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AARP, Asian American Journalists Announce Caregiving Contest Winners

Stories chronicle the cultural perspective of caring for a loved one

Mother and daughter sit at table and review cards

Rick Quan

A caregiver, right, for Dorothy Toy, who became famous in the 1930s as half of an Asian American dance team, shows the then-101-year-old woman flashcards to help her memory.

More than 40 million family caregivers in the U.S. provide unpaid support to those with chronic, disabling or otherwise serious health conditions.

To better understand their journeys, AARP partnered with the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) to find stories that capture the effects of caregiving in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

"Journalists are caregivers and storytellers. They also have a vast communication channel to reach audiences,” says Daphne Kwok, AARP vice president of multicultural leadership for the Asian American and Pacific Islander audience. “AARP and AAJA want to identify and amplify the Asian American and Pacific Islander caregiving stories that either are personal or other people's stories.

"Through the AARP-AAJA Caregiving contest, AARP wants to be a catalyst to have AAPIs identify as caregivers, to prepare to care for their loved ones and to know that AARP is a trusted source of information for caregivers," she says.

Winners received a monetary prize and a trip to the Asian American Journalists Association convention in Atlanta.

Winning entries

Best video

Filmmaker and former sportscaster Rick Quan produced After the Music Stops, a short film about Dorlie Fong's caring for her mother, legendary dancer Dorothy Toy, who had Alzheimer's disease. Toy died July 10, 2019, at age 102.

Watch the video below:

Best essay

Chris Lee's* personal essay, “Self-Care for the Secret Caregiver,” details her private struggle to tend to her mother as she battles cancer. Read the full essay here.

Best photo essay

Colleen Cummins’ photo series “The Caregiver” chronicles the daily life of Mary McGinnis and her grandson Alex Acuna, who suffers from chromosomal microduplication and severe allergies. McGinnis has been his primary caregiver since he was an infant and is a fierce supporter of rights for people with disabilities.

View selections from the photo essay below:

  • A sticker on a front door gate reading allergy - please no milk, dairy, wheat products for Alex
    Colleen Cummins

    A sticker placed on the screen door of Mary’s home warns visitors of Alex’s severe allergies. He has a very restrictive diet and is 100 percent allergic to all dairy, peanuts, wheat, eggs as well as dusts and molds.

    1 of 9
  • Mary feeding Alex with a spoon
    Colleen Cummins

    Alex is Mary's “miracle boy,” she is fond of saying. When she took custody of him she was told he'd never survive past infancy. Over the last eight years as California has struggled to balance its budget, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) has been cut back and that restricts the hours for a IHSS provider. Mary is owed hundreds of back hours by the state of California.

    2 of 9
  • Mary McGinnis, 51, left, and her grandson Alex Acuna, 8, right, walking in a community march
    Colleen Cummins

    Driven by fears of budget cuts to California’s Lanterman Act, the 1977 state law that provides the developmentally disabled with the right to services, Mary became activist “Mommy Tsunami” and organized a march within the disabled community near the state capitol in Sacramento.

    3 of 9
  • Alex at school sitting at a table with other kids doing crafts. He is being helped by his one-on-one paraeducator
    Colleen Cummins

    One of the small breaks Mary gets from caring for Alex is when he's at school. Since his disabilities and allergies are so severe, Alex has a one-on-one paraeducator — Leslie, at Butte Elementary School in Sutter County — who is solely responsible for him while at school. Leslie helps him with all educational activities in the classroom and makes sure he is not exposed to any foods that could cause a deadly allergic reaction.

    4 of 9
  • Alex sitting on the floor with bunch of video tapes scattered around him
    Colleen Cummins

    As with many children with autism, Alex has sensory sensitivity. Alex can obsess for hours over videotapes — his favorite is Elmo. He will stop and rewind and play the tapes over and over again always stopping at the same scene. Alex will also use the dialogue on the tapes to express things since he is a nonverbal communicator. 

    5 of 9
  • Mary dressing Alex in the hallway of a hospital
    Colleen Cummins

    Mary dresses Alex in the hallway of Fremont-Rideout Hospital in Marysville, Calif. and waits on his discharge paperwork. While working on the Mommy Tsunami march and rally plan Mary was informed by Alex’s school that he had gotten ahold of a small amount of peanut butter that sent him into anaphylactic shock. He received his dual EpiPen and was taken to hospital for observation.

    6 of 9
  • Mary helping Alex into their van after leaving the hospital
    Colleen Cummins

    Mary helps Alex into his car seat after he is finally released to go home four hours later.

    7 of 9
  • Mary helping Alex out of his wheelchair while marching with hundreds of supporters of disabled rights outside the California state capitol.l
    Colleen Cummins

    After two days of marching with the Mommy Tsunami through the northern Sacramento valley, Alex, Mary and hundreds of supporters of disabled rights reached the steps of the California state capitol.

    8 of 9
  • Alex leans into kiss his grandmother
    Colleen Cummins

    Alex leans into kiss his grandmother. Months of planning and connecting with other parents of disabled children finally came to a crescendo when after four days of walking on and off Mary and Alex arrived to deliver the Lanterman Act to Gov. Jerry Brown.

    View the full photo essay

    9 of 9

* Chris Lee is a pseudonym.

Editor's note: This story, originally published July 25, 2019, was updated to reflect the death of Dorothy Toy.

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