Katie Ferguson Guidry has been named to the 2020 class of Dole Caregiver Fellow.
Guidry, of Lafayette, will join 29 other military and veteran caregivers who have been carefully selected from across the country to represent those Americans caring for a wounded, ill, or injured service member or veteran at home. The role of these Fellows has never been more important as caregivers are under unprecedented stress due to the threat of the coronavirus, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation states.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Guidry will serve as a leader, community organizer, and advocate for the nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers – the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who provide more than $14 billion in voluntary care annually to someone who served. They will join the 225 past and present Fellows who are trained by the Foundation and empowered to share their stories and perspectives directly with national leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and other government agencies, as well as decision makers in the business, entertainment, faith, and nonprofit sectors. The Fellows will provide feedback to the Foundation, its coalition partners, and government and community leaders on the most pressing issues concerning military caregivers and influence positive change on behalf of these hidden heroes.
“Our eighth class of Dole Caregiver Fellows is bringing a new set of unique voices to our mission, but all share similar stories of strength, resilience, and hope in caring for their wounded warriors,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “As they care for their veteran, we are grateful for their experiences, wisdom, and willingness to come together and advocate for their fellow hidden heroes. They are the heart and soul of our work.”
Guidry serves as a caregiver for her husband, Barry, who sustained spinal injury that resulted in quadriplegia, paralysis of all four limbs as a result of his military service. Her story is here and pasted below.
Senator Elizabeth Dole created the Dole Caregiver Fellows program in 2012 to directly engage military and veteran caregivers in the Foundation’s mission. The 2020 Fellows class includes loved ones whose service members and veterans represent all branches of service and different eras of peace and conflict. The 2020 class represents 23 states and includes a retired father caring for his daughter and her son, an occupational therapist who took on her own fiancé's full-time care, and a wife who assumed care of her husband and pulled them back from the brink of homelessness.
About the Elizabeth Dole Foundation & Hidden Heroes
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 www.hiddenheroes.org for more information.
About Katie Guidry
Katie Ferguson Guidry was nearing the top of her game when she met her now-husband Barry. She was an experienced public relations executive and volunteered in her Lafayette, Louisiana community in every civic and nonprofit organization she could find. For almost 25 years, Barry had served as an infantry and special operations commander in the Army/Army National Guard and rose to the rank of Major. In 2010 he signed his retirement paperwork with a month and a half leave before his retirement would be official. On his first day of vacation, Barry injured himself in the Ouiska Chitto River, suffering a spinal injury that resulted in quadriplegia, paralysis of all four limbs. Barry and Katie had dated six months prior, and married a year and a half later.
For almost two years, Katie continued to work but eventually left to become Barry’s full-time caregiver. For two career-oriented people, this was a hard change. For Katie, it was challenging to transition from being a high-powered professional to being defined as Barry’s wife. Still, it helped them realize what was truly important in life: their relationship. Every day Barry achieves something new is one of Katie’s best days.
Katie’s responsibilities have changed over the years. In the beginning, there was little Barry could do himself. Over the months and years of therapy, Barry gradually improved to what is considered a functioning quadriplegic and has regained much use of his arms and some of his hands; he can even drive himself to therapy. Today, the care Katie provides has evolved but is still a full-time, hands-on role. She is Barry’s medical advocate, appeals coordinator, diagnostician, psychologist, nutritionist, physical and occupational therapist, housekeeper, entertainer, certified nursing assistant, chauffeur, errand runner and more.
Katie understands many military caregivers are unaware of the assistance available to them and wants to help caregivers utilize these life-changing resources. Katie believes Louisiana has fewer resources than other states and wants to change that, too. Her charitable and philanthropic spirit did not dissipate when she gave up most of her volunteer work; she is just channeling it toward caregivers’ needs.
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