Gilda’s Club is once again filled with the sounds of giggles and family bonding on Tuesday nights. Family Night officially returned on February 14th.
“Family Night has always been an anchor to the Gilda’s Club program,” shares Kirsten Norslien, Program Director. “When COVID hit, we had to majorly pivot.”
When the pandemic started, Gilda’s was able to shift most of our programs to virtual. But we discovered the unique challenges facing youth-oriented programs. Namely, kids were overwhelmed by the amount of screentime. In addition, “Person-to-person contact for kids is particularly important,” explains Elzabeth Kunz, Program Manager. Kids also need breaks and switches between activities.
“An opportunity to just be kids”
As the pandemic has entered a new phase, we have been able to make shifts to Family Night so that it could return in-person while keeping everyone safe. Changes include limiting attendees to adults who have kids (instead of being open to anyone) in order to limit capacity.
Why is Family Night so important? “For a lot of families, talking about cancer is difficult. Kids have a tendency to fill in the blanks,” explains Kirsten. Family Night, “[Gives] kids an opportunity to just be kids and learn things to help them feel more in control about things happening to them.”
Volunteer groups are also back to prepare the ever-popular Family Night meal. Families come together to “break bread” before joining their own support groups.
Kid Support, the group focused on kids ages 5-11, does a variety of activities each Tuesday night. They start each session with 5-10 minutes of mindfulness in the yoga room before venturing to the next activity. One activity was a Q&A puppet show about understanding cancer, where kids could write their questions down to be read and answered by puppets.
Gilda’s Club is so grateful to have students from Edgewood College’s Child Life Association volunteering each Tuesday. Elizabeth explains, “They’re able to take medical experiences and translate them into developmentally appropriate ways of understanding.” For example, they might use legos to represent different cells in the body, including cancer cells.
If you have a group that would like to volunteer to cook for a Family Night, please contact Lannia Stenz, Executive Director/CEO at (608)828-8860 or email@example.com.