Poet Heather McHugh

Heather McHugh creates beauty beyond words.
In 2009, Seattle poet Heather McHugh was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship that came with a $500,000 prize. She had no idea what to do with the prize money:

“Nobody deserves that kind of money, and I think something in me was chastened by being awarded such a big amount of money,” she said.Then, her godson and his wife had a baby with severe disabilities, and McHugh says she kept thinking about how stressful that would be for them raising a daughter who would never walk, talk or be able to feed herself.

“It was obvious to me when that baby was born that in 10 years, they were going to need a break,” she said.

And with the realization that people who are full-time caregivers truly need a break (up to 70% suffer from depression caused by their round-the-clock duties), she created Caregifted:

CAREGIFTED grants respite to long-term family caregivers, and works to greaten public recognition of their gifts to society, as well as of their historically unprecedented numbers.Full-time caregivers of the most severely disabled have sacrificed their own leisure, resources and ambitions to serve those unable to serve themselves. Such acts of love go largely unnoticed because these caregivers are generally confined to their homes, mired in unpaid labors.

CAREGIFTED offers weeks away in inspiring locations””scenic vacation spots where caregivers can refresh their perspectives and record their views in words and images, returning home better rested and represented.

A wonderful idea and big heart are all it took to get the idea off the ground. Recipients say it’s the little things during their getaways that mean the most. From caregiver Trisha Elson, a single mom who takes care of two disabled sons:

She did some whale watching and kayaking, had a massage and made herself a smoothie every morning to enjoy on her deck overlooking the harbor. In the evening, she watched the Food Network to her heart’s content.“It was the first time in many, many years that I only had to worry about myself,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about getting anybody their meds, if anybody was going to tantrum and set anybody off. It was just unbelievable.”

See more on the work Heather McHugh and her partners at Caregifted are doing to help those who never stop caring: Caregifted: