Carol Christofero Snider did not know that she would become his caregiver when she married Randall Snider in 1970. It didn’t happen overnight but was a slow accumulation of responsibility as the extent of his brain injury became clear over many years.
Christofero Snider didn’t think of herself as a caregiver and neither did any of the government agencies with which she interacted. But the experience took a deep toll on her life, requiring all the energy and determination she could muster.
It came much too late, but some recognition of her sacrifice has finally been offered. Christofero Snider has been appointed as a fellow of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The former United States Senator launched the foundation in 2012 after seeing the efforts made by spouses, parents and other loved ones who were assisting wounded veterans.
“The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, it is the first time that I have completely been recognized as a caregiver. I didn’t realize for years that’s what I was,” Christofero Snider said. “I didn’t feel like that.”
Lucy Sears of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation said the organization is proud to be able to recognize people such as Christofero Snider who have been working behind the scenes for so many years.
“Help shine a light on their role and bring more attention to what we call hidden heroes,” Sears said. “She has an incredible story.”
The Hidden Heroes campaign has three goals:
• To help raise public awareness of military caregivers and the sacrifices they make in their daily lives.
• To inspire individuals, businesses, civic organizations and government leaders to support the caregivers in their communities.
• To establish a voluntary national registry of military caregivers. These individuals are encouraged to sign up at HiddenHeroes.org in order to receive resources and support.
Being an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow has put Christofero Snider in touch with a new generation of caregivers, almost all of whom are caring for veterans wounded in the post 9/11 combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The quality of medical care has improved greatly, but the emotional, financial and commitment costs of being a caregiver have not changed over the years.
Christofero Snider wants to help caregivers understand the challenges that lie ahead. She even wants them to know that if the cost is too high for them, there is no shame in stepping back and letting others carry the load.
In November, Christofero Snider will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with other fellows from the 2018 class. She will also visit the offices of Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to discuss these issues. On Nov. 29, she will attend a gala hosted by Elizabeth and Bob Dole to honor and raise funds for military caregivers. Actor Tom Hanks, the Hidden Heroes Campaign Chair, will be among the celebrities in attendance.
Christofero Snider is extremely thankful to Senator Dole for her efforts to recognize and support caregivers.
“They have put a face on caregiving. We are important, and we do a tremendous amount,” she said.
Christofero Snider said the foundation’s information and resources are not limited solely to military caregivers. There are many people who serve as caregivers for a wide variety of reasons and they all deserve appreciate and support, she believes.