mySugr logoClose side menu

Download and try it now!

  • Get it on Google Play
  • Download at the App Store
Country selection
Country selection inactive
  • Selected Global


  • Selected Germany


  • Selected USA


Language selection
Language selection inactive
  • Selected English


Living with Diabetes

Friends for Life special with Cherise Shockley and Kerri Sparling

8/23/2019 by Scott Johnson

Friends for Life special with Cherise Shockley and Kerri Sparling

In this special episode of "Live, with Scott!" Scott sits down with Cherise Shockley and Kerri Sparling at this year’s Friends for Life in Orlando, Florida. They talk about how amazing the conference is for children and adults alike who live with diabetes.

Children with Diabetes, an organization dedicated to helping entire families that live with diabetes, hosts a yearly conference called Friends for Life. And the most amazing part? They’ve been doing it for twenty years now!

Some main points discussed:

  • How long Friends for Life has been going on

  • Why the conference isn’t just for kids

  • How entire families can benefit from Friends for Life



Scott Johnson: What's up monster tamers? Welcome to another episode of "Live, with Scott!" Thanks so much for tuning in. My name is Scott Johnson. I've been living with diabetes since I was five years old and the diabetes social media space, that's you by the way, has been an important part of my well-being for a long, long time. Thanks so much for helping me along.

As your host today, I am so excited to join you live from CWD's Friends for Life Conference in Orlando, Florida and this is an extra special one because 2019 is the 20th anniversary of this conference. Amazing, right. Now, while we get going, please share a quick hello in the comments. Let me know where you're watching from. I would love that. Today's episode is sponsored by mySugr. Head to your favorite app store to download the mySugr app. It's completely free and might be just what you need to get a leg up on your diabetes management routine.

And if you synchronize and pair with a supported Accu-Chek meter like the Accu-Chek Guide or Guide Me, you'll automatically unlock all of the mySugr pro features, which is pretty sweet, pun totally intended.

Now, Children With Diabetes focuses on care today so we can be ready for a cure tomorrow. As an advocate and global resource, they provide support, education, and inspiration to empower families and all people living with diabetes to enjoy healthy and rich lives. This year, Children With Diabetes presents their 20th annual friends for life conference. We join their international group of world renowned clinicians, researchers, physicians, adults, children, and families with diabetes, including siblings and children of adults with type 1 diabetes to learn the most current information in diabetes care.

I was able to grab a few minutes with CWD board member, Kerri Sparling and celebrity CWD first-timer, Cherise Shockley to talk a little bit more about this special experience and sending a special shout out to Sean, who's also a member of the adults with type 1 faculty who is joining us live from somewhere else in the conference center here as well. So let's dive right in.

You guys want to talk CWD?

Kerri Sparling: He's been recording for like a minute.

Scott Johnson: I probably just started when we're rolling.

Kerri Sparling: Yeah, I do want to talk CWD.

Cherise Shockley: Yes.

Kerri Sparling: A lot.

Scott Johnson: I love CWD.

Kerri Sparling: It sounds like we're lying.

Cherise Shockley: We're going to talk about CWD, but what's the hashtag?

Kerri Sparling: Oh, it's hashtag #FFLOrlando19, one-nine.

Cherise Shockley: Is that the best way for people to follow along who may be at home who want to get a feel and lay of it before they decide to push the trigger.

Kerri Sparling: CWD has a presence on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. We have our website. We are everywhere.

Cherise Shockley: But you know what though? I love the rebrand.

Kerri Sparling: Oh good. I'm very happy you do.

Cherise Shockley: Yes. I love it. I love the questions that you ask on the website. I love how you can tweet something and you can include CWD and CWD responds. I just love the friendliness. What I also like though is that a lot of people assume that Friends For Life is just for children, and I want to see if you two can kind of go into what CWD is about, or Friends For Life is about and if there's a place for adults with type 1.

Kerri Sparling: Well if there isn't a place for us, then we're going to roll right out the door. This is for... Actually this conference, I think... I'm almost positive that we've flipped the... We dominate. Adults with type 1 dominate attendance-wise. It's not more kids than adults, it's actually now more adults than kids.

Cherise Shockley: Really?

Kerri Sparling: Yeah. Which is really... And that trend has been, it's going in that direction for maybe three or four years. And I think this is the year or last year that we finally crested over the adults were the dominant group, which is amazing. So the organization is called Children With Diabetes, but it's not just about children with diabetes, maybe it's the kid in all of us, but whatever way you want to spin it, it's about finding home base and bringing your diabetes with you and that's what Friends For Life is.

Cherise Shockley: Nice.

