Category Archives: Events

Caring For a Sibling with Mental Illness

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You’ve heard me say it over and over…siblings have the longest and one of the most significant bonds in the life of a person with disabilities. That’s why staff, volunteers, and participants with WisconSibs have such passion to support siblings from childhood through adulthood and why we CELEBRATE the unique role of siblings, especially sisters (by the way Celebrate Sisterhood will be October 30, 2018).

That passion inspires us to not only recognize the millions of siblings of people with developmental disabilities, but also people with emotional and mental health concerns.   An estimated 8.4 million Americans are caregivers to adult loved ones with a mental illness, most often a son or daughter, parent, spouse or sibling.

Sisters bond - mental health

Jean Moore (left) shares a laugh with her sister, Ruby Wilson, in front of the assisted living facility where Wilson lives on Oct. 12, 2017, in Clinton, N.C. (Andrew Craft for Kaiser Health News)

Recently, the Kaiser Health News published a wonderful story about two sisters, Jean and Ruby and their bond as sisters, one with paranoid schizophrenia.

The girls grew up very close, almost like twins. “They used to say our name as JeannieandRuby. It was like one person.”  But as they became teenagers, Rudy’s mental health changed and their lives began to diverge. As they became adults, Jean became a caregiver and an even closer sister.  READ STORY

WisconSibs offers Sibshops to children ages 8-14 who are growing up with brothers or sisters with emotional or mental health concerns.  Each session is held in a relaxed setting with games, snacks, and discussion about the concerns and the joys of growing up with their sibling.  Held at the Catalpa Day Treatment Center in Appleton, siblings can join in any time during the series from January through May, 2018.  For more information.

Download Catalpa Series Sibshop flyer Jan-May 2018

“Caregiving situations for siblings pack an extra emotional punch for the caregiver,” said John Schall, who runs the Caregiver Action Network, a nonprofit organization that supports people providing care to loved ones. “It’s not unusual for us to think at some point of being the caregiver for our elderly parents, but it’s a whole different thing to be a caregiver for a sibling who we always thought of as equals.”

JOIN US for a Community Dialogue on Family Caregivers – Monday, January 29, 2018 at the WisconSibs office, 211 E Franklin St., Appleton, WI – MORE INFORMATION

Caring: It’s not the hard part of caregiving

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WisconSibs is hosting an event for

  • family members who provide care to other family members (of any age or disability),
  • individuals receiving care, and
  • professionals providing services to caregivers.

This is a great opportunity to get information that will help you as a caregiver and voice your thoughts on what you need.

You will hear other caregivers, along with local professionals, discuss their experiences as care givers and what they have learned that could be helpful to others.  This event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Two sessions are being offered:  1:30-3:00 pm   and   4:30-6:00 pm

Oct-Dec 2017 SibNews

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Hot off the press!  Your Oct-Dec 2017 issue of SibNews is filled with information, news, photos, and even a recipe you’re going to love!  READ ALL ABOUT IT!

The feature story is about Katie and Kristie Carlsen, sisters who live together and really help one another get through life.  While not originally what either of them planned, they are having a great time living in the community together. Read about what it takes to be a caregiver sister and the rewards they both enjoy.

Other news includes:

  • Tips for Caregivers Sibs
  • A Letter of Thanks from an Adult with Disabilities to Her Sibs
  • Calendar of Oct-Dec 2017 Events
  • Recipe for Super Fudge Brownies (great for allergen sensitive)
  • Photos from Summer Camps!



Meet Jenni!

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If you saw our quarterly newsletter, SibNews July-September 2017, you met Jenni. Her older brother, Mike, has been a huge part of her life, including her career decision: special education teacher. What does she want every sibling to know? Find out Jenni’s story in this short video. Then be one of the first to subscribe [read more]

Jyll the Intern Says Goodbye

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Jyll and her brother Noah

Hi my name is Jyll Van Vooren.  I have been a WisconSib for over 5 years. Within WisconSibs I have been a counselor for SibDays of Summer and the Circles of Life Conference.

My brother is Noah Van Vooren. He is 22 years old and has Down syndrome. A couple of our favorite things to do together are taking walks, car rides with tons of singing, going to Miracle League, and watching football.  My favorite thing about Noah is his love for others and his genuine happiness that he radiates to those around him. 

In a blink of an eye the summer of being an intern for WisconSibs is wrapping up. I have learned an incredible amount in these past ten weeks. As an intern, I was able to partake in helping with fundraisers, special events, meetings, helping coordinate and run Teen Sib Leadership Day, and being an Assistant Director for the older campers at SibDays of summer. I have learned how to coordinate a fundraiser and other events with various companies to host events that benefit the WisconSib organization. Harriet has been a great role model and has taught me a great amount about nonprofit’s and how they are run. She truly is the heart of WisconSibs and it was amazing being able to learn from her.  I am extremely grateful to have been involved in WisconSibs in this unique way. It was truly a great learning experience and it was a great summer!

