Last month we had an amazing opportunity thanks to our partnership with No Barriers, USA. With their help, we wanted to whisk two amazing caregivers away for a break, extended self-care, and community building at their Summit this summer.
Our Summit To Self-Care scholarship included airfare, lodging, registration fees, $100.00 spending money, and 12 hours of respite care funds for the caregiver’s loved-one while they are at the summit.
We asked people to tell us about an amazing caregiver they know and how they might benefit from a break to find balance in their own lives. The Arch Foundation’s Executive Director and Board of Officers reviewed applicants and made a selection for two individuals that are giving their everything, every day, and who deserve a moment for self-care. Here are our scholarship winners and their stories!
Tammy grew up in New Hampshire where she met Elliot. They married Dec 26th 1987, and grew their family with their 3 children; Coty (30), Jade (27), and EJ (16). She stayed at home to raise her 2 oldest and when they were old enough for school, she went to college and got a degree in the medical office field. She worked at the local hospital until EJ came along. In 2006 they were stationed at Ft. Benning Georgia. She started caregiving then since Elliot was in Desert Storm and Iraq 3 times. Most of the things she once loved to do were slowly going by the wayside.
Tammy was nominated by one of her dearest friends for the last four years who wrote to us and shared her story. They met at a support group for caregivers and from that day forward they were way more than friends. As far as caregiving, Tammy has a wonderful heart and cares for everyone in multiple ways, as her nominating friend shared with us. Her husband was injured during combat during a 2004-2005 tour in Iraq. He has several mental and physical injuries that require Tammy to manage his care on a daily basis. She does, like a charm! However, Tammy is not only responsible for caring for her husband, their son Coty is in need of care also. He is also rated 100% from the VA. Tammy has worked above and beyond to help Coty establish more independence, but that also created additional duties for her. Yet, she takes care of managing his care and overseeing his financial concerns to make sure there are no issues. BUT WAIT, because there is more!! Tammy's youngest child, EJ, is nearly 17 and working on discovering their true sexuality and deciding which gender to identify as. It is a very rough thing for a child to figure out, and it has been difficult on Tammy trying to manage EJ's care, the numerous appointments, the inpatient stays at the local mental health hospital, support groups, homeschooling, and just endless amounts of things you can't fathom unless you are in that situation.
And somewhere, in all that, Tammy is supposed to take time to take care of herself. She gives a valiant effort, but like most caregivers when something has to give, it is Tammy's appointments, Tammy's hobbies, Tammy's naps, and so much more. Although she tries so hard, she is struggling with putting herself and her needs first. It is so much easier when a caregiver can step away completely and not be pulled back into the issues at home. Her friend wrote saying that she needs and deserves some special treatment because she is extra special to her family, and many close friends she considers family as well. “She is a jewel that deserves to be treasured and unfortunately is not seeing herself the way the rest of us do", her friend wrote in her nomination.
Melody has cared for her husband, Christopher, since 2004. He was injured during his deployment in Iraq. Her role as his caregiver has been to attend to his daily challenges. She’s grown by helping fellow caregivers, raising awareness, providing counseling, and working with local veterans organizations.
As a Dole Fellow in The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, she raises awareness at local, regional, and national levels of critical issues for caregivers and their warriors.
One of the biggest misconception that civilians have about military caregivers is that it often can seem as if those not associated with the military have no idea of what military caregivers and wounded warriors experience. For her, it is very frustrating when people do not see how much she has to work to maintain the mental and physical health of her veteran and her family and helping with caregiving of an invisible wound and PTS/PTSD.