In July 2014 my husband and I were given the devastating news that our youngest son, Harry, had a life limiting, neuro degenerative condition. Harry was able to run, talk and do everything all other five-year  olds could and we were told his life expectancy would be drastically cut short and he may not become a  teenager.

Over the following year Harry lost his abilities one by one.  This relentless, devastating disease not only had an enormous impact on Harry it also massively affected  our elder son Joshua.  Joshua had to learn how to help care for Harry as he was now fully dependant on others, how to help us feed Harry via a feeding tube directly into his stomach and what he needed to do in an emergency when Harry suffered life threatening seizures.

Over the two years following Harrys diagnosis we met many families in a similar position. One thing we noted on these occasions was how truly inspirational all the siblings were, their selfless acts, overwhelming caring ability and need to always put others before themselves.

One day a professional commented she would like to get Joshua a treat through a charity. Three months later she returned very upset as she had been unsuccessful. Every organisation she contacted refused consideration as they only support affected children. She explained how this was echoed through other professionals.

We thought siblings should be recognised for the hero’s they are…….and so……….

Sponsor A Sibling

In September 2016 we created Sponsor a Sibling. We knew with over half a million young carer siblings in the UK we couldn’t help them all but thought if we could just make a sibling smile one at a time we could have an impact.

Our aim was to support siblings of children with life limiting or life-threatening conditions and also bereaved siblings. Siblings must be between aged 2 and 16 years.

We created an Amazon wish list and invited people to nominate siblings for a treat. We have a “Sibling of the Week” and our wonderful supporters kindly purchase items from our Wishlist. Gifts vary depending on the child’s interests and the maximum amount spent is £150.

To date we have supported 98 siblings and had over 1200 presents gifted. The presents are then wrapped and sent with a “Super Sibling” certificate. The response to this has been phenomenal from both families and supporters. It has raised a significant amount of awareness as to the additional responsibilities gained when living with a poorly child.

Not long after beginning sponsor a sibling we realised there was also a need to support bereaved siblings. Child death is still very much a taboo subject. We began researching then put together a keepsake pack. Each sibling including the child that has passed, receives a make your own style teddy with a heart that can have a message wrote on and an urn if requested, a heart in their hand keyring (the heart can stay with the child that has passed and the siblings keep the keyring) and a name a star voucher, paint your own frame and some other nominal gifts.

Feedback from parents is that this has been a positive way of letting siblings talk about their feelings and feel an everlasting connection with their brother or sister. We have provided over 40 siblings in the brief time we have been running.

Next, we were contacted by a friend of a family who had a child that had been admitted to hospital. They explained the emotions the sibling was suffering. Missing their parent that was having to stay in hospital, having to sleep in unfamiliar surrounding at a family members house and still having the pressures of attending school daily. We sent a bag of goodies to keep them occupied, a few colouring bits and games. They were so grateful that somebody had thought of them as they had watched so many people take their sibling a gift. We offered this as another service and have special tote bags these are sent in. Siblings can then use this to carry around their precious items when travelling between places.

We also felt Siblings deserved recognition of what a Super Sibling they are, therefore we now have the option to sponsor a Sibling Award for £25. The award consists of a Super Sibling trophy, Award certificate, teddy bear and sweet treat.

Last November, we held our first and hugely successful fundraiser. We had 32 fabulous volunteers who braved all and took part in a sponsored fire walk. Between them all they raised over £10,000. We wanted this money to make a real difference to siblings and wanted to give them something that would make them smile, feel wonderful and forget their worries for a short time, making them feel like any other child their age.

We had spoke to many families of children with complex health needs, some had never had a holiday, and some had booked a holiday and due the child becoming poorly had to cancel last minute, subsequently leaving them anxious to book another. They explained the stereotypical rules of holidays having Monday to Friday/Friday to Monday dates and planning in advance proved just to difficult when having a poorly child that is so unpredictable.

Therefore, we used this as a deposit towards a caravan!

The siblings now have their very own caravan that can be used free of charge for much needed breaks and to create wonderful memories. Unlike other charity caravan providers, the siblings caravan can be used with or without their poorly brother or sister, giving families a wonderful opportunity if the poorly child is in respite for some much needed one to one time. This can also be used at a difficult time to reminisce following the loss of a loved brother or sister.

Holidays are released on a month by month basis meaning families can make the most of healthy times. It can be used for any length of time between 1 day and 7 days and holidays can commence on any day of the week. The caravan is on a fabulous site based in Clacton – On – Sea. It hosts both indoor and outdoor swimming pool, an exciting park and the traditional entertainment you would expect of a seaside caravan park.

We have estimated with the outstanding finance we have on the caravan and the site fees, we need to raise £10,000 per year (Finance = £3,700 & Site fees £6,000 (exc water, electric and insurance) to fund our free of charge holidays. We are always looking at ways to fundraise and are grateful for any other organisations/businesses that
would like to get involved. Sponsor a sibling is run purely by volunteers and based at our home address. Therefore, we have no overheads and any funds raised or donated are used purely to benefit the siblings.

Our siblings experience things that most adults would find difficult. Let’s show them what Super siblings they are and give them something to make them smile.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

© Copyright - Sponsor A Sibling 2019 / Charity Number 1176912