Kerri Sparling: Do you know... Laura sent out an email to the group. We're going to Disney World, anybody want to join me, and like 550 people showed up and that was the first conference, which is crazy to think that like something like this, that has what, 2,500 people in it now, was big from the inception point, just from anyone want to get together? Yeah, we'll bring some friends. Okay. All these people show up.

Cherise Shockley: That's crazy, and 20 years later.

Kerri Sparling: Here we are and we have world-renowned faculty and you guys are on it, so thank you for being part of that. We have great sessions, carb counted food is like kind of hard not to love, not to mention if you're living with celiac, there's a whole buffet just for you. It's a place that you can go in and bring your diabetes with you instead of dragging it along with you. Like your diabetes becomes... your experience is so wrapped neatly with diabetes as part of it that like it doesn't feel intrusive in that moment. You're just kind of able to like exist with your diabetes without it feeling like a big deal. Or if it's a big deal, it's a big deal that everybody's dealing with which minimizes its big dealiness, and that's really nice.

Cherise Shockley: Yeah it is so nice. So nice. So what do you do here? Like, you've been coming here since what, 2008?

Scott Johnson: Somewhere in there.

Kerri Sparling: Cherise is interviewing us.

Scott Johnson: I love it. Yeah. It's good. We were talking a little bit earlier where I kind of lost track of when we first started coming.

Kerri Sparling: I think it was around 2008.

Scott Johnson: I think so too, yeah. Our stories started around the same time. I was actually part of a social media summit that Roche put on and we came that year as just as attendees and really fell in love with the conference and approached Laura and Jeff to find out how can we help get the word out about Friends For Life. And from that we started to talk and write about it in the social media space and kind of collaboratively sort of collected input from the adults with type 1 community around what they would want to see at Friends For Life and funneled all that feedback back into the children with diabetes organization to help build the early stages of the type 1 track.

Kerri Sparling: Yep.

Scott Johnson: And started working together with the organization to build that track and here we are where there's many more faculty and as Kerri was talking about an audience that has outpaced the young folks.

Cherise Shockley: Yes. Finally.

Scott Johnson: But it's a natural evolution. Right. So the conference has been around for so long that the children that started the conference as children are now adults with diabetes as well. So it makes sense and it would have happened without us as well.

Kerri Sparling: I like to think we helped a little. Like it feels good to think we might have helped a little, but there are people who started coming to the conferences when they were eight and now they're on faculty leading groups and sessions and there's just such a kind of a beautiful art to that.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, absolutely.

Cherise S.: So while we're in this moment, what is your favorite thing about Friends For Life? Like what is the one thing that you look forward to every year and people don't know who never attended, I mean they hear stories and sometimes people can't explain it because it's so awesome.

Scott Johnson: Yeah.

Cherise Shockley: So what is the one thing that you all look forward to every year? So if somebody was thinking about it and wasn't sure.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, so I would say you come to a conference like this that's full of, I don't know how many sessions, it feels like hundreds, and there's a book that's about, I don't know, this thick full of what the sessions are and who's leading the sessions. And if you look at the bios of those session leaders, they are world-class names in the diabetes space.

So Jeff and Laura are able to get people to come from all around the world to teach these sessions and educate people with diabetes and help all of us kind of step our games up and live better lives with diabetes, and I'm often blown away by the fact that I'm sitting in the same room with someone that I might've only seen on TV or heard about in the news or...

Kerri Sparling: Read the research articles.

Scott Johnson: Read the research articles, and not only am I listening to them talk, but after they are done on stage, I can walk up and have a conversation with them or talk to them at the desserts with faculty and ask questions, and these are world-class, top-notch people.

Kerri Sparling: And they're accessible.

Scott Johnson: And they're accessible.

Kerri Sparling: There's something about the conference setting, and I don't mean to overrun.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, no.

Kerri Sparling: But there's no elitism to it. It's like we're all on the same playing field, and like you said, you can just walk up to somebody and have a conversation. And that's such a cool feeling to be like we are all peers in this space because we're dealing with the same mess of a disease and we're doing it as a group and that is really cool.

Scott Johnson: Yeah. The other thing that I find really special is, this is a... So some of the sessions are like that, where you're in an audience and there's a speaker and then there are just as many sessions where it is, it's kind of a safe place where we circle the chairs and what happens in the room stays in the room and you have your box of Kleenex and we talk about all the hard things that don't get talked about and, and everyone understands and I need that connection as well as the education.

Kerri Sparling: True.

Scott Johnson: Yeah.

Cherise S.: What about you, Kerri?

Kerri Sparling: Well we were talking earlier about like favorite things and stuff, and I still go back to the fact that like I don't have to know somebody's name or even sit this close to them. I can see them from across the crowded room that they've got a green bracelet on, I know they're part of my family and it's an instant kind of comradery and connection and I value that and I never realized how much I value it until I kind of either step away from it for a few weeks and I'm like, oh yeah, remember when everyone had green bracelets on and it wasn't just me? Or when I first come back from the first day or two at the conference and I'm like, where are my bracelets at? Like where are my people?

