When BAYADA Habilitation Technician (Hab Tech) Lisa Carroll attended the 2017 Special Olympics North Carolina Leadership Conference, she was completely surprised to be called up to the front of the room and awarded Coordinator of the Year, and was shocked to see her family and friends in the audience, cheering her on.
“I had no idea they were there!” Lisa remembers about her recognition that day. “Now that the word has spread, I’m just amazed. People are calling me to become part of our program.
From Rags to Riches
Lisa took on the role of volunteer leadership of Catawba County Special Olympics when it was on the brink of folding in 2015. She was committed to save the program that had given her daughter Sabrina so many important, life-changing opportunities to build self-esteem and confidence through sports like swimming, bowling, and cheerleading since she was eight years old.
In an amazing two-year turnaround, Lisa recruited and led a group of other dedicated volunteers and coaches to build Catawba County Special Olympics into a strong, effective, and growing program that now enjoys the sponsorship of many local businesses, community organizations, and private donors.
In fact, the president of Special Olympics North Carolina calls Catawba their ‘rags to riches’ county.”
“Everything’s really coming together. We’re adding more sports programs that operate year-round. We have better records, a newsletter that goes out to 300 people, and a fundraising plan that enables us to do things like get new, good-looking softball uniforms,” Lisa says. “These things are so important to our athletes. It gives them a sense of pride.”
Today, Catawba County Special Olympics offers softball, swimming, bowling, and cheerleading in the spring; basketball, tennis, and soccer in the fall; and a brand new equestrian program.
“Every year, BAYADA sponsors one of our Special Olympians to compete at the state level, and they are very supportive of our activities all year long,” Lisa says.
Co-chair Irene Gomez has been instrumental in working with Lisa to reach out to Hispanic residents of Catawba County and to recruit more Hispanic athletes into their Special Olympics program, and has created their new Spanish language Facebook page.
“We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter,” Lisa says. “Without Irene’s help and the hard work of all our volunteers and coaches, I would not have been able to do it all.”
“At the end of the season we hold a sports banquet, and that’s where you really get to see how much it means to these kids to be part of a sports league,” Lisa says. “They’re able to go home and display their athlete photo, or their trophy or plaque, just like their sister or brother has. It makes them feel like a whole individual, just like everybody else. It makes them so proud!”
Her Inspiration, Sabrina
It’s easy to see what a committed mother Lisa is by looking at how her 19-year-old daughter Sabrina is thriving, and how far she has come.
Sabrina contracted pneumococcal meningitis when she was two years old, which left her with significant developmental disabilities and chronic epilepsy. “Sabrina’s medical issues were pretty severe when she was younger, but we’ve managed her health very well and she was seizure-free for 10 years,” Lisa tells us.
“I’m so proud of everything Sabrina’s accomplished. She’s living a great life doing regular teenage things,“ Lisa says. “Because of the opportunity she had through Special Olympics to participate in special needs cheerleading for seven years, Sabrina became her high school’s first varsity cheerleader with a disability. And she was nominated prom queen this year!”
Today, Sabrina helps to lead special needs sports programs as an advisory member of the Catawba County Special Olympics Committee.
A Real-life Superwoman
Director of the BAYADA Habilitation Hickory office (HHI) Nicholas Bellomo says, “Lisa wears so many hats, she’s so dependable and knowledgeable, it’s just amazing. She’s always advocating for her daughter and is so active in the community. The sheer quality of everything she does is what’s most impressive to me.”
For over 20 years Lisa has had a full-time job in telecom R&D. She cares for her aging father. She is a part-time BAYADA Hab Tech caring for Sabrina, she directs the county Special Olympics program, and she is a volunteer lobbyist for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and the state Medicaid waiver program that pays for Sabrina’s Hab Tech services.
When asked how she possibly finds enough time in the day for all this, Lisa humbly answers, “I have a very patient boyfriend.”
What are Habilitation Services?
As a BAYADA Hab Tech, Lisa helps Sabrina become more independent and self-reliant by working on a list of “community living” goals such as improving her motor skills and learning how to shop, communicate with cashiers, spend and manage money, care for her pets, make the bed, and do other chores.
Habilitation services are supported by federal and state government to help people with IDD live in the homes of their choice, pursue employment, engage in a purposeful day, and achieve their life goals in their community, and not in an institution or facility.
Caption: Lisa Carroll (left) is pictured with her daughter Sabrina, 19.