As I sit on the couch on this Fall Saturday, I am trying to find the words for a speech I will be giving in about a week at the Celebrate Sisterhood luncheon for the Wisconsibs organization. For those who know me, know that I usually “wing it” when talking in front of people, especially as it relates to my love for those with disabilities. However, this time it’s different. The audience is different. The purpose is different. The mission is different. My “why” is different.
On Tuesday, October 22nd, I will be the keynote speaker at a fundraiser luncheon for a nonprofit whose mission isn’t for those with disabilities, but for their siblings! The Executive Director/Founder, Harriett Redman, reached out to me after reading my blog post about The Emotional Impact of Being a Sibling to a Brother/Sister with a Disability: https://piecesofme.org/2019/05/31/the-emotional-impact-of-being-a-sibling-to-a-brother-sister-with-a-disability/
Since she has reached out this particular blog post has been read over 200,000 times and in over 20 countries. I never expected this kind of exposure, but after learning about Wisconsibs I can reflect on why that blog connected with so many people!
Growing up it was never hard for me to make friends. I didn’t have a close circle of friends, but I was that one girl that became friends with everyone. I never isolated myself to one circle or group of people, but deep down I really wanted to at times. Until I was in my 20s I never met another person my age who had a sibling with a disability. Although, I talked about my brother to all my friends it wasn’t the same as connecting with a friend who understood. My talks with my friends were awareness based, wanting them to love my brother, and to have someone who they could ask questions about disabilities. Looking back, I do feel this shaped me into my career path and my passion to educate and bring awareness to others, however when I was a child it would have been nice to find a friend who would relate to my situation. A friend who I didn’t have to explain my brother’s disability. A friend who I wouldn’t have to prepare them for all the possibilities of what could happen when they came to spend the night. A friend who could not only see the weight on my shoulders, but they too were carrying the same weight. This brings me to why I am so excited about going to speak for Wisconsibs at their Sisterhood Luncheon. Not only will the audience have families who can connect to my story, but also community members will be in attendance to hear and understand the power behind the mission of Wisconsibs. So many people reached out after my siblings blog post was published, and I couldn’t understand why? Why reach out to me? Well, it’s because there isn’t a lot of resources for the siblings. It’s not like we “the siblings” walk around with a billboard sign that says: I have a sibling with a disability and looking for someone who also has a sibling with a disability”! This is why when Wisconsibs asked me to come and speak, I knew I had to make it work. I wish there were more organizations like Wisconsibs across the world. Maybe this blog will resonate with someone reading to be inspired to do just that!
Wisconsibs is a nonprofit organization located in Appleton, Wisconsin. Wisconsibs makes available services such as camps, educational workshops, leadership training, and social connecting days for sisters and brothers of individuals with special needs! You can learn more about this powerful organization at: www.wisconsibs.org .
This organization is preparing and connecting siblings so they are better prepared and equipped to navigate this lifelong journey with their sibling who has a disability. Did you know that 80% of people with disabilities receive care from family? The caregiver role by siblings is growing and will be larger in the future than in previous generations, and that is why Wisconsibs is important. I couldn’t be more excited to connect with this group. Tickets are still on sale if you would like to attend Celebrate Sisterhood! Visit their website. I would love to meet you!
If your a sibling to someone with a disability there is another national organization that you can also connect with. It’s called, The Sibling Leadership Network. There are local chapters in many states. You can find this resource on Facebook as well. Now is the time for us siblings to start coming together to connect with each other. Not only to learn about how we can prepare for this lifelong journey with our sibling who has a disability, but so we can empower each other through understanding the weight, while celebrating in the JOY!
I couldn’t end this blog without a special mention to the first person I ever connected with who had a brother with a disability. Her name is, Blaire Linn-Neighbor’s! God blessed us by making our paths cross and together we have an understanding about one another that no one will ever be able to relate too. I didn’t meet her until I was 26 years old. Another reason why an organization like Wisonships is needed! It gives purpose to connect kids as they process and live life with their sibling who has a disability!