By Angela Tobin, Executive Director of Bus Stop Club
Bus Stop Club was created by Dr. Brian Sheridan, a pediatrician from Schoolhouse Road Pediatrics located in Guilderland. There was a need for an expansion in the definition of “family” when striving to provide a comprehensive care program - one that ensures each and every member of the family remains healthy and well adjusted. Dr. Sheridan recognized that in the shuffle and chaos of caring for a child with a chronic illness or disability, the significance of the impact on the siblings in the family is too often overlooked. Bus Stop Club provides support and family memories through encouragement for the siblings of children with serious illness or developmental, physical, or intellectual disabilities. Our vision is to ensure that our siblings have the ability to feel understood, valued, and connected to each other and the community. Monthly meetings provide support to participants 5-15 years old at 10 different locations in the capital district, and recently monthly meetings have been added to provide services on site at the Wildwood location in Latham, New York.
Bus Stop Club approached Wildwood to brainstorm and discuss how a partnership between the two organizations could provide an even more comprehensive care program for each and every member of the families that receive support from Wildwood. Wildwood generously offered space at their location on Troy-Schenectady Road for the Bus Stop Club to meet. This provides access for Wildwood families who may be interested in the program, and for families in the community who may be in similar situations. Additionally, Wildwood staff volunteered yoga instruction for the families to be included in the programming; yoga creates calmness, self-awareness, and relieves stress, making it a perfect fit for the Bus Stop Club.
The goal for the Wildwood and Bus Stop Club sessions is to meet monthly for two hours per session with the families. As people are unable to physically gather at the moment, virtual sessions are being offered about twice a week. At the monthly meetings (virtual and/or physical) the Bus Stop Club social worker leads children in therapeutic activities, which may involve drawing or painting, role-playing, or a game. The activity incorporates a theme and the child is given the opportunity to explore and expose their feelings about the given topic. Themes range from the concept and process of their sibling’s diagnosis, changes in the family, feelings about their relationship with their sibling, and how to cope with feelings they are not able to put into words. On occasion, a community visitor such as an art therapist, yoga instructor, or music therapist may join the session and facilitate the group as a whole with a therapeutic activity.
In addition to monthly sessions, our program offers family events that include activities for the entire Bus Stop Club family to participate in. We hold an annual BBQ for over 100 Bus Stop Club members, bus 115 people to Six Flags New England each summer, go for a visit to Lake George, cheer on the Tri City Valley Cats, and support our Siena Men’s Basketball Team, to name a few. All of these events are free for our families. In addition to these activities, Bus Stop Club sends approximately 50 children to a weeklong day camp over the summer, and recently began sending the older kids to Camp Chingachgook. We’ve learned that participating in a camp experience with one another builds trust and even stronger relationships amongst the children, creating an even better support group. It also builds self-esteem, independence and confidence from such experiences.
Although many of the activities have been put on hold due to Covid-19, we look forward to a time when we can resume our gatherings and continue to grow the relationship between Wildwood and Bus Stop Club.