McArthur Foundation Fellow and poet, Heather McHugh, decided to use her McArthur award money to start a non-profit respite program for family caregivers who have been caring for a disabled person in their homes for 10 years or more. She calls her organization Caregifted. Caregivers who qualify submit a simple application and a medical certification of the care receiver’s need for care. Ten caregivers each year are given week long respite trips, and the Caregifted website relates their experiences and what the week of respite means to them.
McHugh reports that a family close to her and caring for a child with disabilities made her aware of the unremitting tasks that claim the parents’ attention. This was the inspiration for Caregifted. I am inspired by the creativity that McHugh and her colleagues have brought to the organization. Fund raising includes an auction of art works and a literary review. Additionally, the organization is producing a documentary on long term caregivers entitled Unsung. Snippets of the film footage can be viewed here. By any measure, McHugh has been successful as a poet and academic, yet she decided later in life to offer a service very little related to her earlier career path. This endeavor illustrates to me that, regardless of stage in life, we can all find ways to collaborate with like-minded others and apply our talents to improve lives and make a unique contribution.