While I’m a believer that it is never too late to experience your first Friends for Life conference, I do believe that the earlier you get there the better.
To this day I can vividly remember walking into the opening banquet years ago and being stopped in my tracks by how big it was. I couldn’t see the other side of the room — it was lost over the horizon. There are two or three giant projectors showing the main stage and podium because some of the tables are so far away. So many tables, each seating 10-12 people, and they are all full. How is it possible that this many people could come together for type 1 diabetes? It blew my mind.
I’d been to other conferences, and have seen many more people, but never in my life had I seen so many people connected specifically to type 1 diabetes in one place. Over 3500 altogether. Families, educators, faculty, staff, celebrities, and more, all converging on Orlando for a week of education and inspiration. It blew my mind.
I was stuck. I couldn’t figure out how to convince my legs to cooperate with walking.
I know it sounds a bit weird, but that is one of my favorite memories of Friends for Life.
Each year following I enjoy a quiet moment in the corner, just taking it all in.
I also experience a bit of heartbreak when I see a tiny baby with a pump site or CGM sensor on. It hurts me that they and their families have to deal with diabetes. I hate it.
But then I realize that they are at Friends for Life! They will grow up entirely different than I did. They will have so many resources that I didn’t have. They will have people to connect with.
Growing up with diabetes wasn’t bad for me, but I was totally alone.
Friends for Life makes sure these people are never, ever, alone. That is one of the greatest gifts ever and can dramatically change the way life unfolds for these people.
After each conference there is a “conference report” that summarizes each day of the conference. One of my favorite lines from this year’s report? Laura sends a message that gives me chills:
To the FFL adults – type 1 folks and significant others – welcome home.