We’re stoked to share our story with Angel Foundation’s community in celebration of Caregiver Awareness Month.

More people should know that in large part we owe our existence to Angel Foundation. Former staff member Missy Lundquist was instrumental in helping us hone our vision. She also inspired us and held us accountable. She was a fantastic coach!

So, you’re wondering – what’s the idea behind Jack’s Caregiver Coalition? Who is this Jack guy, anyway?

Jack represents every man who provides and cares for a loved one with a serious ailment. We are a start-up that exists to serve the male caregiver. Our founders are all men. We came to realize that support systems for people in our position simply don’t work for us, and we decided to fix that.

We’re often asked, “is this a guy’s club?” The answer is a resounding “No”. We have almost as many women involved as we do men. The funny thing is it’s usually the women that are the most passionate about our organization. We work hard to leverage that passion by finding ways they can volunteer their expertise and creative energy.

Nearly half of all caregivers are men, so the need for an organization like ours is there. In the state of Minnesota alone, it’s estimated that there are 345,000 unpaid male family caregivers. This number grows daily for a lot of reasons, some of which can be credited to major innovations in healthcare. People are living longer with once deadly diseases because of advancements in medication, treatment, surgery, and rehabilitation technologies. And many of these people are never cured – they just learn to live and function with their disease or disability.

Most women caregivers seek out community and look for help. Friendship, companionship, and reliance come natural to them. They have conversations and they collaborate, which is not something commonly found among male caregivers.

While men know the value of collaboration, we tend to rely on our “We can fix anything,” and “I’ll take care of it myself” way of thinking. We have conversations about our fantasy sports teams, our hunting trips, or our trip to the cabin. Talking about subjects that don’t threaten our emotions or make us vulnerable are easy. We have an innate desire to show strength, and asking for help means we can’t do it on our own.

Think of the people that these men care for; their spouses, parents, siblings, and children. Think of the quality of care that these men are giving. Think of these men grinding through caregiving alone in isolation. Day in and day out watching someone they love suffer and wither; getting weaker and weaker. Imagine a man watching his kids see their newly bald mom for the first time, or his wife as she comforts their ailing child, or his son taking time off from his first job to drive his mom to medical appointments.

Do you think these men possess the best mindset, the best knowledge, the best skills, or the best support system to take on this incredibly difficult and crucial work?

What if they did? Imagine if they were provided the tools, the community, and the guidance to navigate a road they never expected to be on.

What if a guy was told exactly where he could go when he first finds himself in the position of caregiver? And what if it’s a place he would actually want to go? We’re not talking about a website, a message board, a support group, or a counselor. We’re talking about a place where he could do things he enjoys in places he likes to be.

The catch is there are other men just like him in that place who’ve already been on this road he’s on, and journeyed through the most brutal caregiving experiences; and men that are still struggling through it right alongside him. And what if in that place there were hordes of people who deeply respected him for being the best caregiver he can be?

Ask yourself, what would happen in a place like that?

Do you think that place would have a deep and lasting impact on him, on the people he serves, or on our society?

Yes, it will, and it already is!

We think of ourselves as a hospitality company. We’re not trying to change people. We’re just offering them spaces where change can occur – spaces that are free of dividing lines. We’re not trying to bring anyone over to our side. We don’t have an agenda. People won’t remember what we say, they’ll remember the way we make them feel. We boil it down to creating extraordinary experiences. That’s the litmus test for everything we do, we want people to be blown away!

We start by connecting experienced caregivers with new caregivers one on one, perhaps for a beer or coffee. We call this “Jack-to-Jack,” and it’s probably the most simple and powerful thing we do. We serve meals to larger groups. We provide project based support (Jack’s Crew), and financial counseling. We are a start-up, so everything we’re currently doing is an experiment. We learn each time and we improve. Soon we’ll be experimenting with a golf tournament, with a hunting trip, and a fishing trip. It’s simple really, we do things guys love doing!

This fall we held our inaugural Bags Competition, a cornhole tournament where male caregivers are the VIPs, and get red carpet treatment.

This isn’t your usual silent auction gala. This is outdoor fun with live music, great food, craft beer, fun for kids, and a variety of interactive activities with our sponsors. Knockerball (think human bumper cars), fishing accuracy contest, rowing contest, and of course the main attraction is the cornhole tournament sanctioned by the American Cornhole Association. Click here to see a drone video from the event at CHS Field. We can’t wait to take it to the next level next year.

We’re so excited about wrapping up our first year, learning from it, and heading into year two with a greater idea of who we are, and an increased passion for what we’re doing. I encourage you to read more about us on our website www.jackscaregiverco.org, and while there please join our mailing list. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIN. I also encourage you to reach out to us if you’re interested in becoming involved. We are always looking for passionate leaders!

And please, the next time you hear about a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with a serious disease or is coping with a disability – please ask who is the primary caregiver? Please ask what you can do to support them. Even if it’s as simple as just giving them a pat on the back or just telling them how much you appreciate what they’re doing. Trust us, that simple gesture will make an enormous impact!

Photo Credit: Lisa Venticinque Photography