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Catlin's Courage Propels Her Through Life

April 12, 2011

By J. Blake Ragsdale

Catlin races down the wintery slope. The rush of cold air nips her face, but the discomfort is nothing compared to the throbbing pain in her right knee.

Earlier in the day, a collision with another skier sent Catlin tumbling hard to the ground. She instantly knew she was hurt, however, the determined competitor summoned the strength to ski one final race.

“While I was skiing, I was saying to myself, ‘please hold out knee,” Catlin recalls. “I got to the bottom of the slope and my knee gave out right after I reached the last gate.”

Her grit paid off as Catlin was awarded the gold medal in Alpine skiing during North Carolina’s 1999 Special Olympics.

“I tore up the joint in my knee, so that medal means a whole lot,” she explains. The severity of her injury kept her sidelined from Special Olympics for the next seven years. “I did a lot of exercises to strengthen it back up, and it took five years for it to heal. But I started back with basketball in 2006.”

Making a full recovery to compete again is one of many obstacles Catlin has overcome. The 23-year-old was diagnosed with mild mental retardation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But she has found the support she needs at Lindsay Home.

Located in the mountains of Zionville, the group home for women, along with Three Forks Home for men, is a part of Baptist Children’s Homes’ Developmental Disabilities Ministry. The ministry provides special needs adults long-term residential care and opportunities for residents to achieve goals and reach their highest level of independence in safe, structured, Christian-based group homes.

The two homes in Zionville are located on the original Camp Joy 14-acre property donated by Three Forks Baptist Association in 2002. In honor of the association’s gift, the homes are jointly known as Joy Cove Ministries.

“I love it here because it’s so nice and quiet,” Catlin says. “Living here helps you with your coping skills and teaches you how to do things on your own.”

With no family support, Catlin lived in her own apartment prior to moving to Lindsay Home. Her father is deceased and her mother surrendered parental custody of Catlin to New River Behavioral Healthcare in Watauga County. Living independently was difficult for Catlin.

“I was having a hard time,” she divulges. “Moving here has helped me. I’ve improved so much.”

Being at Lindsay Home has given the young adult stability and a support system in her caregivers and fellow residents.

“The residents are like family, and we all help each other out,” says Nikki Johnson, one of the caregivers at the home. “And Catlin is very helpful around the house with chores and responsibilities. We can pretty much depend on her to do anything extra.”

Recently when three of the residents were ill, Catlin stepped in to help prepare meals. “I’ve made meatloaf, chili, pork chops, chicken wings, green bean casserole, and more,” she says. “I love to cook with the staff and serve food to everyone.”

“She’s very caring,” says caregiver Cathy Roark. “She loves to help others. And she’s very good at her sports.”

Since her return to the Special Olympics North Carolina games in 2006, Catlin has competed, and won multiple medals, in several sports. She received the honor of being selected as a member of Team USA for the 2009 Special Olympics World Games in Idaho where she won the bronze medal in Alpine skiing.

On January 9, Catlin was recognized as the 2010 Special Olympics North Carolina “Athlete of the Year” during the opening ceremonies of 2011 state winter games in Boone.

“Special Olympics is a privilege I get to do every year,” Catlin explains. “I love being with all the athletes and my friends. It’s just an honor to compete with other people I know and love.”

For more information about the Developmental Disabilities Ministry and its nine homes for special needs adults, visit