BY HOPE HARRINGTOn OAKES
In 2010, Caledonia residents Reid and Cindy Carter experienced every parent’s worst nightmare: the unexpected and sudden loss of their 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca. Rebecca had a genetic disorder called Trisomy-13, a chromosomal condition associated with severe intellectual and physiological disabilities. Their other daughter, 20-year old Kayla, also has the disorder. Though Kayla functions at the level of a two month old, Rebecca was able to function at a higher level mentally, but physically she was limited. The Carters basically split caretaking duties between the two girls. Due to the large amounts of medication the girls both had to take, it became easier for Cindy to take care of them in the morning, and Reid took over in the evenings. Rebecca stayed up much longer than Kayla could, so Reid said they really bonded. One day, Rebecca lay down for a nap and never awoke. It was a devastating blow to the family. Even Kayla knew on some level that something wasn’t right.
Coming home from his job at Columbus Air Force Base one day, Reid was listening to the radio and thinking about doing something to fill his evenings.
“The Bible tells us to do what our hands turn to naturally. I’ve always been in construction, painting, carpentry…all my life,” Reid Carter said. “So, it hit me, we could go into the houses of disabled children and re-decorate their rooms, modify them, put in new doors, widened the doors, install ramps, whatever needs to be done. We’d call it ‘Rebecca’s Rooms’ after our little girl. We had fixed up a room for her, which even included a swing, and she loved it.”
“Rebecca’s Rooms” is a non-profit charity that relies 100 percent on donations and volunteer participation. One recent Friday, 20 volunteers met at the home Jim and Melissa Kellum, of Caledonia. The Kellums’ 12-year-old daughter, Emily, has autism and was nominated by her Uncle Wes to have her room re-done. Many local businesses contributed to the effort; Harvey’s donated a $50 gift card, Eden Spa donated a serenity package for Mrs. Kellum, Sun Screens were donated from Southern Awning and Construction, Game Stoppers donated a $50 Gift Card, Peppers donated a $50 Gift Card and Fairfield Inn donated a room for the family to stay in during the renovation. Local artist Gail Forstner painted the monkey mural on the wall and continued the theme by painting the bed. Other donations included materials used in the room, a television, snack baskets, materials and even a gift basket for Emily’s big sister, Shelby. Old Navy supplied many of the volunteers, as well. Old Navy’s Columbus Manager, Victoria Mason, even brought her two children, 12-year-old daughter Sidney and 14-year-old son Elliott, to help.
“We saw it in The Packet and signed right up,” Mason said. “Elliott drilled a lot of holes for the sensory board and Sidney helped with the design of the sensory board. We can’t wait to help with the next one.”
The renovation began on Friday evening and was completed late Saturday afternoon. Emily’s room had been transformed into a fun but functional room decorated with a playful monkey motif. At the reveal, Emily walked into the room, looked around, and immediately went over to the bed and began to jump on it. She was most excited by her new T.V. and soon became busy playing with the new sensory board. This is the second room the charity has renovated. The cost of a room can be anywhere from $500 to over $1,000. There is a Motorcycle Benefit Ride every March, which, along with the other donations, help fund each room.
Even though the focus is on the child with disabilities, Rebecca’s Rooms also tries to do a little extra for the parents and caretakers to help them get a little break from the challenge of day-to-day life dealing with a special-needs child. Local spa treatments and restaurant gift cards are very welcome to those parents who rarely get the opportunity to get out. Emily’s parents stood watching their daughter with tears in their eyes.
“We are so grateful,” Kellum said. “The room is so cute, and you can see how happy she is with it. This such a blessing.”
For more information, or to make a donation, contact