By: Katie Griffin
Aktion Club Specalist
Last fall, I attended the Arc of the United States National Convention. The plenary session was all about siblings of individuals with disabilities. The Key Note speaker was Stedman Graham (possibly better known as Oprah’s partner). As it turns out, Stedman has a brother who has disabilities, and was invited to discuss his experiences about growing up with his brother. There was also a panel discussion and a wonderful video showcasing the special relationships that are formed between siblings.
This particular session hit home for me. I have two children; a daughter, Bridget (“Bridey”), who is twelve and a son, Jack, who is nine. Jack has cerebral palsy. He has many needs, as he uses a wheelchair, a communication device and is tube-fed. Having a sibling with such needs can evoke a wide range of emotions, including confusion, anger, pride, resentment and yes, happiness! I am sure my daughter has felt all of these emotions and many others throughout the past 9 years. That being said, Bridey is truly Jack’s biggest fan. When asked about her relationship with Jack, Bridey said, “Jack is a great brother, and I am SUPER lucky to have him. I would not be who I am today without my brother exactly the way he is!”
Bridey understands Jack better than anyone and treats him as she would any other sibling. She programs his “talker” (a special communication system that mounts to his wheelchair) with his favorite songs, books and toys so that he can tell us what he wants to do. She has been to most of his therapy sessions throughout his life and is now considering becoming a physical or occupational therapist. Jack absolutely loves his sister and their relationship is one to match!
There are many wonderful examples of sibling relationships in the Kiwanis Aktion Clubs, as well. Aktion Club members are adults with disabilities and oftentimes siblings come to meetings to help out. A wonderful example of this is the Shelbyville VC Aktion Club in Indiana. This club is named in honor of a girl named Victoria M. "Vickie" Collins. Vickie was an active member of Aktion Club, before passing away just 2 years ago. Vickie and her sister, Holly, were extremely close. The special relationship that Vickie had with Holly lives on in Aktion Club. Much of Holly’s time now that Vickie has passed is devoted to the Shelbyville Atkion Club. She is extremely dedicated to making the Aktion Club successful because of her special relationship with her sister.
I believe that those who are fortunate enough to experience this special sibling relationship are inspired in countless ways. It can change one’s outlook on life and promote an appreciation for one’s own blessings.
Check out this moving video dedicated to siblings from various chapters of the Arc of the United States. Nothing beats sibling love!