WOW provides celebration for Wings families
More than 100 family members and staff gathered June 24 at Tilles Park for WOW Family Day to commemorate five years of Wings on Wheels (WOW) services.
Since early 2013, WOW — a colorful vehicle painted with butterflies — has brought free supportive therapy to individuals, families, and communities throughout the St. Louis area. The mobile program, which now features two WOW vehicles, is offered by Wings, the BJC pediatric hospice and palliative care program.
The WOW Family Day offered participants food, fun activities like face-painting and balloon sculptures, and a chance to create unique works of art including rainsticks, ink-marbling art, and intention bracelets and keychains.
“We wanted families to have an enjoyable day that hopefully gave them a small respite from illness, grief and loss,” says Jennifer Lang, BJC Hospice bereavement specialist and expressive therapy licensed counselor.
Participants included families who had been helped by Wings support, current and past Wings families, and Camp Stepping Stones families from the past five years. Stepping Stones is a bereavement camp offered to children ages 6-12 who have experienced the death of a loved one.
Lang and Carolyn Lemen, BJC Hospice music therapist, hosted the WOW Family Day.
“The kids who attended had opportunities to sing, dance and dedicate special songs in honor of a special person in their life,” Lang says. “Moments that touched me included 12-year-old Arianna singing a song in memory of her friend who died of cancer this past winter. Also, 2-year-old Cabanne singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
Families who attended shared positive feedback. “Thank you, Friends of Wings, for the five-year family celebration today,” said Jessica Miller, attendee. “We know the grief of losing a child, but we couldn’t imagine what it would have been like without your support. Thank you for everything you do.”
The Missouri Baptist Healthcare Foundation provided funding for the event. Face painting artist Jessica Dana and balloon sculptor Michael Geerlof both donated extra time to the event, says Lang, adding, “I loved witnessing the families having an enjoyable day at the park.”
More about Wings and WOW
Wings provides clinical, emotional and spiritual support and services to children who have life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses, regardless of their ability to pay. The WOW program is an additional way that Wings fulfills its mission to provide care — not only to the children and families of Wings, but to entire communities affected by losses.
WOW offers expressive therapy for children, teens and young adults, as well as families and community groups, affected by illness or loss. Expressive therapy uses creative art forms such as visual art, writing and music to help individuals express feelings and ideas that words cannot.
The two WOW vehicles travel throughout the metro St. Louis area and surrounding counties in Illinois. WOW is funded by the Friends of Wings organization, as well as corporate and individual sponsors.
WOW Missouri uses visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing, storytelling, scrapbooking and other creative activities to foster personal growth and community development.
Lang took on her role with WOW in February 2013 when the initial program was launched. “I love serving as an expressive therapist for Wings on Wheels because it’s rewarding. Knowing you’re making an emotional impact on a child or family’s well-being at perhaps one of the most challenging and vulnerable moments of their journey is everything,” says Lang.
WOW Illinois, which took to the road in May 2017, is run by Lemen. Its focus is on music therapy and interventions such as therapeutic songwriting, lyric analysis/song discussion, group drumming or instrument play, and musical stories.
Lemen says music therapy can be especially helpful in situations when it’s difficult to express feelings or share experiences through the use of words.
Although named WOW Missouri and WOW Illinois, both vehicles travel to either state to provide support and meet community needs. One of the vehicles recently got a new look, thanks to supporters and sponsors who made the “re-wrapping” of the vehicle possible, including The Cornelsen Charitable Foundation, Jennifer and Jim Koman, Stephanie and Mark Schnuck, Emerson, Simmons Hanly Conroy, Bommarito Automotive Group, and Vinyl Images.
For more information, to volunteer or to contact Wings on Wheels in Missouri, call 314-953-1969 or email [email protected]. In Illinois, call 618-463-7779 or email [email protected].