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Caregiver Recognition

Caregiver Recognition

In November 2022, the Arkansas Lifespan Respite Coalition recognized five individuals/organizations for their work and commitment to caregiving and respite needs. These five awards were presented to the recipients during the 2022 Arkansas Caregiver and Respite Conference. For more information on the awards and awardees, see below.

Nominations are now being accepted for 2023 Caregiver and Respite Recognition Awards!

To nominate an individual or an organization you know, or to nominate yourself, please complete the application linked here. An awards committee will select award recipients prior to the 2023 Arkansas Caregiver and Respite Conference slated for the fall. All award recipients will be featured on the Arkansas Lifespan Respite website as well as be offered the opportunity to contribute to the quarterly newsletter and participate in media opportunities involving Arkansas Lifespan Respite activities.

Official Rules

Eligibility for Individuals: Any Individual Who Meets the Following Criteria is Eligible to be Nominated
– The nominee cares for or has cared for a family member
– The nominee developed and implemented an innovative way to support family caregivers or former family caregivers
– The nominee provides support for family caregivers or former family caregivers in a way that makes the caregiving experiences better and easier
– The nominee inspires others to make a difference

Eligibility for Organizations: Any Organization that Meets the Following Criteria are Eligible to be Nominated
– The organization has implemented an innovative way to support loved ones and family caregivers
– The organization provides support for loved ones and family caregivers in a way that makes the caregiving experience better and easier
– The organization leads by example and inspires other organizations to make a difference



Family Caregiver of the Year

The Family Caregiver of the Year honors an individual who cares for a family member or friend and spotlights this caregiver for complementing caregiving with their own needs and interests while inspiring others. Upon moving to Russellville in early 2022, Denice began researching supports available and discovered in her rural area that recreational activities for the young adult community with disabilities was lacking. She applied for a grant through the Arkansas Autism Foundation and started BowlAbility, a program for families with kids of all ages. At the time of recognition, BowlAbility had successfully hosted three (3) events with around 50 participants at each event. Denice also helped create educational videos on various topics relevant for transition-aged young adults with autism and other special needs. She goes above and beyond as a caregiver and a mom, not only helping her own son, but reaching out to support other families with similar needs.

Young Adult/Youth Caregiver of the Year

The Young Adult/Youth Caregiver of the Year honors an individual within the growing number of younger people taking on caregiving responsibilities. Madison, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Central Arkansas, also provides care to her younger sister Jaya. Jaya was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Ataxia Telangiectasia (AT)- a very rare, progressive disease that affects only 500 children and young adults within the U.S. Madison was 13 years old when her sister was diagnosed, but she did not hesitate to help and learned all there was to know on how to care for her sister. She has not only been instrumental in her younger sister’s physical care, such as feed tubing, bathing, and other daily living activities, but Madison assists her sister mentally, providing encouragement and advocating on her behalf. Madison also uses her social media platform to spread awareness out AT and provides educational videos on what its like being a caregiver. Madison is not only a full-time college student and a caregiver to her sister, but she also works 30-40 hours a week, participates in the Honors College and Honors Counsel and is a member of the UCA Choir.

Caregiving Organization of the Year

The Caregiving Organization of the Year award spotlights an organization that leads by example and inspires other service providers to make a difference in the lives of caregivers and their loved ones. Community Connections, lead by Courtney Leach and her team, are a non-profit organization created in 2007 who provide respite sessions, free of charge for caregivers and families, across three locations- Bryant, Conway, and Little Rock. Children with disabilities and their siblings are provided time spent doing enjoyable activities in a community setting. In additional to a program director and a nurse onsite, volunteers are recruited from local colleges and universities, and local faith-based organizations to provide services. Each volunteer is supported with one-on-one training and staff support after completed an online respite training and many are bilingual in both English and Spanish.

Respite and Caregiving Visionary Award

The Respite and Caregiving Visionary Award recognizes an individual or organization that has developed and implemented innovated ways to support family caregivers and former family caregivers. Theba’s understanding of caregiving comes from being a caregiver to both of her parents who were diagnosed with dementia-related diseases. Theba moved her father to Arkansas after he received his diagnoses of Dementia Lewy Body to care for him and soon after, her mother received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Initially she juggled both caregiving and working as an on-air host of THV11’s The Vine but chose to retire and become a full-time caregiver in 2021. Even thought Theba left the news station, she felt a calling to continue to reach people and share with the world, and more importantly, other caregivers, tips, and resources. She committed herself to creating a YouTube channel and podcast to help share personal stories she has had during her journey. Theba continues to advocate for the Alzheimer’s and dementia population, and inspiring others through her personal experiences and showing her vulnerability as a caregiver.

Caregiving Advocate of the Year

The Caregiver Advocate of the Year recognizes a caregiver and advocate, honored for providing support for family caregivers or former family caregivers in a way that makes the caregiving experience better and easier. Jerilyn is the proud mother to 10-year-old Emma, diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal condition in females where genetic material is missing and may prevent the body from growing and maturing naturally, as well as a combination of other health conditions and diagnoses. Even as a full-time mom and caregiver, Jerilyn finds time to serve and support the disability community. A few of her accomplishments include raising money to construct the One Heart Inclusive Playground at Burns Park, participating in speaking engagements on topics such as self-care and mental health counseling, and providing childcare during sib shops and hosting pampering events for caregiver moms. She has been instrumental in raising awareness and funding for Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Easter Seals, and others. Jerilyn has done so much to help families in the disability community and continues to serve and support.