By ZOË WATKINS
Exactly 10 years ago, in February of 2014, Detective Carol Jean from the Shelbyville Police Department received a new van equipped with a wheelchair ramp to help transport her daughter, Mandy, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. When Mandy passed away after a brief illness on December 12, 2023, Jean decided to give the van away to a local family in need.
That local family was Tisha Knight and her 12-year-old daughter, Jayda, who is also consigned to a wheelchair. A small get-together was held at the police department on Friday afternoon.
“The community gave this van to us, so we give it to you,” said Jean on Friday. Jean is a detective who focuses on child abuse and sexual abuse cases.
Jean recounted how over 10 years ago, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and began having trouble lifting Mandy in their minivan.
So local community civic groups, friends, Jean’s church – First United Methodist — the Shelbyville Police Department, and others donated and raised money to purchase a van with a wheelchair ramp.
“It was a lifesaver — just a huge blessing,” Jean said. “Mandy and I loved the van!”
The community stepped up again recently and also purchased a brand-new 2023 car for Jean.
“I told them [at the Police Department], I needed to find a car as Mandy’s van needed to go to someone that needed it.”
Deputy Brian Crews stepped up and helped with fundraising, and in two weeks, Jean became the owner of a new car.
“I am so humbled and amazed at the generosity of the people in our community. I am thankful and appreciative to everyone,” said Jean. “I want to give special thanks to members of the Shelbyville First United Church, Shelbyville Police Benevolent Association, and Bedford County Long Beards.”
Tisha Knight was also grateful to the community for providing her with the wheelchair-accessible van.
When a Facebook post was made seeking a family to give the van to, Christy Jensen with the Community Development Center knew who exactly to reach out to, working with Jayda’s grandmother, Debbie, to surprise the family.
Local shop owner Ray Brown, of Brown’s Body Shop, assisted in “sprucing up” the van, according to Jean. New headlights were installed and dents and scratches were taken out. The van will hopefully serve Tisha and her daughter – who has an incredibly rare disability – as the drive back-and-forth to Nashville for doctor’s appointments.
“This is going to be so great. This is such a blessing,” said Tisha.
The month of February is also a month that brings awareness to those with specific special needs. Rare Disease Day will be on Feb. 29. Its goal is to raise awareness among policymakers and the public about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives, like Tisha and Jayda, according to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
Those with family members who have disabilities know the struggles and challenges that come with special needs. But many, like Carol Jean, also know the blessings that can come from hardships.
“I miss Mandy so very much. It has been difficult being without her. I don’t think I would have ever been ready to let her go, but I am thankful to God for the 30 years He allowed me to be Mandy’s mom,” said Jean.