Voices of 2.3 million children and youth supporting military and veteran caregivers are being heard
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden walks with a group of hidden helpers, the children and youth of parents caring for wounded veterans, at the White House on November 10, 2021. (Photo Credit: Katie Dance)
Washington, DC (November 10, 2022)— The Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF) and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Hidden Helpers Coalition launch event at the White House. Last year, on November 10, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Denis McDonough, and Senator Elizabeth Dole announced the First Lady’s Joining Forces initiative would join EDF and WWP in responding to an alarming new study revealing serious concerns about the 2.3 million children and youth military and veteran caregivers.
“Since launching Hidden Helpers at the White House last year, a fire has been lit for us and our partners to support the children and youth helping take care of our wounded, ill, or injured service members,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of EDF and Co-chair of the Coalition. “We’ve created incredible progress in recognizing caregiver kids this past year and look forward to more work together in the future.”
In its first year, more than 78 organizations have pledged their support to uplift the voices of caregiver kids and youth and have committed to over 40 new programs and initiatives to better support the needs of military and veteran families. The newest commitments by coalition members can be found here.
“We’re proud of the growth and impact of this Coalition, and we’re honored to collaborate with Elizabeth Dole Foundation and so many other admirable organizations to support our hidden helpers,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington, WWP CEO and Co-chair of the Coalition. “These remarkable young people not only share in the sacrifices their loved ones made to our country, but they assume caregiving responsibilities that the outside world never sees and certainly does not understand. The members of the Coalition are working hard to adapt already existing programming or develop new initiatives to support the unique needs of this population. Wounded Warrior Project is proud to support these efforts through a $1.5 million dedicated fund. We’re excited for the continued growth of this Coalition so that we can further improve the quality of life of children and youth caregivers across the country.”
Highlights of the first year include:
Launching of the Untold Story Challenge: Today, The History Channel and A&E Networks is launching the first-ever ‘Untold Story Challenge,’ a new storytelling initiative, in partnership with EDF, that is aimed at amplifying the stories of hidden helpers by shining a light on the stories of America’s military-connected, caregiving youth. Through writing, drawing, film, and photography, hidden helpers will be able to share their origin stories and see themselves in the stories of others. This will be the first step in working together to explore new and innovative ways to recognize our nation’s hidden helpers and their service. To learn more, visit www.hiddenheroes.org./untoldstory.
Creating Resources: Hidden Helpers has created a tool kit of resources, including guides for individuals in a Hidden Helper’s life such as parents, teachers, healthcare providers, coaches, and government officials. EDF, Bob Woodruff Foundation, and WWP also launched a webinar series about how to create programs to best serve hidden helpers. To see the current resources, visit www.hiddenheroes.org/hiddenhelpers.
White House Recognition: Hidden helpers were brought together by Joining Forces at the White House for multiple occasions including the White House Christmas Tree Lighting, Easter Egg Roll, and Trick-or-Treating. hidden helpers were able to connect with one another and other military families while receiving recognition from the nation’s highest leaders.
Hidden helpers join other military caregiver kids and military families at the White House’s Annual Easter Egg Roll, April 18, 2022. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Dole Foundation)
On October 8, 2022, EDF and WWP joined Dr. Biden, Senator Patty Murray, and Secretary McDonough, for a special event celebrating military and veteran families at Pacific Science Center in Seattle.
Hidden Helper Avarie shares her journey with Dr. Biden and Secretary McDonough at Hidden Helpers Seattle event, October 8, 2022. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Dole Foundation)
Hidden Helper Advocates Sharing their Stories: EDF established a group of Hidden Helper Advocates, military caregiver kids, to share their stories with their communities.
Hidden Helper Advocate Kris Rotenberry shares his story of helping care for his dad at EDF’s annual Heroes & History Makers Celebration on October 19, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Lisa Nipp)
Highlights of their advocacy include:
- Gabby Rodriguez, age 9, at the White House during the Hidden Helpers launch and in a TODAY segment.
- Kris Rotenberry, age 18, presenting at White Oaks, sharing his story in The Baltimore Sun and on the Military Times Spouse Angle podcast, and speaking at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Heroes and History Makers event on October 19, 2022.
- History Channel special on Hidden Helpers
Hidden Helpers was launched out of the findings of a study conducted by research firm Mathematica and commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Hidden Helpers at the Frontlines of Caregiving: Supporting the Healthy Development of Children from Military and Veteran Caregiving Homes, powered by WWP, the study reports that military caregiver kids and young adults struggle with feelings of stigmatization and being misunderstood in social and healthcare settings, and experience significant disruption in their lives, leading to elevated levels of distress. Experts believe this distress can severely impact their emotional and psychological development, long-term well-being, as well as learning in school. Caregiver kids and youth also take on household and family responsibilities and suffer from time lost with their caregiver parent who must divide their attention to meet the veteran’s care needs.To learn more, visit www.hiddenheroes.org/hiddenhelpers.
About the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Hidden Heroes
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is the preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers – the spouses, parents, family members, and friends — who care for America’s wounded, ill, or injured service members and Veterans at home. Founded by Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2012, the Foundation adopts a comprehensive approach in its support and advocacy, working with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit, and faith communities to recognize military caregivers’ service and promote their well-being. The Foundation’s Hidden Heroes campaign brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and provides a network for military caregivers to connect with their peers and access carefully vetted resources. Visit hiddenheroes.org for more information.
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.