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Meet Sheila Carter of Cam and Madi’s Promise in Marietta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheila Carter.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am the mother of two biological children, Cameron and Madison, both diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a multitude of other medical conditions typically attributed to ASD like ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Speech and Language Impairments, etc. I have spent most of my life working in the nonprofit world. The last position I held before starting Cam and Madi’s Promise (C.A.M.P), I was assisting Special Needs families throughout Georgia to acquire health insurance and Medicaid, along with a host of other resources for their developmentally disabled children.

When my son, Cameron, was diagnosed with ASD at 22 months old in 2008, I was lost and didn’t really know where to look for services. There were so many amazing organizations out there that supported Special Needs families that it was just too overwhelming to focus on just one when we had just gotten a diagnosis our baby would have all of these challenges for the rest of his life. I couldn’t wrap my head around this to figure out how to help him. So trying to figure out just the right community and the right medical services he needed, while at the same time, trying to figure out how to pay for them, too? It was just too much. It’s documented that caring for an individual with ASD throughout their lifetime costs between $2-$3 million. My husband and I are not rich people. We’re both college-educated and a middle-class family, but we knew there was no way we could afford to pay our bills and the cost of all the medical and therapeutic services Cam would need, too. We were lost. Fortunately, we were able to get the right referrals to offer the early intervention services Cam and Madi needed from such wonderful organizations like Babies Can’t Wait and Parent to Parent of Georgia. Madi was diagnosed with ASD in 2015 after she began showing signs of Autism, too. Learning she had ASD wasn’t as hard of a blow as learning Cam had it because we knew what we had to do to get a diagnosis and most importantly, to get the medical services she would require. As a result of all the support we got from doctors, social service programs and even our school district, I always knew that when I decided to do something that could help support Special Needs families, I would do something. I just didn’t know exactly what that something would be at that time. I knew I would try to replicate that same assistance and compassion that was provided to me and my family by those amazing organizations. Ten years later, on April 30, 2018, Cam and Madi’s Promise, Incorporated was born!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think the struggle as an Executive operating C.A.M.P is shared by many small nonprofits which is fundraising. I would love to say that we have no problem getting the amount of funding necessary to operate the organization to its fullest potential. I would love to be able to say that, but I can’t. When you’re a nonprofit organization, you’re mostly dependent upon grants and the generosity of donors. During economic downturns, it can be difficult to get those funds, especially when thousands of other nonprofits are competing for the same funding sources, as well. A part of our mission is that we’ll never charge our families for the services we provide so we have had to become very strategic at how we generate funding. I have so many ideas and programs I wish to develop for C.A.M.P, and I’m confident we’ll be able to do just that as we establish greater presence throughout Georgia for the work we do. The funding WILL definitely come!

Please tell us about Cam and Madi’s Promise.
Cam and Madi’s Promise, Incorporated is located in Marietta, GA. The Organization provides free Katie Beckett and NOW/COMP Medicaid Waiver application assistance to families of medically fragile and developmentally disabled children whose disabilities meet an Institutional Level Of Care (ILOC) comparable to that provided by hospitals and intermediate skilled nursing facilities. ILOC means these disabled children could justifiably be placed in institutions as the complex, costly medical care they require must be performed by skilled, specialized medical professionals. The cost of institutional level of care is expensive and not affordable to the average middle-class family that struggles just to meet costly insurance deductibles, copayments and other imminent household needs. Supporting these families’ efforts to attain critical medical services for their children lessens parents’ financial burdens and furthers children’s access to quality, affordable health services.

There are so many families affected by disabilities still in Georgia who are struggling how to pay for the medical services their kids require. I know families who have sold cars, took out a couple of mortgages on their homes and even have foregone treatment for their children simply because they couldn’t afford to pay for care. I know personally because me and my husband faced that obstacle, too, before our kids qualified for Medicaid waivers.

This is why it’s so important that we let families throughout Georgia know that C.A.M.P exists to help them so that they don’t have to struggle figuring out how to provide the necessary medical services their children deserve. Our number one goal is to get these kids the access to the services they need as early as possible. Our second goal is to keep our Special Needs families intact and as financially stable as possible. The divorce rate of Special Needs families are as high as 80-85%, and usually what causes those marriages to crumble are finances. If we can lessen the financial burden of these families by helping their kids get approved for a Medicaid waiver, then we help to increase the chances of marriages and families remaining intact! And, we do this all while providing our services free of charge to our families. I attribute the success C.A.M.P has had to God, and the faith of hundreds of Georgia Special Needs families who trust us to help them with the most precious beings in their lives….their children.

We’re known for our expertise and free assistance in helping Georgia families apply for Medicaid waivers like Katie Beckett and NOW/COMP. We’re proud of our 87% success rate in assisting families whose children are approved for a Medicaid waiver. We’re also proud that our services help to boost the economic growth of local communities. Since our services are free, unlike some advocates who charge for their Medicaid waiver application assistance, our families can take that money and use it to do something good for their own families like taking a vacation, catching up on bills or paying for medical services that Medicaid and insurance may not cover. Even though we do not charge our families for our services, we do live by the creed to “Pay It Forward”. We asked that the free assistance we provide to our families that they provide the same assistance to other Special Needs families who are seeking the same help for their children. If a family doesn’t feel comfortable helping another one to apply for a Medicaid waiver, we simply ask that they refer those families to C.A.M.P so that we can help them, too. This is what really makes me proud of our organization!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory as a child was always Christmas time. Christmas was and still is my most favorite holiday. It was always a tradition to start decorating our family home for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. I can still smell the aroma of ham, turkey, cookies, sweet potato pie and cakes throughout the house where my mom made sure it always smelled like Christmas. All the gifts under the tree that my family would have—whether they purchased a gift or made one. It was just a miraculous time which seemed like everyone was just a bit nicer to one another. They seemed to give more of themselves to each other than any other time of the year. It was beautiful. Even my kids, Cam and Madi, LOVE the holiday season, but Christmas is their absolute most favorite.

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