More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. Family caregivers are the foundation of long-term care nationwide, exceeding Medicaid long-term care spending in all states. National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. March 2009
While most siblings don’t think of themselves as caregivers for their sisters and brothers with disabilities, it is one of the many roles they play, whether they are children or adults. Sisters especially play a huge role throughout their lives in providing care, companionship, and other needs of their siblings with disabilities, sometimes even from long distance.
“My sister doesn’t live with me but we have a routine that every night I call her and read her a story,” explained Barb Wentzel in a recent Sibling Panel discussion.
Siblings also recognize and value the need for paid caregivers to provide respite for their parents who may be doing the bulk of the caregiving. “It is important that parents receive respite care so they are able to pursue things that are important to them and spend time with their other children.” stated Christiana Yablonowski in her recent Sibling’s Choice nomination to honor Todd Steven & Associates for providing care and community support for her brother. READ MORE ABOUT SIBLING’S CHOICE AWARD WINNERS
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!
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]
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.
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:)
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?
The weather in Appleton Wisconsin was absolutely gorgeous this weekend…something as Wisconsinites we dream about to get us through the months of winter blasts of cold and snow. So while I’ve been getting camps organized for the siblings who participate with WisconSibs Sib Camps since January, this weather also prompted me to finish Phillip’s (my son with disabilities) camp schedule.
Kids (and even adults) gain so many benefits from time away in the outdoors. They learn new skills, breathe fresh air, discover the wonders of outdoors, and meet people they may never have met otherwise. And parents, admit it, you could use the respite.