Catherine Leslie Carter, or “Catie”, for those of us who came to know and love her, began attending Mandarin Christian School, now Christ’s Church Academy, at the start of the 2001-2002 school year, along with her brother and two sisters. However, just as that school year was getting started, on September 11, 2001, when all of our lives were changed, and we were devastated by the attacks in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania, Catie and her family were thrust even further into turmoil that day as Catie was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer of the nervous system. With a determined spirit, our nation came together to overcome those terrible events. At the same time and in the same way, Christ Church Academy came together with Catie and her family to help Catie in her heroic fight to overcome her cancer. With an infectious optimism and undeterred spirit, Catie united all of us and took the lead in waging her courageous battle.
Over the next 9 years, Catie endured countless hospitalizations, surgeries, radiation treatments, bone marrow transplants and rounds of chemotherapies too numerous to count. She stood firm in her faith and drew her strength by caring for others. Her selfless spirit was an inspiration to everyone who would meet her along the way. Students rallied around Catie, visiting her at home and in the hospital, doing school work together, reading together, doing art projects and just “hanging out”, all to help lift her spirits. One hallmark of Catie’s attitude and determination is the fact that she refused to neglect her school work. Through it all she never asked for special considerations. School faculty, along with the school nurse, developed an academic and medical care plan that enabled Catie to be in school as much as possible throughout her treatments. Catie DID keep up with her classwork, even making the honor roll!
Catie truly enjoyed art. Throughout her illness, she used art as an outlet for her thoughts and emotions, both at school and in the hospital. During her many hospitalizations, Catie became close friends with staff and volunteers of Art With A Heart in Healthcare, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the healing process of sick children.
Art helps diminish the fear, pain and boredom that can be associated with a hospital experience, and empowers a child in an otherwise powerless situation. Art plays a critical role in the healing process, and the generosity of Christ’s Church Academy students, staff and families, over the years, has provided art supplies to Art With a Heart in Healthcare, for children at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Through your support and partnership with the Catie Cares Foundation, Art With a Heart has been able to provide over 3,000 art to go bags!
These bags are filled with art supplies that children can use to express their creative spirit, and in so doing, demonstrate the same resolve that Catie did, in fighting back against their illness.
Catie’s love for art was not just demonstrated in the hospital. At school, she loved her art classes and created numerous drawings and paintings that inspired her teachers and all who knew her. The “Catie Carter Art Suite” at CCA is dedicated in her memory as an inspiration to every student who finds joy in expressing themselves through art.
Every fall since 2009, Christ's Church Academy picks out a special Friday as a "Catie Cares Celebration Day". Students make a donation to Art with a Heart in Catie's honor, and they are able to wear pink to school. Later that evening, the CCA Varsity Football team hosts "Catie Carter Night"; a special event that has become one of the defining activities that makes CCA a truly special place. CCA students and families get an opportunity to focus their attention on a cause that affects far too many children and adults today. It also offers all of us a personal example of how to trust God and live life to the fullest, when facing one of life’s greatest challenges. Catie Carter Night is a reminder of a young lady and school that came together to face cancer head-on, and in the process create a legacy that defines CCA as “family.”