2017: Maria Dampier
It all started over a heart-shaped pizza on a cold winter afternoon in Garfield Park. Maria Dampier was a single mom trying to make ends meet. She wasn’t interested in dating. But then Bill Dampier asked her out for pizza, and she said, yes. They were both bus drivers at Perry Township Schools.
They were married on Dec. 30, 1972. On that happy occasion, she couldn’t imagine how things would turn out. Instead of growing old together at home where they built their lives around four children, Maria spends her days caring for Bill as Alzheimer’s robs him of his ability to walk, say more than a word or two, or to care for himself.
2016: Gayle Towles
When Gayle Towles said his wedding vows, “for better or worse and in sickness and in health,” he meant every word. He just had no idea it would mean becoming a caregiver for not only his first wife, but his second wife, too.
Towles retired early in 1989 as a teacher and head basketball coach at Ben Davis High school to take care of his high school sweetheart and wife, Donna, who was fighting colon cancer. He never left her side, taking her to appointments, giving her herbal treatments, and keeping her comfortable. Cancer took her life in 1996. They had been married 42 years.
2015: Milana Riggs
Milana and Charlene were friends since age seven—the inseparable kind. When Charlene got sick, she told her friend that she didn’t want her parents to live in a nursing home and asked if Milana would care for them.
“Honey, piece of cake, of course I will,” Milana promised.
Milana has made good on that promise, caring for Mr. and Mrs. Bradley for 10 years.
2014: Mark A. Lee
Mark A. Lee, Indianapolis, Ind., was named the 2014 Caregiver of the Year at the fifth annual CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions’ Signature Breakfast at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, Ind. The Caregiver of the Year Award honors one personal caregiver in Central Indiana who models courage, sacrifice, strength and creativity while caring for another.
Lee is one of the estimated 65.7 million people in the United States who provide care for an elderly or disabled family member. According to The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 66 percent of caregivers are women. However, caregivers also can be husbands or adult sons who selflessly and compassionately care for a loved one.
2013: JoAnn Fowler Combs
CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions presented the 2013 Caregiver of the Year Award to JoAnn Fowler Combs, Indianapolis, Ind., during its fourth annual Signature Breakfast at the Ritz Charles, Carmel, Ind.
“Taking care of people—from the youngest ones to now older adults—it’s been a journey, but also a gift from God,” said Combs. “And to meet so many people in the community who are involved in the same mission of caregiving…it was a blessing to be there and to receive this honor.”
2012: Pauline Reeves
The winner of the 2012 Caregiver of the Year Award was Pauline Reeves, Lebanon, Ind. Reeves said she was “surprised and humbled” to receive the award.
“Caregiving in the home requires exceptional dedication because the caregiver is never truly ‘off the clock,’” said CICOA President and CEO Orion Bell IV. “CICOA created this award to draw attention to the great personal sacrifices that caregivers like Pauline Reeves make every day, sometimes to the detriment of their own well-being.”Cindy Hickson, director of personal services at Boone County Senior Services, nominated Reeves, noting her selflessness, dedication, creativity and patience while caring for her husband, Mike.
2011: Carissa Denny
CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions presented the first annual Caregiver of the Year Award to Carissa Denny, Greenfield, as part of its annual Signature Breakfast. Carissa was nominated by her mother, Cynthia Flick, for her courage, sacrifice, strength and creativity in overcoming the sometimes-overwhelming stresses and obstacles associated with providing care for her son, Wyatt.
Wyatt, the youngest of Carissa’s three children, was born with several disabilities and suffers from Moebius Syndrome, hip displacement and club feet. He spent the first eight months of his life in a neonatal intensive care unit and then another facility before coming home to his family in March 2004. While he is only 6 years old today, he already has undergone several surgeries and currently lives on a ventilator, tracheotomy tube and feeding tube.