Siblings of Children with Cancer Gain Hope Through SuperSibs Program

Through their SuperSib program, Alex's Lemonade Stand is helping the siblings of children with cancer cope with their brother or sister's disease.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED December 24, 2016
There are supermodels, superfans and even the idolized superheroes, but have you ever heard of a SuperSib? These children and teens aren’t in the spotlight, however, they may deserve that “super” status even more than the others.

SuperSibs are the siblings of kids fighting cancer. While just one may be diagnosed, the disease impacts everyone in the family unit. This can be even more difficult for children who may not fully understand what exactly is happening to their sibling.

Helping these children and teens get through this life challenge is the SuperSibs program, which is a part of the Family Services programs of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

“We know a cancer diagnosis not only affects the child who receives it, but it affects the whole family,” Elizabeth Romaine, director of communications, said in an interview with CURE. “SuperSibs understands that brothers and sisters of cancer patients often face fear, anxiety, changes in daily routine, worry, grief and even jealousy while their family deals with managing a child’s cancer treatment.”

SuperSibs was founded in 2002 by Melanie Goldish after her son was diagnosed with leukemia and she found a lack of support for her younger son. It served nearly 20,000 siblings prior to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation taking it over in 2014.

Since the program’s relaunch, more than 1,700 siblings have used this service. Siblings of children with cancer, ages 4 to 18, in the United States are eligible to sign up. A parent, social worker or hospital worker, with parental permission, can refer a sibling.

Once enrolled, parents will receive a tool kit and siblings will begin to receive age-appropriate materials, such as books and journals, to help them manage through the challenging time – up to eight times a year. They also will receive other mailings such as birthday cards, seasonal postcards and activities.

“Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation raises millions of dollars for research for better treatments and cures, but the Family Services program is a way we can help families now,” said Romaine. “It’s mission is to comfort, encourage and empower siblings during their family’s battle against childhood cancer, so these children and teens can face the future with courage and hope.”

In fact, 79 percent of children in the SuperSibs program reported feeling more hopeful after receiving the support and 90 percent felt less guilty.

The program encourages parents to have conversations with their child or children – suggesting questions like: What do you know about cancer? Do you think cancer is contagious? How is your life different now?

By opening up the line of communication, SuperSibs hopes to provide the emotional support that these siblings often need, but find are being neglected. As for the future, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation sees SuperSibs growing as it wants to continue to help more siblings of kids with cancer.

“The program can help make siblings more of a part of the conversation when it comes to awareness and how they may be struggling with a cancer diagnosis,” said Romaine.

To learn more about Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and SuperSibs, visit www.SuperSibs.org.
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