By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Poet spends $500K grant on vacation for others
3559339092b9311a0586810e3e534da1e4a57a4afb02b0423b031fa2c46a4477
McHugh started the nonprofit Caregifted, an organization that "gives vacations to people who have spent a decade or more taking care of a family member full time," Lori White wrote for Upworthy. - photo by Payton Davis
Earning the MacArthur Foundation's $500,000 "Genius Grant" provided Seattle poet Heather McHugh enough money to travel the globe or pamper herself.

Instead, McHugh proved why she earned the funds in the first place, doing something both genius and selfless, according to Upworthy.

According to The Week, she won the grant in 2009. The question "What do you do when you're suddenly awarded half a million dollars?" stayed stuck in her mind for two years, though.

McHugh told KPLU spending the grant on herself seemed unnecessary though the foundation put no restrictions in place for how she used it.

Nobody deserves that kind of money, and I think something in me was chastened by being awarded such a big amount of money, she said.

Ashley Gross of KPLU wrote that a family member's obstacles finally helped McHugh decide the small fortune's fate: Her godson's wife gave birth to a baby with "severe disabilities."

McHugh pondered the struggle the family faced and the few opportunities they'd have for much-deserved travel, according to The Week.

"It was obvious to me when that baby was born that in 10 years, they were going to need a break," she said.

So McHugh started the nonprofit Caregifted, an organization that "gives vacations to people who have spent a decade or more taking care of a family member full time," Lori White wrote for Upworthy.

Upworthy's report indicated the seed of her idea centered around struggles within her family, but millions of caregivers devote their time to the responsibility with little or no vacation.

Around 15 million caregivers gave an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care last year, White of Upworthy reported.

Gross wrote that Tricia Elsner is one of those 15 million and a recipient of a Caregifted vacation.

Of Elsner's three sons, two have autism; she went to Eastport, Maine, for her trip, according to KPLU.

The trip provided unique opportunities like watching whales and kayaking. But some of her fondest moments consisted of partaking in hobbies made difficult by her role as a caregiver, like watching TV, Elsner told KPLU.

It was the first time in many, many years that I only had to worry about myself, Elsner said. I didnt have to worry about getting anybody their meds, if anybody was going to tantrum and set anybody off. It was just unbelievable.

The Week's report indicated McHugh sometimes accompanies guests, lending a hand when they need one. Often, they wish to just go on a walk or read a book, though.

"They ask for the simplest things on vacation," McHugh told KPLU.

White reported Caregifted has given vacations to 30 caregivers so far.