What’s next? – I’m returning to Concordia University of Wisconsin as a Junior, where I am focusing on Social work. I am also blessed to have a new position at school: ARD (assistant resident director) of two dorms. All of what I have learned from WisconSibs will be applied to this year of school and beyond!

Thanks to WisconSibs donors for making this internship opportunity possible. You make a big difference.

Friday: Did You See that Firework? – 4th of July

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How could we have a holiday themed week and not include 4th of July during the month of July? Well, we did include it. We wanted to end with a bang. I think we did. Along with preparations for the closing reception, fun was had. All groups created Firework Salt Art. Those projects really blew our minds. Some of the sibs tied fireworks to their lives. Their siblings with disabilities add so much color and excitement to their lives. We are glad connections like these can be made!

Before the reception, everyone had a chance to go swimming with friends one last time. Our closing reception was a smash once again and even included ice cream!   

How does the week of SibDays always go so fast? Everyone enjoyed “Every Day’s a SibDay!” Some of the favorites included swimming, Curt’s Carnival, Zoozort, and meeting new friends. We hope to see you all next year during our SibShops and SibDays!

Photos from Yesterday (Thursday!)

Zoozort came yesterday! Noelle is the creator of this fantastic organization. In this picture, she is holding the adorable wallaby, Amelia.

Meet Mimi! This is a 9-banded Armadillo. She cannot curl up into a ball, but she is a very good digger.

Cornelius the Chameleon! FYI: chameleons camouflage, not change colors and they also have individual eyes, so they can watch one side of the room while stalking something else!

Hello Igor! He is a very nice toad.

Here is a close up of Amelia the Wallaby! Amelia was my personal favorite.

A camper is showing the other campers what a hollow tortoise shell looks like! Noelle also brought an alive tortoise named Clementine:)

Thursday: Can you find them all? – Scavenger Hunt Day

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Campers and counselors learned lots about themselves today. The theme of the day was Scavenger Hunt Day. Not only were physical objects found, but personal emotions too. In their small groups, campers made Inside/Out Masks. Sometimes we all put on a face to hide what’s inside, but not today. Having a sibling with a disability can be a challenge. Most of the world does not see that side of a sibling.


Besides this emotional discovery, groups went on a Scavenger Hunt around Plamann Park. Some very special guests came to visit: Zoozort! Many unique animals made an appearance. We are very thankful for the Grade family in bringing Zoozort to us in memory of Alden Grade. We cooled off with water games and popsicles!

Reminders: Please bring: swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, water bottle, and lunch. Family reception is tomorrow at 2:30 pm. Come see all the things our SibDays campers have been doing this week! There will also be an ice cream social, thanks to the Thrivent Action Team!

Photos from yesterday (Wednesday!)

Sibs have fun at Curt’s Carnival, an event of SibDays and Camp Hope. Thank you to the Krull family for your generosity in memory of Curt. We are forever sibs. These sibs are capturing a moment in front of a photo booth!

Our organizer for SibDays, Michelle, just had a baby boy on Friday! She came to visit us for a little while and show off her adorable baby boy:)

Campers had a chance to play with the huge parachute today!

We had to do our famous “bug photo”. It turned out beautifully! Can you find your camper?


Wednesday: Our Most Favorite Day – Siblings Day

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We hope you remembered your T-shirt because today was picture and Siblings Day! 

It wasn’t quite Siblings Day because it is actually celebrated on April 10th. It was our SibDays Siblings Day. Siblings are very special and need to be reminded of that. Today was all about them. How can you make everyday Siblings Day? Lots of other fun activities happened as well. An art therapist came in and helped the campers create a fantastic firework hand project. Our camp was able to go over to Camp Hope for an annual favorite: CURT’S CARNIVAL! Campers and counselors love going over to visit and play many fun games.

Reminders: Please bring a lunch, swimsuit and towel, sunscreen, and a water bottle!

Friday is our Family Reception! Come at 2:30 pm and see all the things our campers have been doing this week.

Pictures from Yesterday (Tuesday)!

The campers and counselors alike were captivated by the facts regarding the turtle and snake! Many legends were dispelled.

We had some special visitors on Tuesdays, including Harriet the snake!

Along with Harriet the Snake came Tina the Turtle! The campers and counselors liked to feel Tina’s shell.

We had lots of favorite holidays displayed today: SuperBowl Sunday, Easter, Christmas, Earth Day and MANY, many more!

The campers had a chance to create their own holiday. This camper decided to create “National Cat Day”!

This camper liked using lots of foam stickers!

Guess Who?

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In addition to our fabulous directors, SibDays couldn’t be pulled off if counselors were not considered. We wanted to see if you all could guess who was what counselor by these descriptions. Happy guessing!

Black/white Group Counselors

  • Renna and Jyll were already introduced in the other post, so we will focus on the other three.

