A continuous glucose monitor beeps from somewhere in the audience, and a knowing chuckle ripples through the crowd.

Small talk here consists of sharing highest and lowest blood sugar numbers. Insulin pumps are the on-trend accessory. For one week at the Friends for Life conference at The Walt Disney World Resort®, having type 1 diabetes makes you one of the gang.

“It’s awesome just to be around other people like me, where I can be walking around and start beeping, and nobody looks at me funny,” says first-time attendee Nick M., 15, of Albany, N.Y.

Put on by the organization Children with Diabetes®, and sponsored in part by Lilly Diabetes, the 14th annual Friends for Life conference was held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort from July 9-14, 2013. Between hitting the parks and hanging out at the pool, kids with type 1 and their siblings played soccer, basketball, and other games in a lecture hall converted into Sports Central. They expressed themselves through art workshops, and joined talk sessions on topics like “Mall Food” and “Raising Your Parents.” Meanwhile, those parents attended their own set of sessions on everything from research and technology advancements in diabetes treatment to stress management and positive care-giving.Recap 2-002

To kick things off, Lilly Diabetes sponsored the keynote address, given by the inspiring Tom Karlya (a.k.a. Diabetes Dad) and the hilarious Moira McCarthy (of DespiteDiabetes.com). Several notable athletes spoke throughout the week, including Olympic cross-country skier Kris Freeman, who signed autographs and shared his experience training and competing with type 1 diabetes at Lilly-sponsored focus groups.

In between sessions, the exhibition hall was packed with fun family activities. The highlight for Stacey S., of Davidson, N.C.? “Seeing what’s possible,” said the mom of 8-year-old Benny. “I know diabetes — my son has had it for years — but you get so bogged down with the day-to-day of it that you forget to look toward the horizon. Seeing so many engaged and enthusiastic people in one room is overwhelming in the best of ways.”

Recap1-001Exploring possibilities for families with type 1 was what the Lilly Diabetes booth was all about. Kids flopped on bean bags to read the latest children’s books and tween novels from Disney and Lilly — centering on solutions to the stress of sleeping away from home for the first time — while parents grabbed copies of the first two issues of the Disney and Lilly magazine for families with type 1. (Both are also available at certain endocrinology healthcare offices. Find more info here. And stay tuned: Starting next month, three books will be available in digital form on the new site, T1everydaymagic.com, along with all the recipes from Dishing It Up Disney Style: A Cookbook for Families with Type 1 Diabetes.)

Kids could also carve their initials into a virtual diabetes-camp cabin wall at the tablet station highlighting Lilly’s Camp Care Package initiative, and take their picture with Kris Freeman or Coco (the young monkey with type 1 who stars in the Disney/Lilly book series). In a nod to Lilly’s support of the Diabetes Scholars Foundation, children donned costume props and popped into the graduation-themed photo booth. And in step with Lilly’s Journey Awards honoring people who’ve successfully managed type 1 diabetes with insulin for 25, 50, and 75 years or more, children posted their dreams for the future on an interactive Dream Tree.

Ready to bring a little Friends for Life home? Try the Dream Tree craft project with your children. You can download instructions to create your own real-life “tree,” where each family member can hang their wishes for the future and support each other’s hopes and dreams.

Sure to top the Dream Tree wish-list: Attending next year’s Friends for Life conference! Let the countdown begin…

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.

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