And then I see people wearing them and it's like just that connection is just so intense because if you see someone wearing this bracelet, you know that they understand something about your life that people in your house may not necessarily understand, like they get the ins and outs of either your emotions around diabetes or just the mechanics about diabetes. Either way, they get it in a way like my husband doesn't understand. I'm glad he doesn't understand. My daughter and my son don't understand.

You guys know what it's like to prick your finger and worry about that result or wonder how that result will make you feel or how it will affect your self-worth, your emotions and all of it. You guys get that on a level that other people in my life just... They just don't. And so it is really cool to be in that room again with people who get it and I don't have to re-explain. Like you guys don't ask me, how's your diabetes today? No one's going to ask me that. That's awesome. But you're asking a lot of questions because this is your... How would you classify yourself? Are you a first-timer? Are you like a first-timer? How would you... because you've been, but you haven't been in full, right?

Cherise Shockley: I am a lurker. I'm a lurker. I've always looked from the outside. Yes. I'm a lurker. I came with Master Lab with Diabetes Foundation and we had access to some of the sessions, but I've never participated, never ever participated.

I'm really excited about it because there are so many people here, like you said, with type 1. There's a lot of adults, but I think what's more exciting is a lot of these people don't use social media, so I'm excited to learn about those people, get to know who they are in their space and what they do to help people with diabetes.

I'm excited because my daughter's here and my goddaughter's here and they've never really been around more people or people with diabetes outside of myself or my husband, so I'm really excited for them to kind of get the experience. I'm just excited. This is 20 years, 20 years. I mean I remember interviewing Jeff for a podcast and how he just said that they were trying to figure out how they're going to fill this room and they came and it was filled to capacity and every year it just continues to grow. So I'm really excited to see what happens after this 20th year.

I was looking, and this is how my mind thinks, I was looking at the tracks and what I think and especially since you all just brought this up, this is totally random, you can cut this stuff too.

Kerri Sparling: It means it's staying.

Cherise S.: But as I think about a parent who I live with diabetes and my daughter is coming. I think it will be nice for her to have a safe place with other children whose parents have diabetes to be able to air their grievances.

Kerri Sparling: She can hang with my daughter, she'll be here tomorrow. But yeah, I think that too, like when the green bracelets have their little orange bracelets and what's it like to be in that headspace?

Cherise Shockley: Yeah. Because there are some times when she's like you... I mean she's 13 and she's like you ate my candy. Why did you eat my candy?

Kerri Sparling: Yeah. You're like and I will again.

Cherise Shockley: Or, mom you told me to tell you to stop eating that much candy when you're low. And I think she needs a safe place. So I think maybe in the future, like once the adults and their kids get to a certain age where they need to have a woosah moment, I think-

Kerri Sparling: What word?

Cherise Shockley: Woosah.

Kerri Sparling: Woosah?

Cherise Shockley: Have you ever... you've never seen Bad Boys?

Kerri Sparling: No. She's leaving.

Cherise Shockley: You've never seen Bad Boys?

Kerri Sparling: I'll go see Bad Boys.

Cherise Shockley: You've never seen Bad Boys.

Kerri Sparling: No, I don't think so, no.

Cherise Shockley: With Martin Lawrence and Will Smith?

Kerri Sparling: No.

Cherise Shockley: Bad Boys. Never seen it?

Kerri Sparling: I am aware of the entity of the Bad Boys but I have never seen the movie.

Cherise Shockley: Shake your tail feather.

Kerri Sparling: I don't know what a tail feather is.

Scott Johnson: What you're describing happens here with-

Kerri Sparling: Tail feathers?

Scott Johnson: No. I'm going back. I'm skipping over the whole.

Kerri Sparling: Okay.

Cherise Shockley: See Bad Boys.

Scott Johnson: It might be a good airplane movie.

Kerri Sparling: I'll watch it tonight. I'm feeling some pressure.

Cherise Shockley: They're actually working on Bad Boys 3.

Kerri Sparling: I'm way behind.

Cherise Shockley: Yes.

Scott Johnson: So think about how many adults with type 1 there are, right. A fair number of us have kids. Mine aren't here. Sorry family. But all of the... so there are grandparents, there's a grandparents track, there are significant others, there are kids, there are... and the programs are all designed with that in mind. And so she'll be with other children, like 30-

Kerri Sparling: Who also has her fruit snacks ripped off by her mom.

Scott Johnson: That's another I think kind of beautiful thing about the organization and Friends For Life is that it's all been thought about and it's part of the programming.

