New support for new challenges
At the heart of the Sibling Support Program at Friends of Karen is the individual, sibling and family therapeutic sessions that provide illness education and emotional support to Friends of Karen families. When COVID-19 shut the world down last year we were fortunate to be able to hit the ground running and pivot to virtual sessions complete with supply bags shipped to the children. When we all had the realization that the pandemic wasn't going away any time soon, it became clear that there were brand new challenges that FoK families were facing. Children were scared and even more isolated than before- with longer stretches of separation and strict policies prohibiting visitors at the hospitals. Parents were overwhelmed and stressed. We wanted to help and we needed to offer new support for these new challenges.  With the guidance and support of the Family Support Team at Friends of Karen, Friends Having Fun was born.  A weekly virtual group for FoK children, Friends Having Fun, engages children in creative art, movement, games, storytime and our signature finale - freeze dance, in a light, fun way to connect during an isolating and uncertain time. Recognizing the great importance of play, our goal was to both create a space for them to simply feel like kids and to offer a small respite for parents who may have needed a break from the around the clock caregiving that a tandem of a pandemic and caring for an ill child brings.  Friends Having Fun debuted in June 2020 and the group is still going strong having celebrated the first “birthday” with a virtual party, creating party hats and of course an epic round of freeze dance. 
Bonds of friendship during a lonely time
Zoom has now become second nature and the group has evolved in some ways, but what we are most proud of are the bonds of friendship that have formed during this otherwise very lonely time. As always the resilience of these children inspires us. They are truly experts in making lemonade out of an unprecedented amount of lemons. 
A contagious spirit
Our Sibling Spotlight, Philip- the “King of Friends Having Fun” is one of the most loyal members of the group. Week after week Philip treats the other kids and Sibling Support Specialist facilitators to his megawatt energy, kind heart and sweet dance moves.  He has a contagious spirit, a penchant for silly stories and a gift for connecting with virtually each child who joins the group. Whether it is swapping video game tips or complimenting a younger member's artwork, it always brings a smile to our faces watching him in action. 
Philip received individual Sibling Support Services following the loss of his beloved sister. Joining the Friends Having Fun group has allowed him to remain connected to Friends of Karen and receive support in a different way. Philip has taught us that it is ok to admit if some days are hard,  when you need a little joy- just dance it out and that we all get by with a little help from our friends. 
We invite you to read below as Philip shares his experience with Friends of Karen’s weekly virtual group: Friends Having Fun
Tell me about this past year…
P: I have been remote all year.  I sit at home and go to school.  I missed all the fun activities and games that they do at school in person.   Now school is not fun anymore.  But this group is fun. 
What do you enjoy most about the group?
P: Freeze dance.  I like it because when you don’t feel good the music and dancing makes you feel better.
I also like the movement activity we did last week.  I got to show everyone how I do the Spider Pose.  At school on Fridays I would sign on to YouTube and watch yoga videos because that counted as my gym class.
Tell me about the other kids in the group…
P: They are good friends.  Better than I already have.  They all have good personalities.  They would be good to other new people if new people wanted to join the group.
What do you think about the art and storytelling activities…
P: Storytelling is funny.  Art expresses how you feel.  Sometimes I like sharing, especially if it is about Fortnite or Roblox. 
And sometimes we do trivia, do you like that?
P: Yes we did the superhero trivia. I did that, all because of my sister.  She loved Marvel movies.  So we watched them a lot and then I could answer the questions.

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