A volunteer’s reflection on Sibling Day

Family Services Volunteer Maddie Gardam reflects on the rewarding experience of being involved in her first Sibling Day at Very Special Kids.

As I approached the big, white building at Very Special Kids, I felt both nervous and excited about the day ahead. I hoped that I wasn’t so early that I would be the first one to arrive, but then I reminded myself that this is what many of the children attending today’s Sibling Day might be feeling. It was my job as an adult, and a Family Services Volunteer, to take the lead and show them how fun was done.

I’ve been volunteering with Very Special Kids for about six months. After completing my training, I was partnered with a family who wanted a volunteer to spend time with their two boys, aged eleven and nine years old. One is a very special child and the other is his very special sibling.

Today I was here for the young sibling. His mother and I had been discussing getting him involved in the sibling programs because, like many parents, she wanted something special just for him, given the amazing way he adapts to his brother’s needs, offers care and support, and often puts his needs second.

Until now, he had been a bit nervous about attending a Sibling Day, so I was going to be a familiar face for the day, a safety net to make him feel more confident. Sibling Day allowed him to just be a kid for a day, alongside others who share his experience of being a young carer.

Through the theme of Once Upon a Time, the siblings embraced the role of being storytellers for the day. I was delighted watching him run laps of Very Special Kids Hospice with his teammates and instantly make new friends as they searched together for clues in each challenge of the day. Beyond the initial appearance of kids having a fantastic time, you see there is also that extra something special about these young carers.

They have the ability to listen so carefully to each other’s experiences and demonstrate care, compassion, and kindness throughout the day.

As these little kids immersed themselves in each activity, there was lots of laughter and incredible creativity and imagination shown as we all escaped into the characters and stories.

The day culminated in a special performance of our jointly-created stories and a celebration of our day together with each child being presented with a certificate and memento of the day.

Despite the serious, challenging, and often sad side of what brings us together at Very Special Kids, each time I’ve attended sibling camps and day programs I’ve come away humbled by these kids. Each time I have also been exhausted from having so much fun – my face hurting from smiling so much.

I keep volunteering with Very Special Kids because I feel like these kids show me how to be a better human.