For our third annual Give Back Getaway, we decided to choose the winner from the thousands of talented and compassionate caregivers at our partner communities. We invited staff at our partner communities to either nominate themselves or a coworker for a weekend getaway of rejuvenation and relaxation to Camp Reveille, Joan Lunden’s unique summer camp for women.
We were thrilled with the response! We received hundreds of heartfelt and moving essays on behalf of inspiring caregivers across the country. Our selection committee read each essay carefully before selecting five finalists. Joan Lunden and her team were tasked with choosing a winner. While they were touched by each of the women, the essay written by Tamra Lerum, Health and Wellness Director at Brookdale Minnetonka, stood out.
Tamra wrote of Dawn McGee-Jackson, a caregiver, single mother to three daughters, and two-time breast cancer fighter. As you will read in Tamra’s essay below, Dawn lives the noble mission of senior living every day by going above and beyond for her residents. She remains positive, has a great energy, and uplifts the lives of everyone at Brookdale Minnetonka. After the shock of her win had subsided, we were able to speak with Dawn about her reaction and find out what a weekend of rest and relaxation means to her.
APFM: You have an amazing but very difficult job caring for other people’s parents. How do you stay motivated and so caring?
Dawn: If that was one of my loved ones, I would want somebody’s attitude to be just like mine. We do have our days when we’re weary, but they don’t have anyone else but us caregivers to help them. I pray a lot, and I have faith. I just make sure I have the right focus for what I’m doing. You can’t just do it for the money. You have to be in it with your heart.
APFM: What was it like receiving the news?
Dawn: I didn’t know what was happening. I just felt numb, like I don’t know what’s about to happen. My whole body started shaking. I can’t even put it in words.
APFM: Were you surprised to learn that Tamra nominated you?
Dawn: I was surprised in a good way. We all do our work, and she’s a busy lady, but she always takes time to chat with me. After hearing all the things she said about me, I was shocked that she was really paying that close of attention. She keeps everything to herself and she doesn’t try to make one person seem better than the other, so that’s what shocked me. I was in awe of that.
APFM: Who are you taking to Camp Reveille? Why did you select her?
Dawn: My sister. I have one sister only, and we’re two very busy women. We have never gone on anything together alone, so I felt that she is the one I needed to take.
APFM: Imagine you are around the campfire one night at Camp Reveille sharing stories with all the other caregivers. What one piece of advice would you share with them that gets you through each day as a caregiver?
Dawn: We’re all going to get older, God willing. Would you want someone to take care of you like you’re taking care of that person? You never know when things are going to take a turn. You want the best care for them that you can give. I know it’s hard, but we have to take ourselves out of character and do what we need to do. All they have is us.
APFM: Which activity are you looking forward to at Camp Reveille?
Dawn: I shouldn’t even say it, because I’ll probably be nervous once I get there, but the zip line! I’ve always wondered if I would do it. The excitement and the anxiety is there…I think I will try it!
Please help us congratulate our winner, Dawn McGee Jackson of Brookdale Minnetonka, by leaving your comments below!