published Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

GPS grad helps siblings of seriously ill children

MAKE-A-WISH CHATTANOOGA

• Address: 510 S. Willow St.

• Phone: 629-9474

• Website: etn.wish.org

As program manager for Make-A-Wish Illinois, Sandi Ring saw firsthand the positive impact the organization can have on a young person fighting a life-threatening medical condition.

She also saw how having a sibling suddenly struck by a devastating illness can alter the lives of everyone in the house.

So in 2002, the 47-year-old Girls Preparatory School graduate helped create SuperSibs, a national nonprofit organization that helps siblings of children with cancer get the support they need. She served as its national director of outreach and education until it was absorbed by Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer earlier this year. Ring is now the senior manager of medical eligibility and outreach with Make-A-Wish America, but she is also on the Sibling Advisory Board for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

“Both Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and SuperSibs have a mission focused on kids and families dealing with a childhood cancer diagnosis,” says Lisa Towry, the foundation’s operations director. “Supporting siblings who are on the childhood cancer journey was a natural way for ALSF’s Family Services Program to grow and SuperSibs is allowing us to help those children.”

She adds that Ring “brings a wealth of knowledge about the history of the SuperSibs program, as well as practical and proven ways to help and empower siblings.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

A child with a life-threatening medical condition who has reached the age of 2 1/2 and is younger than 18 at the time of referral is potentially eligible for a wish. After a child is referred, Make-A-Wish will work with the treating physician to determine the child’s eligibility for a wish, i.e suffering from a progressive, degenerative or malignant condition currently placing the child’s life in jeopardy.

wish.org/refer-a-child/who-is-eligible

  • photo
    Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) was created from the front-yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott in 2000.
    Photo by Getty Images

About Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) was created from the front-yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott in 2000. Then 4 years old, Alex (who died in 2004) announced that she wanted to use the lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. The foundation now has supporters all over the country.

www.alexslemonade.org

Ring’s work includes educating people on who is eligible to have their wish granted.

“Everyone thinks the child must be dying. That is not so,”she says from her home in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Her work with SuperSibs and now the Alex Foundation also tries to educate caregivers and families on what happens to the siblings of a diagnosed child. In some cases, the ill child becomes the center of the universe and siblings are pushed to the side, saysRing, who attended Erikson Institute/Loyola University, where she got her degree in early childhood development, and also earned a degree in journalism and public relations from the University of Georgia in Athens.

Ring recalls an incident in which the grandparents were flying across the country to visit the sick child, but the siblings were so excited, they met them at the door. When the grandparents walked in, they literally pushed the other kids aside and went straight to the room with the sick child was.

“Another child was shipped off to live with an aunt,” Ring says.

She tells these stories without being judgmental or casting aspersions. Parents who suddenly must deal with a child suffering from a horrifying illness are naturally focused on getting that child better. And, even in the best of situations, children, especially young children, are often jealous of each other and the attention a sibling might get.

In these cases, you have parents devoting all of their attention and time to one child. Siblings may be left to feed, clothe and clean themselves, and sometimes even find their own rides to and from school or extracurricular activities.

“To be able to have an impact on the life of someone battling a life-threatening medical condition is something I feel strongly about,” she says.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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