This counselor has been a part of SibDays for many, many years! She serves as the vital communication support between the two camps. She is 21 years old and loves Christmas.

  • New to the older camp this year is our next counselor. He is 16 years old and attends Kimberly. His favorite holiday is Christmas.

This is this counselors 2nd year helping at SibDays! He works at the YMCA and is almost done with schooling to become a teacher!

The Red Lady Bugs

The leader of the Red Ladybugs has been helping with SibDays for a few years. She is currently 17 years old and attends Freedom High School. She really enjoys celebrating Christmas!

This next counselor wins for the longest traveled! She is 17 and just graduated from Whitefish Bay High School and will attend UW Oshkosh in the fall. Her favorite holiday is Halloween.

Our next counselor has been a huge help the past few years! She is 17 years old and attends Appleton East High School. You can find her smiling the greatest at Christmas:)

The final counselor of the Red Ladybugs has been a camper for many years, but she is coming to camp as a counselor for the first time! She is 14 ad goes to Neenah High School. She too likes Christmas.

Pink Polka Dots

We are very excited to welcome back the leader of the Pink Polka Dots! She is 16 and attends Appleton West. We should truly have a Christmas party, because lots of counselors love this holiday!

Our next counselor is 14 years old and is going to be starting high school at Fox Valley Lutheran. Her favorite holiday is 4th of July.

Our final counselor of the pink polka dots has been at SibDays for many years now. She also has a brother who is a counselor. She is 14 and attends Hilbert High School. She likes to celebrate Easter.

Purple tie-dye

The leader of the Purple tie-dyes has been attending SibDays since she was an early child. She is 19 and goes to Concordia University WI for OT. She too likes to celebrate Christmas:)

Our next counselor also has a brother who is a counselor. She is 15 and goes to Kimberly High School. Her favorite holiday is Christmas.

Our last counselor of the purple tie-dyes is 14 and attends Neenah High School. She likes spooky things and especially loves Halloween.

Green Camo

The leader of the Green Camo group is a long-time attendee and counselor of SibDays. He has a sister who is also a counselor. He is 17 and attends Hilbert High School. You are not going to guess what his favorite holiday is: Arbor day!

This next counselor is 15 and goes to Hortonville High School. We have another unique holiday favorite: her birthday:)

This counselor has been going to SibDays since she has been 6 and is sister’s to one of the interns. She had her sweet 16 in April and goes to Fox Valley Lutheran High School. She enjoys celebrating New Year’s Eve, not day.

One of the newest counselors is this junior counselor! He is 13 and attends James Madison. If he had to pick a holiday, it would be Christmas.

Red, White, Blue

We are to our last group! This leader can always make you laugh. He just turned 17 this week and attends Appleton North. His favorite holiday is every holiday!

If you knew this counselor as a camper, he sure has changed in height! He is 14 and attends Neenah High School. He enjoys Halloween.

This next counselor is joining us for the first time ever! He is 14, goes to Appleton North, and loves Easter.

The final counselor is our 2nd junior counselor. He is 13, attends Freedom schools, and loves Thanksgiving:)


We sure do love our counselors, but it is also nice to have volunteers who do not specifically belong to a specific group.

Our first floater has been with WisconSibs for over 15 years! Amanda is 26 and is entering her first year as a special ed teacher at Freedom Middle and High School. Her favorite holiday is Christmas.

Our last, but certainly not least volunteer is a new helper. He is 18 and attends Appleton North High School.


SibDay Counselors Training – bowling

The counselors have just as much fun at SibDays as the campers:)

Tuesday: What’s your favorite holiday?

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Campers came decked out in their favorite holiday gear. We saw Christmas, Halloween, and oh so much more. “Harriet the Snake” and friends made a special appearance. The campers and counselors both enjoyed swimming once again. During small group discussions, sibs shared how holidays can be challenging at times. Sibs also shared their unique twists to holidays. We ended with creating and eating our own holiday flag.

Did you know? The name “SibDays of Summer” is taken from the idea of “dog days of summer”, the hottest, most humid time of year. But where did that name come from? Believe it or not the term “dog days” comes from the constellation of stars called Sirius, the “dog star”. In summer, Sirius rises and sets with the sun. The ancient Romans believed that the heat from the stars combined with the heat of the sun creating the hottest part of summer. We’re happy the weather forecast looks great for a beautiful week.


  • Wednesday’s theme is Siblings Day.

Here are some photos from yesterday!

Jake the Magician disappearing into the balloon

Jake the Magician liked to fool our eyes with this trick:)

A camper had to move the peanut butter and raspberry jelly by saying Please and Thank you! To her surprise, her hat was not what she thought:)

The Pink Polka Dots are having a great time getting to know each other!

The Purple tie-dyes are having a pleasant day:)

The Red Lady Bugs are just flying around with so much excitement:)

The Red, White, and Blue Group is just bursting with energy for this week!