Meet HopSkipDrive CareDriver Thomas Barnhart
Written by Karen Sampson
Children have always played a central role, both professionally and personally, in the life of Seattle-area CareDriver Thomas Barnhart. His success as a CareDriver — he’s completed more than 1,100 trips since becoming a CareDriver in July of 2020 — is undoubtedly linked to his background as a tutor for foster students and his experience being part of a large extended family. Thanks to his extensive caregiving experience, he has an innate understanding of how to work with children to help them feel safe and secure.
What made you interested in being a HopSkipDrive CareDriver?
I tutored foster children for Treehouse for Kids in Seattle for six years, and I really enjoy helping children.
What do you like most about being a CareDriver?
The stories the kids have about their days at school. I am the youngest of seven children, and I have 21 nieces and nephews, 26 great nieces and nephews, and 12 great-grandchildren.
How does your caregiving experience impact the work you do as a CareDriver?
As a tutor for Treehouse, I learned how to be successful at getting kids who had closed down due to difficult foster homes to open back up to learning through kindness and encouragement.
Have you had any special experiences with Riders that have been meaningful to you?
I am a Primary CareDriver for one child who loves to keep score of spotting Teslas, Jeeps and GMCs along the route to school. We usually try to see who can spot them first, then simultaneously say the name while laughing. The child usually beats me!
What is the most important thing you get out of being a CareDriver?
Creating joy and happiness for kids, and making sure they always get to their destination safe and sound.
Have you learned anything surprising from your Riders?
They almost always have a smile on their face. They are joyful, and I always love listening to their stories.
What advice would you say to someone who’s thinking about becoming a CareDriver?
What could be better than the opportunity to contribute to the joy and happiness of children?
Do you have any advice to share with other CareDrivers?
Always have fun but never take your eyes off the road, and pay attention to your surroundings. When driving, always incorporate the “what-if” method for defensive driving. Also, think of all the scenarios for things you might need during your rides like extra hand towels, sanitizing wipes, a bucket with a lid for a child that might get car sick, etc.
Do you tell friends and family about HopSkipDrive?
Yes! Several sisters of mine are retired teachers, admissions directors for schools, etc. They are some of the best resources for me when it comes to advice.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I love being a CareDriver!