A special Saturday night for parents and caregivers, clients and siblings
Six-year-old Fatimah has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal, but her facial expressions can speak volumes.
Her mother, Rubina, knows that look of disappointment when she and the family go out and Fatimah can’t play with her siblings because of accessibility issues or other barriers. Looking into Fatimah’s eyes can be heartbreaking.
“You can see the frustration,” she said.
But that expression changed recently, when Rubina took Fatima and her siblings to a new pilot program at Holland Bloorview called Saturday Night Fun.
Created through the hospital’s No Boundaries Fund, Saturday Night Fun was held on February 24 and gave clients and their siblings a night of supervised fun, while giving parents a few precious hours to put themselves first and do whatever they wanted.
It was designed to help time-strapped parents who care for kids with complex needs like significant mobility challenges or dependence on medical equipment like a feeding tube, trach tube, or a ventilator.
It was also designed to give clients and their siblings the chance to play together, while giving client brothers and sisters the chance to meet other siblings who share similar life experiences.
That night, nine families, including Rubina, dropped off their kids at the hospital for a fun filled evening of activities.
“This was such a great opportunity for all of them to be together,” said Rubina. “It gave me a wonderful feeling.”
Each client had a Bloorview staff member or volunteer assist them throughout the evening, with medical staff like nurses and respiratory therapists also attending.
Fatima and her brother and sister joined other kids in a drumming circle, took part in arts and crafts, played with play-dough, painted a collaborative art mural, and played board games, all with children's music videos playing in the background to add to the festive mood.
Every child left the night with their own framed piece of the collaborative mural and a personalized gift bag donated by the hospital’s Foundation.
Rubina had a quiet, uninterrupted visit with her mother while tending to her six-month-old baby with no demands or distractions. She loved it.
“I rarely get that opportunity,” she said. “And I was so happy because I had peace of mind knowing my kids were in a safe place and enjoying themselves.”
Other parents went to the movies, went shopping, or chose to have a quiet night at home. Others still met with friends for a night of fine dining and good company.
When Rubina picked up her kids, they were absolutely beaming.
“I saw such happiness on Fatimah’s face,” she said. “I could tell she was really excited.”
So were her brother and sister who kept asking, ‘Can we come another weekend?’
Plenty of other kids and parents had similar responses. Because of all the positive feedback, the event’s planning committee intend to meet to discuss the possibility of holding another event.
If it does, you can bet Rubina and her family will be marking that Saturday night in their calendar.