Elizabeth Dole Foundation Launches Hidden Helpers to Focus on Military Caregiver Children

Hidden Heroes News April 2021

White House’s Joining Forces, Wounded Warrior Project, and coalition of organizations pledge support for children in military and veteran caregiving families

Washington, DC (April 29, 2021) — The Elizabeth Dole Foundation announces the launch of Hidden Helpers, a new initiative designed to create supportive programming for the children of America’s 5.5 million military caregivers.

The Foundation is teaming with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and the Biden Administration’s Joining Forces program to build the Hidden Helpers Coalition, which will call on partners to pledge to take action that fills the gaps in support and services for military caregiver kids and youth. 

“Little is known about the long-term impacts of military and veteran caregiving on children and adolescents who are often serving as primary and secondary caregivers,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “With the support of Joining Forces, Wounded Warrior Project, and other organizations, we hope that we can shine a light on the children of our hidden heroes and what they do for their wounded, ill, and injured service members at home.” 

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation commissioned a research blueprint, conducted by the RAND Corporation in 2017, which revealed that no published studies exist exploring the impact of caregiving on the children of caregivers, despite consensus around the need. To date, the Foundation’s programming has largely helped kids by supporting their parents.

The goal of Hidden Helpers is to directly serve caregiver children. To ensure Hidden Helpers effectively responds to the most urgent needs of these children, the Foundation, initiated a study with research firm Mathematica to better understand the impact of caregiving on children and the specific programmatic interventions that would be most effective. The study, funded by Wounded Warrior Project, will be released in September 2021. 

The Foundation is calling on organizations to step up now and join the coalition, chaired by Schwab and Wounded Warrior Project CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington. The Coalition will focus on three pillars: 

  1. Invest in evidence-based, inclusive research to understand the effects of being a hidden helper on children and adolescent development. 
  2. Support enabling policy and legislation to recognize the unique needs of the diverse hidden helper population and fund programming.  
  3. Promote and invest in programmatic interventions reflective and inclusive of hidden helpers and grounded in best practice informed by research.   

“Wounded Warrior Project is committed to expanding the resources available to America’s wounded, ill and injured veterans and helping ensure they and their families are thriving long-term. By partnering with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and investing in the Hidden Helpers Coalition, we will better understand the impact that caregiving can have on military and veteran children,” said Linnington. “This work is vital to building strong, resilient veteran families and communities. We are grateful to the Biden administration and Joining Forces for their support of the Hidden Helpers Coalition and invite other organizations to join us.”

The Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project will host an event in May with Joining Forces to organize the coalition around preliminary research findings and begin seeking organizational commitments of support. Additional organizations that have already signed on include:


Armed Services YMCA

Blue Star Families

Bob Woodruff Foundation 

Camp Corral 

Caregiver Action Network

Caregivers on the Homefront 



Cerner Charitable Foundation

Code of Support 

Cohen Veterans Clinic 

Combined Arms Institute

Disabled American Veterans


Elizabeth Dole Foundation

Emory Healthcare Veterans Program

Exceptional Families of the Military


Independence Fund 

Institute for Veterans & Military Families at Syracuse University

Kid’s Rank 


Military Advisory Network 

Military Child Education Coalition

Modern Military Association of America

Nation’s Finest 

National Military Family Association

Operation Gratitude 

Our Military Kids 

Paralyzed Veterans of America 




Public Counsel


Rosalynn Carter Institute 

Sesame Street 

Support The Enlisted Project (STEP)

Student Veterans of America 


United Through Reading

Vets Community Connection 

To learn more, visit www.hiddenheroes.org/hiddenhelpers. If you are interested in connecting with a member of the Foundation’s leadership team or a hidden helper, please contact Lauryn Cantrell at Lauryn@elizabethdolefoundation.org. 

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