John Kerr | Co-Founder | Caring For Caregivers

My journey with caregiving began while volunteering at a park and recreation center in Anaheim California. I selected to assist with swim safety for challenged youth. At thirteen, I found purpose in helping others, especially those overlooked by society. This early experience ignited a passion within me that would shape my life.


Over three years of volunteering, I was recognized with a teen volunteer award, yet the real reward was the bonds I formed with the participants, especially a boy my age named Paul Brunt. We rode the bus together to and from the park for three years. Little did I know then how significant our relationship would become.


When I went to college at Chapman University, I was part of a team at my church, First Presbyterian Church of Orange, that launched a disabilities ministry. Our Tuesday night fellowship and annual camp retreats started in 1997 and remain intact today. Not only did the program continue to grow, but it is also supported by volunteers and caregivers advocating for those with disabilities.


After college, I became a job coach with a regional center in Southern California, aiming to improve community placement and ensure voices were heard. I believed that everyone, regardless of abilities or disabilities, had the right to live a fulfilling life, including a workplace.   My first client was none other than Paul Brunt. Working with him again felt like a homecoming. Both had grown since riding the bus together, but our bond remained strong. He was still Gus Gus and I was still Bannahead John


However, in 2015 life took me away from California to Tucson, Arizona. Shortly after my move, I received the heartbreaking news that Paul had passed away. His passing was hard for me to accept. Just recently, I found a camp photo. taken in the late 90's. Paul wrote "Best Friends" next to us. What a reminder of the impact we can have on each other's lives, often without realization. 


Through my experiences, I've learned that the most empowering process in caregiving is allowing the individual transitioning to make decisions about their health and how they wish to leave this world. The sooner we engage in these conversations, the more we can fulfill their legacy. Communication is key, and it's through this that a sense of community is fostered.


Looking back on my journey, I realize that what I want to leave behind is a legacy of empathy, respect, and empowerment for future generations of caregivers. I want them to understand the importance of allowing those they care for to have a say in their own lives, even when they're transitioning. I want them to know that everyone has a right to a fulfilling life and that our caregivers' job is to help them achieve that.


In the end, Paul was only 42 and was the starting point of my story as a caregiver. The human connection and understanding that everyone has a story and every story matters. It's about recognizing the power of communication and community. Most importantly, it's about remembering that no matter who we are or where we come from, we all can impact someone else's life in ways we can't even imagine.