Volunteer helps prepare brothers and sisters-to-be

It’s a Saturday morning at Lakeridge Health Oshawa and volunteer Jeanne Frolick is waiting to welcome a new group of youngsters to a quiet room on the third floor, just down the hall from the birthing suite. It’s an area of the hospital the families of these little ones will soon come to know as they’re all awaiting the arrival of a new brother or sister.

For the past 15 years, Jeanne has been leading the Kangaroo Kapers Sibling Preparation Class at Lakeridge Health, which helps kids aged two to six, get ready for a new addition to the family. One Saturday per month, the 85-year-old retired elementary school teacher and principal returns to the head of the class to lead little ones through a series of activities that will teach them how to help their parents care for the new baby and aims to ease any anxiety they may be facing.

“We want the little ones that come to the program to accept the new family member that’s coming very soon,” says Jeanne.

With the help of fellow volunteer Laurie Bell, Jeanne teaches the children, who have each arrived with a doll or stuffed animal, how to hold a newborn baby and how to diaper the baby. After Jeanne leads them in a song—“Mommy Loves the Baby and She Loves Me Too”—and lets them choose a new hat that baby can wear home from the hospital, Laurie reads “Franklin’s Baby Sister” to the group and takes children and parents on a tour of the birthing suite, topping it off with a popsicle and a bag of goodies.

On one particular Saturday, Jeanne welcomes 2-year-old Brooklyn Pigeau to the class. She’s the third child in her family to take Kangaroo Kapers. Her mom, Kelly, sees it as a great way to introduce little ones to the idea of welcoming a brother or sister.

“It’s a good program for all ages. They can adjust to having a new baby in the house, learning how to help and care for it and hold it,” she says, adding that the song reinforces the message she’s trying to spread at home. “Yes, there’s going to be a new little person but it doesn’t mean that mommy loves you any less.”

Shannon Bourke, who brought 3-year-old Anderson to Kangaroo Kapers, agrees. “I just thought it was a great thing, a good introduction for him becoming a big brother.”

Jeanne was a volunteer in the paediatric department when she was approached to lead the Kangaroo Kapers class in the late 1990s. With a lifelong passion for teaching children, Jeanne couldn’t resist. Her favourite part is drawing children out of their shells and it’s something she’s become known for.

“Many children come to the class quiet and afraid to leave mom and dad’s side,” says Kim Moran, Patient Care Manager of the Maternal Newborn program. “Within that short hour, even the shyest child will be found leaning on Jeanne’s knee, enjoying her full attention as they chatter about a toy or pet or holiday.”

“Some of them come and they’re very shy and timid at the start but by the time it’s over, we’ve made good friends,” says Jeanne, whose knack for working with little ones was recently featured on CTV Toronto’s Lifetime segment.

Jeanne’s dedication to volunteering at Lakeridge Health, and her love of little ones and learning, is what keeps the Kangaroo Kapers program going.

“Jeanne is the powerhouse behind the Kangaroo Kapers program,” says Kim. “Her overwhelming love for children and ability to speak and listen to even the littlest ones endears her to parents and children alike.  eanne’s greatest gift is that she knows the importance of kindness and silliness to children.”

Families can register for Lakeridge Health’s Kangaroo Kapers class online at www.welovebabies.ca, under Classes and Tours, or by calling 905-576-8711 ext. 3495.