Type 1 son and family, but we live in Canada, and as far as I know this Scholarship is not available to Canadians :(

I think an event of this type would be fantastic to help my son deal with his diabetes emotionally.

I guess we will have to try to save up again for next year.

I wanted to thank you for this post. After reading this post back in March, I applied for the young adult scholarship. Today I found out I won the scholarship and will be able to attend! I'm so excited :)

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