Karen Smith has a busy day. She is a single mother of four children, three of whom have additional needs, takes care of their parents and regularly volunteers with two local organizations.
Ms. Smith provides round-the-clock care for her children, who are between the ages of 23 and 13, and some of whom have been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, ADHD or Asperger’s syndrome.
She also takes care of her 74-year-old father, who has been blinded by diabetes, and her 70-year-old mother, who has emphysema.
“It’s constant attention. It’s a constant need. On a daily basis, I have to do different things for my dad, like take him to appointments and stuff. I’ve never been away overnight,” she explained.
“It can be a nightmare trying to balance it all. I feel like I’m always doing three things at once. It’s a lot of work.”
Ms. Smith said she spends as little time as she has on pursuing her passion for photography and volunteering.
“To be sane, I am a photographer and give my skills free to charity, especially to anyone locally. The least you can do is give a little bit back,” she said.
“I joined a volunteer group last year with a volunteer group called the Ku Chulen Blood Bike. Last year when I was sick I needed five pints of blood and wanted to give back when I could. I East I also volunteer with a meth defibrillator unit and we actually teach people how to use a defibrillator.”
Having recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and in need of regular medication to combat it, she has had her own battle with health.
“It’s all stress related. I feel like I’ve worn myself out in the field,” she says of her condition.
But despite the effect of the work, both physical and mental, she will not change anything.
“Family is family. Family is everything to me. I’m glad I’m the one taking care of my kids and my mom and dad. I’m glad I took care of them. They mean everything,” she said .
Ms Smith said she was completely taken aback when she was announced as the winner of the award, but was “absolutely delighted”.
He was tamed by his youngest daughter, Megan (13), who described her mother as “a legend and a hero”.
She said that her mother cared for them all her life and “she never complains and always puts her children and the community first”.
“No one asks to be a caregiver and yet, those who do take responsibility with kindness, love, and dedication,” she said.
“We, as a society, must ensure that this love is not taken lightly and that the caregivers of the family are not only recognized but genuinely supported in the safe care of their loved ones.”