Kerri Sparling: Yeah. Well like the conference, the organization itself grows to meet the needs of its constituencies and that's why I'm really glad that people in this grouping are like really vocal about the things that they want. And they're always encouraged, if you have something that you'd like to see changed about the conference, you have an idea like tell a faculty member, tell a board member, find somebody and voice your desires and get it out there because we want to meet, we want to be there and meet the needs of everybody who is attending and even the people that aren't attending. We want to give them a reason to want to come and hang with us, right. And so it's good to get that kind of feedback and get some advice on how to grow. That's always good.

Cherise Shockley: This is going to be amazing.

Kerri Sparling: It's really-

Cherise Shockley: I'm excited. Are you going to wear... are you wearing a tux?

Kerri Sparling: Every day?

Cherise Shockley: I'm excited for the banquet. There's a banquet on Thursday that you can get dressed up.

Kerri Sparling: Since it's our 20th year it's like it's high food.

Cherise Shockley: So exciting. Are you... did you...

Scott Johnson: I am really on the spot right now.

Kerri Sparling: Did you bring a tux?

Cherise Shockley: Did you bring a tux?

Kerri Sparling: Do you have a t-shirt tux? You didn't bring a tux.

Scott Johnson: I didn't bring...

Kerri Sparling: Did you bring pants?

Scott Johnson: I...

Kerri Sparling: Did you bring pants?

Cherise Shockley: Are you going to wear shorts?

Kerri Sparling: You have to go get some trousers.

Cherise Shockley: No, he has something. You can tell by the look on his face, he just don't want to tell us what it is.

Kerri Sparling: Unicorn onesy pajamas.

Cherise Shockley: We're going to be on the red carpet. So Scott, what are you wearing?

Kerri Sparling: He's like pants.

Scott Johnson: I'll be in my CWD polo.

Kerri Sparling: Sean will be wearing the same colors. You guys will be all red.

Scott Johnson: I'm going to match Sean. I'm going to match Sean. Sean better not have a tux.

Cherise Shockley: Make sure you put that picture... Oh, you won't have a picture.

Scott Johnson: I have a picture.

Kerri Sparling: Of you in a tux? Our first iteration of this video was drowned out by a bunch of kids in the background. So we had to...

Scott Johnson: It was okay.

Cherise Shockley: You've got a lot of this stuff.

Scott Johnson: I have a lot of great stuff. Yeah. Thank you guys.

Cherise Shockley: So, one more thing.

Kerri Sparling: I'm sorry.

Cherise Shockley: I have a question for you. Can you give us the hashtag one more time?

Kerri Sparling: Yes, the hashtag is easy to find through all the social media channels of CWD. it's FFLOrlando19.

Scott Johnson: F-F-L Orlando 19.

Kerri Sparling: Can you put it in the show notes, Scott?

Scott Johnson: I will put it on the screen. We'll have it on the screen and in the show notes and yeah.

Cherise Shockley: That was a really nice template that you all created for that as well.

Kerri Sparling: Thank you.

Scott Johnson: Great. Well, thank you very much.

Cherise Shockley: You're welcome.

Kerri Sparling: Thanks for having us.

Cherise Shockley: Thanks for having us. Deuces.

Kerri Sparling: Bye.

Scott Johnson: All right, I had a great time catching up with those guys. I'm having a great time. The conference is just getting started. Today is Wednesday, the sessions and everything. We had focus groups and some sessions today, but things really get rolling tonight. The exhibit hall opens, the opening ceremony, tomorrow morning's the Richard Ruben memorial keynote and breakfast, and then things really get rolling. So Thursday, Friday, Saturday, like so much more to come.

Let me know what you thought about the conversation in the comments. Once again, today's episode is sponsored by MySugr. Head to your favorite app store to download the MySugr app for free. If you pair it and synchronize it with a supportive Accu-Chek meter like the Accu-Chek Guide or Guide Me, you'll automatically unlock all of the MySugr pro features, which will totally help you step your game up. And then be sure to tune in next week where I've got another super fun episode locked and loaded for you.

Thanks so much for tuning in today. If you haven't already, give us a like, share this video with any of your friends or family that might get something from it. Have another amazing day. I am back to conference duties. It's an honor and a privilege to serve an organization like CWD and help at a conference like Friends For Life. So it's something I look forward to every year. I'm going to dive right back into it. Also, an honor and privilege to serve you guys watching, so thank you for sharing your time with me today and we'll see you next week.

Scott Johnson

Almost famous for his addiction to Diet Coke, Scott has lived well with diabetes for almost forty years and is currently the Patient Engagement Manager, USA for mySugr. He's been an active pioneer in the diabetes social media space for more than fifteen years and manages his award-winning blog, when time allows.

Sign up to our newsletter and learn with mySugr.