APPLETON, WI—If you take a close look at Harriet Redman you will realize she is a woman of incredible wisdom and strength. This is first and foremost because she raised a son born in 1992 with a rare chromosomal abnormality that affected Phillip’s ability to walk, speak, and meet many developmental milestones. Harriet and her family, which included older sibling Christiana, were determined that Phillip be an involved and included member of the family and one day, while playing their special version of soccer, Christiana vocalized a very adult thought for a seven year old: “What will happen one day when you and Daddy die?”
It’s a question many siblings of special needs kids will have, but fear to express, and it led to the founding of the non-profit organization WisconSibs (which happened officially in 1998.) Since then, this noteworthy organization has continued to grow, launch or partner in programs, and provide the circle of support that is so vital to the siblings of children diagnosed with conditions. When a child has a mental, medical, genetic or developmental diagnosis, it disrupts the family–their time, budgets, attention, energy, sleep, careers, etc. Siblings, although they love to help, can experience guilt or short-term resentment. With the support of an organization like WisconSibs, which provides help across Wisconsin, siblings learn to develop resiliency, natural leadership skills, and coping strategies. Most importantly, Harriet says, they realize they are not the only ones in this crazy position, and that’s utterly empowering.
WisconSibs provides many different programs that help children ages 6 to 12 to feel supported, talk about their roles, face doubts, and learn what to expect as both siblings grow into adults. One of those programs is Sibshop, an award-winning workshop that was first launched by Don Meyer in Seattle, Washington. They also run summer camp programs, both day and sleepover, where siblings discuss concerns and joys while having fun, engaging in recreation, and getting the respite time that is important to everyone in the family. WisconSibs also engages families in activities that help create awareness or raise funds such as the Sibs are My Peeps contest which recreates family engagement using the marshmallow candies. Recently, they began to test a new program geared to siblings from ages 3 to 5, so they can learn to understand and express what happens in their families.
In her radio show, Harriet is going to talk about these various programs, how and why her organization was founded, and home in on the crucial role that siblings have when someone in the family has an illness or disability. She will also stress how important it is for society and service providers to embrace the needs of the sibling (and not just the client or parents ) We salute her for her brave efforts and look forward to learning all she has to share–including how motivated people can donate to this wonderful non-profit!
My name is Samantha Merkel and I’m one of the WisconSibs summer interns for 2019. I really became a part of WisconSibs about five summers ago when I first became a counselor at SibDays of Summer. Since then I have continued to develop as a young leader with the support of WisconSibs programs.
My inspiration for everything I do comes from my 11-year-old brother, Aaron, who was born with Down syndrome. Because of his diagnosis, I have found myself a part of a unique and amazing community that includes the remarkable people of WisconSibs. In addition to my involvement with WisconSibs I am an active member of the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin- Fox Cities Walk Committee, I am working part-time for the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin- Family Services, and I am providing respite care for two sisters with Down syndrome, ages 12 and 14. This is, of course, in addition to my volunteer work as well as spending time with my family. In terms of schooling, I will be a junior at UW-Stevens Point this fall studying Communicative Sciences and Disorders for Speech Language Pathology with a minor in Spanish. During the academic year, I work in the Disability and Assistive Technology Center on campus.
I feel as though this internship is an amazing opportunity for me to gain relevant experiences, make connections, learn leadership skills, and to make a difference. I’m really looking forward to all the things that the people at WisconSibs have to teach me and the ways that planning for their events will help me to develop as a leader within my own life. I am also excited to work for an organization that helps a group of individuals that I am directly a part of and understand their need for resources and support. Given that I intend to work with individuals with disabilities within my career I feel that making connections with their siblings and their needs is a very integral part in ensuring the success of my future clients. Siblings are often some of the most important advocates in the lives of individuals with disabilities and I believe that investing in them leads to the achievements of their siblings with disabilities.
As the summer goes on I will be helping plan various fundraising, awareness, and leadership events to help benefit the siblings of individuals with disabilities within our community. I am so excited to be a part of the WisconSibs team!
Hello! My name is Calli Hughes and I’m the other WisconSibs summer interns. I just finished my Sophomore year at UW-Madison where I am studying Math and Community & Nonprofit Leadership. With aspirations to someday work in the nonprofit sector, WisconSibs seemed like a perfect fit! While WisconSibs is new to me, I already understand the great impact it makes on the community they serve. As someone who wants to explore the nonprofit sector and who is a sibling myself, WisconSibs seemed like a great opportunity to connect with a unique community.
Having a sibling with a disability, I have never really had the opportunity to connect with siblings, like myself in my town or at Madison. My brother, Dane, is Deaf and qualifies for blind services. He also has undiagnosed physical and cognitive impairments. As one of my best friends, Dane has been my inspiration for so much of my life. He is the reason I am who I am today.
While at WisconSibs, I will be focusing my time on the website, social media, and marketing. I hope to expand the reach that WisconSibs makes statewide so that more siblings can become knowledgable about their support. I hope to learn from fellow siblings about their experiences as well as just gain a deeper appreciation for WisconSibs and the community they serve!
WisconSibs Teen Sib Leaders were honored with the Fox Cities Youth Alliance volunteer group of the year award. The hours of volunteerism these young leaders have devoted has made a large impact! These young leaders represent the often untold stories of so many, many siblings who take on adversity and become resilient, courageous, compassionate, and wise leaders. Embrace your strength. Never apologize for not accepting things the way they are. Hold on to one another as you overcome barriers for yourself, your siblings with disabilities, and others who go unnoticed or unregarded. Lead. Thrive. Celebrate.
WOW!! The Peeps really came out in force this spring! More than 30 entries in our recent Sibs Are My Peeps photo contest. This annual awareness raising event brings out the most creative, most fun-loving peeps. See the results!
Congratulations to our finalists:
Taelyn, Gia, and Maribel from Brillion for “Peep on Swimming”
Glenbrook Elementary School – Mrs. Rettler’s class for “Go Peeps Go”
Anna & Analiese from New London/Hortonville, WI for “Peeps Grand Cinema”
Leah Quinn from Neenah for “Peep Yoga Studio”
The staff and clients of CP Fox Cities for “Party on Peepabago”
A2Z Design from Appleton for “Peeps Be Chillin'”
Elise from Appleton for “Peepin’ Around the Farm”
Penelope from Hortonville for “Peeps Cabin”
and honorable mention from entries by Denmark High School Photography students.
It is estimated that in Wisconsin, 549,000 caregivers are providing 588,000 million hours of care to loved ones annually, valued at nearly $6 billion dollars. MORE INFO
Making up a significant portion of those caregivers are siblings caring for their aging parents AND their siblings with disabilities, often while caring for their own growing children!
To recognize the care providers, both paid and unpaid, who provide personal cares of all types to people with disabilities, older adults and other family members and friends who require support to remain healthy and living in their homes and communities, we celebrate National Caregiver Day on February 15, 2019 (3rd Friday of February).
Many of the siblings, usually sisters, caring for family members are also employees and often challenged to juggle the needs of their family members with job requirements. Often they must choose to either remain employed or leave to care for their family. Employers are feeling the effects.