August 15, 2017 Healthy Living

Comfort and Care for Siblings of Sick Children

As part of its 2017 Charity of Choice initiative, CDPHP® is helping to raise funds for The Bus Stop Club, a local nonprofit whose mission is to provide encouragement and emotional and recreational support for the siblings of children with chronic illness or developmental, physical, or intellectual disabilities.

When a child becomes ill, parents may have many questions and face a variety of roadblocks. Often, they want to protect their other children and shield them from the harsh reality of what could be a grave situation. This can lead to the healthy children feeling scared and anxious. Trying to schedule individual time with the other children can help, but it’s not always easy. The Bus Stop Club helps to fill in those gaps and takes some of the pressure off overwhelmed parents.

Through The Bus Stop Club, children have the opportunity to spend time with peers who are facing similar circumstances. By sharing and listening, they can come to understand that they are not alone and that other families are also dealing with heartbreaks and triumphs. One of the activities The Bus Stop Club offers is a week at a local YMCA day camp. Participants have the chance to meet new friends and enjoy being a kid. In addition, throughout the year members of The Bus Stop Club visit one of eight area locations where sibling groups meet once a month to share dinner, do activities, play games, swim, and have fun.

A real-life example of how The Bus Stop Club is changing lives in our community
Amy Severson, program director at The Bus Stop Club, knows firsthand how important an organization like this can be to a family. Like many mothers having their second child, Amy was concerned that her then 18-month-old son, Colin, would feel jealous of the attention she would need to give her newborn baby. As quickly as her daughter, Nellie, came into this world, so did the whirlwind that took over Amy’s and her family’s lives.

Nellie was diagnosed with a rare disease called Cri-Du-Chat syndrome. Those first years were extremely overwhelming as the Seversons dealt with Nellie’s illness and hospitalization, in addition to hip surgery, cleft palate surgery, open heart surgery, scoliosis, low muscle tone, severe asthma, and a diagnosis of failure to thrive. To put it simply, Amy felt tremendous guilt since all the care Nellie required kept her at arm’s length from Colin for days, even weeks at a time. After all, she was a dedicated mother who loved both of her children immensely.

Amy worried about what effects these challenges and experiences would have on her son. She worried that he would look back on his childhood and instead of remembering their trip to Disney, he would remember the trips to therapy and doctor appointments. The hospital gave the family information on parental support groups, and Nellie received care and support from every doctor and therapist who was familiar with her disease, but no one gave much thought to Colin. Amy feared that her son was living a life that no child should have to.

The Bus Stop Club came into the Severson’s lives when Colin was 10 years old. When they arrived at Colin’s first session, he was surprised to see a boy he knew from school. After his first sibling session, he excitedly told Amy that another boy at The Bus Stop Club had a sister who drooled as a side effect of her disease. It may seem silly, but this is what her son was living with, and knowing other kids had similar circumstances was literally life changing for him. He continued to have fun, enriching experiences at The Bus Stop Club and eventually started to volunteer and work with the younger children. He’s come a long way from his early days as a young boy who felt alone for so many years.

The Bus Stop Club Provides Much-Needed Relief for Parents and Children Alike
If you’re a parent of a sick child who’s struggling to meet the needs of your other children, organizations like The Bus Stop Club can help. Don’t hesitate to contact them.

Victoria Baecker
About the Author

Victoria joined CDPHP in 2016 as the Director of Community Relations & Corporate Events and in 2020 was named Executive Director of  CDPHP The Foundation. Victoria has a BA in Theatre from Russell Sage College and a MS in Organizational Management from Sage Graduate School. Recognitions include Rensselaer Chamber Leadership Institute Graduate, Girls, Inc. Fuel Her Fire Emerging Leader, Albany Business Review 40 Under 40, and Women’s Business Council Women of Excellence Emerging Leader and the 2020 TWILL Social Impact award from Northeast Kidney Foundation.  Victoria volunteers with several nonprofits, including American Heart Association and American Cancer Society. In her spare time she enjoys golfing, running and spending time with her family, Dave, Eleanor, Charlotte and Amelia.

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