FRAMINGHAM – Advocates, a Framingham-based nonprofit human services provider, has been supporting family caregivers and their loved ones for more than 40 years. Through this year’s Fred Gaspari Fund for Families cycle, Advocates awarded $10,500 to family caregivers of a loved one with an intellectual or developmental disability.
“This has been an especially challenging year for caregivers, with many families facing reduced income and decreased access to respite care and day services for their loved one,” says Jeff Keilson, senior vice president of strategic planning at Advocates. “The goal of the Gaspari Fund is to help more families make it possible for their loved ones with disabilities to live a better life in ways that make sense to them.”
This year, 21 families received Gaspari grants to be used in a variety of ways including for therapeutic horseback riding lessons, home exercise equipment, and respite care. Several recipients will use the funds to help make up for financial hardships due to the pandemic or for remote learning assistance.
Priscilla Bessa, whose daughter has Rett syndrome and related seizures, will use her Gaspari grant to purchase a seizure monitor not covered by insurance. This will be life changing for Bessa, who also has a child with autism, as she will no longer have to stay up at night to watch for potentially life-threatening seizure activity.
For Kathleen Pignone, the funds from her Gaspari grant will go towards hiring a job coach for her son Owen, who has autism. “Owen has been exposed to vocational skills at his school and loves working,” she said. “I believe that having a job gives people a role and purpose in life.” Pignone, who is a single mother of two, hopes the support from a job coach will help Owen become more independent and gain practical skills.
Since 2009, Advocates has distributed $80,500 in grants to more than 250 families through the Fred Gaspari Fund.
In addition to awarding Gaspari grants, Advocates also held a Caregiver Appreciation Contest in honor of National Family Caregivers Month in November. 10 dedicated family caregivers were nominated, and all 10 were awarded respite packages including gift cards for meals and other self-care items.
Winners included parents caring for children with autism or other developmental disabilities and Shared Living caregivers. Nominating his wife, who cares for their son, one husband wrote, “This caregiver appreciation award would mean so much to her, as it has been a long and tiring road so far, and just a little chance to have time to herself would mean so much. She has given of herself since [our son] was born and continues to.”
These initiatives are two of the many ways Advocates supports family caregivers and their loved ones each year. As part of its broad range of services, Advocates offers an Adult Family Care program; family support centers; recreation, social, and employment supports; and contact with a family support navigator to assist in identifying and accessing resources.
“At Advocates, we are committed to partnering with family caregivers in doing all that we can to support them, reduce their stress, and help provide opportunities for their loved ones with disabilities,” says Keilson.
Photo & press release submitted to SOURCE media by Advocates