This past weekend marked one of my favorite times of the year. Its a time when I get to meet up with old friends, make new friends, and work with some of the most amazing people in the world…who also happen to live with diabetes.
Friends For Life Canada is truly that, a place where people walk into a convention facility as strangers and leave as friends for life. This weekend I reflected on the fact that I had been friends with many of the CWD staff for close to 12 years now. I have watched their children grow and they have become not just friends but important members of my family.
I have written before about the profound impact that the conference has on families and sponsors alike. This year was no different. Once again, at the registration booth, as reps and volunteers were packing up their boothes and leaving, we were told how awed they were by the experience. The people involved felt that they were in the presence of something truly amazing.
When I came home and got online again I found many posts from parents and bloggers stating how much they enjoyed the conference and can’t wait for the next one. Families who had never been to a conference before thanked everyone involved and noted how their lives were changed.
Despite the amazing impact that Friends for Life Canada has on families and its participants, one thing struck me again this year…the lack of corporate support. There are a few companies that you see at every event. They know the value of these gatherings and fully embrace them.
Sadly, many vendors from Canada have chose not to be involved. They are missing out. Parents do not go to a CWD conference because of a loyalty to one product over another. Speakers and volunteers are not there because of their allegiance to one company. We come together for support, understanding and to learn!
I am honored to be part of the faculty at Friends for Life Canada. They pay for my flight to the event and cover my hotel room. In exchange, I address various issues and help out where I can. I also enjoy being at the conferences to see what is new in the Canadian diabetes world. In past years, I have enjoyed looking at various glucometers, seeing what is new in insulin, and of course comparing insulin pumps. This year comparison was not an option. I was not able to put my hands on a variety of new technology, including a pump which we are currently in the market for.
I have contacts in the industry that I can go to for product information but it is not the same as seeing a new meter or pushing buttons on an insulin pump. It is not the same as talking to people who are using various technologies and hearing what they think of these products.
What disturbs me even more however, is that many of the parents at this year’s conference were new to diabetes. According to the CWD report, 75% of these families were also new to a Friends for Life conference. They do not have the contacts that I do. They were not able to see and feel many of the options available to them. They could hear about them in speakers’ presentations but they could not talk to companies and have their questions answered.
Their option is to consider going to the Orlando Friends for Life Conference where an incredible number of vendors come together to showcase the best in diabetes care. Why can they come together south of the border but not in a Canadian conference where travel is much less? Is our smaller market share less appealing? Do we not count because we are such a small population? I would hate to think that.
The first time CWD came to Toronto, if memory serves me, there were three different insulin pump companies present. There were at least that many meter companies showing their wares. There were pharmacies, sweetener alternatives, glucose companies, diabetes groups and more. This year there was one pump company, one meter company, diabetes groups, and a few other constant supporters. The rest of the diabetes vendors failed our families. They did not give them the chance to become informed consumers. They failed themselves by not taking part in the most amazing conference for families with diabetes in Canada. No CWD does not pay me to say these things. This is how I feel. This is what other families feel.
If you have a company that caters to the needs of people living with diabetes in Canada, please consider coming to a conference. Please consider getting involved. I guarantee you that the return far outweighs any expense. Ask people who have been. Listen to the families…
“Thank you so much everyone for a fantastic weekend in Toronto. We had a blast!”
“I’m slightly depressed not being around my diabetic mates I met on the weekend.”
“it was an amazing weekend!”
“Thank you for a wonderful conference!”
and the list of accolades goes on. Just imagine how they would have felt if they could have seen and touched more diabetes related “stuff”. If they could have played with more meters or touched more insulin pumps?
Conferences like this are only sustained through the help of sponsors and corporations. Families cannot carry any more of the burden of cost…and those involved in organizing the events will not allow them to be further burdened. I would hope that the Canadian diabetes products industry seriously looks at becoming more involved with Friends for Life Conferences. I promise you that experience will change you. The tears on the children’s faces when they have to leave their new friends will melt your heart. The camaraderie felt and shared by parents and grandparents will make you feel blessed to be there.
To those who have continued to sponsor and take part in this event…THANK YOU! To those who have missed out in previous years…please get involved NOW.
|Some of my Friends For Life!|