Since 2012, The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter has been sponsoring a special “Children and Teens Day” event for children who are living with or love a PALS, and for children who are already bereaved. Our first Kids Day, as we lovingly call it, was at a restaurant in the city that was truly out of this world – Mars 2112! There, kids ages 8 to 18 had fun in the restaurant’s arcade, ate a spectacular meal – and decorated “memory boxes” using their own memorabilia or craft materials provided by the Chapter. This was the first of many art-therapy oriented Kids Days.
Now divided into two age groups (6 to 11 and 12 to 18), groups have brought family photos to the Chapter office to make beautiful scrapbooks or snow globes, painted a tea set at a pottery studio, and drawn a mandala (signifying the circle of life). Most recently, the group made Valentine’s Cards and decorated frames for their loved ones, as pictured above. Art is therapeutic, and always something kids enjoy.
We have found that working with art can help children get more in touch with their thoughts and feelings about their lives with ALS, even if they don’t want to talk openly with other kids or staff members who are always present. However, sometimes they do, and we offer them a safe space to talk with each other. At our most recent event, a nine-year-old girl told us she comes to our groups to have some fun and asked if we invited kids because their parents are sick. At another, a boy slightly older quietly told a staff member that his dad had ALS. In these quiet ways, children can express themselves, feeling understood by other kids going through a similar experience. Their privacy is respected: parents can join for our traditional pizza lunch and ice cream sundae bar, and stay to chat with one another privately, while the kids do their artwork.
Stay tuned for our upcoming events including a day for bereaved children and teens ages 12-18 and a barbeque style lunch and day of games this summer.
For more information on Children and Teens Day, contact Sue Zimmerman at 212-720-3050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.