As a 19-year-old, Katelyn McCarty had a big dream for the future. She would finish college and earn a nursing degree, while her mom, Pam, would go to business school. When they both graduated, they would use their new skills to open a care community for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Katelyn McCarty always had a plan.
As a 19-year-old, she had a big dream for the future. She would finish college and earn a nursing degree, while her mom, Pam, would go to business school. When they both graduated, they would use their new skills to open a care community for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“She was headed to good places,” Pam said. “She loved her community. She was not your typical 19-year-old.”
Katie’s plans were tragically interrupted one night in February 2008, when she and three other teens lost their lives in a single-car accident in Logan County. But her legacy of compassion lives on through the Katie McCarty Nursing Excellence Fund, which provides educational grants and continuing education opportunities for nurses at Taylorville Memorial Hospital.
“We are so honored by this gift, and so excited by the opportunities it will provide for nurses in our local community,” said Raedena Ryan, executive director of the TMH Foundation, which administers the Fund. “Our mission is to improve the health of the people and communities we serve, and educating the next generation of nurses is one of the most significant ways we can do that.”
A legacy of compassion
Katie McCarty got her certified nursing assistant license from Lincoln Land Community College while still in high school and began working at a local nursing home. Any doubts that her colleagues might’ve had about her young age were quickly dispelled thanks to her hard work and ability to connect with the residents.
“She was kind of an old soul,” Pam said. “I think she related better to older people than people her own age.”
She was also committed to helping others, as a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Relay for Life. She loved spending time with her family and her pets, and making people laugh—sometimes with practical jokes.
Her love of nursing seemed to come naturally, growing from her love of helping others. Three of her aunts were nurses, and she was inspired by their example. She also found inspiration in her dad, Roger, a paraplegic. “She understood the trials of the disabled and the hurdles that could be overcome,” Pam said.
After graduating from Taylorville High School in 2007 Katie continued to work as a CNA, this time in a hospital setting, and enrolled at Benedictine University to further her nursing education. While at Benedictine, she befriended a fellow student who was getting her nursing degree while working as an emergency medical technician and raising four children as a single mom. Her friend’s commitment and dedication made a big impression on Katie, Pam recalled.
That’s one of the reasons Pam sought to honor the memory of her only child by helping ease the way for other young people who want to pursue a nursing career. For five years, Pam oversaw a scholarship fund in Katie’s name for THS students who planned to enter the nursing field.
At the same time, she and her husband Roger worked to ensure that other families were spared the same heartbreak. Thanks to their advocacy, the Illinois General Assembly passed new legislation increasing the penalties for excessive speeding, particularly for repeat offenders. The driver of the car involved in Katie’s accident had been cited multiple times for driving at high speeds.
Sadly, Roger McCarty passed away only three years after Katie’s death. But Public Act 096-1002, also known as “Chris and Katie’s Law,” is also part of Katie’s legacy. Today, Pam continues to share Katie’s story with high school students and individuals on probation as a way to bring to life the dangers of excessive speeding.
Helping nurses and the community
As the years passed, Pam she began considering other ways to honor Katie. While she wanted to continue to support nursing education, it had become more challenging to administer the scholarship, which was funded by donations from the community.
She had planned to give away the settlement money from Katie’s accident upon her death, but at the suggestion of her financial advisor she started to consider using the money sooner so that she could see its impact during her lifetime. She had remarried, and had the support of her new husband Bill Roseberry as she sought to find a way to benefit the community Katie loved.
Now, those funds will help provide opportunities for nursing education at Taylorville Memorial Hospital, where Katie was born and where Pam is a member of the TMH Auxiliary. The Katie McCarty Nursing Excellence Fund will help TMH nurses further their education and attain professional certification. The TMH Foundation is also developing a program aimed at recruiting and training CNAs to fill crucial patient care roles.
“So many people in Taylorville have been touched by Katie’s story,” Raedena Ryan said. “Now, thanks to this generous gift, her legacy will continue.”
Pam hopes that the fund will enable nurses to pursue their dreams, just as Katie did.
“Maybe someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get a nursing degree will be able to do so—somebody who just needs a little boost,” Pam said. “Katie would’ve appreciated that.”