Carolyn Stinnett of Louisville is being honored as a 2011 Community Mother of the Year by the Tennessee Justice Center. The award is in recognition of her persistence in ensuring that her son gets the health care he needs.
Stinnett is one of two statewide winners of the third annual Community Mothers of the Year contest. She was nominated twice, by colleague Etta Caldwell and Bryan Garner. Garner has helped care for her son Corey for years and nominated Stinnett on Corey’s behalf.
When Garner and Caldwell heard about the Mother of the Year contest, they knew Stinnett deserved the award. Caldwell wrote, “She is truly a healthcare hero with a Mother’s love. She deserves this honor.”
Garner wrote, “There is no doubt Corey is #1 in her life, and she loves him with all her heart.” Corey is a survivor of Shaken Baby Syndrome. He was placed in foster care when he was only one month old and ten months later, Stinnett, who is his aunt, became his legal guardian.
Despite his disabilities, Corey is an encouragement and hope to many. Stinnett says he “lights up the room.” Corey loves going to school part-time at Eagleton Elementary, and breaks into a big smile as soon as he sees his teacher or classmates. Last fall, Corey bowled for the first time when he participated in the Special Olympics. He even won the first place blue ribbon.
Corey loves meeting new people and seeing new places. He has visited 37 states plus Washington, D.C., and Montreal, Canada, on family vacations and to accompany Stinnett to conferences on Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Stinnett said, “It is especially encouraging to receive this honor now because April is child abuse prevention month.”
At 12, Corey is now 5’2” and cannot walk, sit without help, or talk. Stinnett says that as demanding as it is to care for someone with Corey’s needs, it is harder to deal with all of the obstacles that lie between Corey and the care he requires. Stinnett has fought courageously with school systems, physicians, pharmacies, mental health agencies and hospitals to make sure Corey gets what he needs.
As a Family Resource Center Director for Knox County Schools, Stinnett has worked with other families for 18 years to help them obtain the resources they need to keep their children healthy and in school, so it is frustrating when she is unable obtain essential services for her own child. Stinnett said, “When you have a child with special needs, you must become that child’s outspoken advocate in order to obtain the resources that child needs. That was a real revelation to me -- how much time I would spend fighting for Corey’s rights.”
Corey will never be able to live on his own. Stinnett says she would love to see him catch a fly ball, see him enjoy a burger and fries, and most of all, hear him say “I love you.” But instead of letting Corey’s limitations overwhelm her, Stinnett tries to take her cue from Corey and think positively. “He sets such a wonderful example for everyone who knows him because he finds joy in the simplest things. He is my hero,” said Stinnett.
“Caregivers like Carolyn Stinnett fight for healthcare on behalf of their children every day. Stinnett’s commitment to her son and persistence in fighting for what he needs is an incredibly moving example of why we honor Tennessee mothers for their boundless devotion to their children who are sick or have disabilities,” said Michele Johnson, managing attorney at the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC), a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm based in Nashville. She continues, “Each year, we give communities across the state the chance to nominate mothers for our Community Mothers of the Year award as a way of recognizing these mothers’ dedication and struggles for their children.”
The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving Tennessee’s families. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit needy families statewide.
For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, visit www.tnjustice.org, or call 615-255-0331.