Helping Military Families Find a Path to Happiness

happy-family-weekendFor the past five years of my 15 year tenure with Easter Seals, I’ve had the privilege of stewarding our organizational efforts in support of Military and Veteran Caregivers. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s groundbreaking research, Hidden Heroes: America’s Military Caregivers told us an estimated 5.5 million spouses, parents, siblings, and friends provide care to those wounded, ill or injured who have served our country across the eras of WWII through the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those research findings made me think: is there an immediate action we at Easter Seals could offer that would inform and inspire these caregivers, help them feel restored and relieved, leave them connected and confident? Thus, Easter Seals’ Military Caregiver Webinar Series was born.

We started out with no additional funding support, no collaborative partners and a limited organizational infrastructure. What we did have, however, was a vision and commitment in support of Easter Seals’ mission to provide exceptional services that ensure all people with disabilities (or other special needs) and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities.

A little over one year later, from these modest beginnings, we’ve produced nine hour-long informative and skills-building webinars (including two in Spanish!) and have assembled a team of six passionate partner organizations:

Newman’s Own Foundation has also provided valuable financial support. Most importantly, we’ve reached over 1,300 military caregivers who have either joined us in-person or on-line when they may have a spare moment in the midst of their very busy lives. Most rewarding has been some of the feedback we’ve received. Some examples:

You are putting us back on a path to a happy life. My husband (26 years my senior) is a WWII vet and we had such a bout with anxiety because of his asthma treatment, I thought we were going to be forced into moving into an assisted living facility pronto. All the little grievances we were both experiencing have been subdued and we are actually having more fun now than before he started the medications. Thank you, thank you…

This is my first meeting/ webinar and this is great! I see now that I am not the only one. I have two little ones that I can’t put in daycare and can never make it to any meetings down here since I cannot leave my husband with the kids. I am so thankful for these

Gracias, [ese programa] es de gran ayuda para todos aquellos que por la distancia y situaciones personales no podemos llegar a las clases presenciales. (Thank you. [This program] is a big help to those who, due to distance and personal situations, can’t come to classes in person.)

During our March Spanish webinar, participants contributed more than 100 questions and comments through the webinar software’s chat feature — sharing their experiences and challenges with caregiving, requesting advice, and expressing gratitude for the support and resources provided by the speakers.

Last month, Today’s Caregiver magazine and awarded our webinar series a Caregiver Friendly Award in the “services” category. While this is a great honor, my hope is that the caregivers know this award is all about them — their passion, their commitment, their dedication. Easter Seals is just hoping to make the world a little more “friendly” for military caregivers.


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