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Mom of the Year 2014: Courtney Cooley

Writer / Marcia Vigren

Courtney Cooley is the biological mom of two little girls, Ellie, 5, and Lilly, 3. However, she is maternal to so many other children that she is a virtual mother to a world of kids. Where do I start describing this amazing person?

When Ellie was only 8 months old, she was diagnosed with a urinary reflux issue at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent Health. If not properly addressed, this problem could cause major damage, but Ellie was medicated and cared for, and two years later, was cured. Courtney, was so impressed with and grateful for her daughter’s care that she wanted to give back, so she organized an annual 5K Family Fun Run at the Butler University Campus. The proceeds from this now three-year-old race are given to the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital each year, and recently surpassed a grand total of $14,000. “I wanted to use my connections to do something positive and give back and also to help other kids,” says Courtney.

Lilly was born three years ago and, about the same time as the first race, started having breathing problems. They discovered she has asthma and anemia, and after a year and a half with a severely swollen and painful knee, tests concluded this February that she has juvenile arthritis, currently only in her knee joint. “With medication, we’re in a groove right now where she wakes up and she’s happy and actually wants to get out of bed,” says Courtney. “It was really tough for a while. She would cry herself to sleep. She wouldn’t want to get up because it would hurt. Now, if she wants to get up early, I’m happy. Anytime she wants to get out of bed, I’m happy.”

It’s very time consuming to have a child with so many health concerns, but all the care Courtney has received from the Children’s Hospital for Lilly has strengthened her desire to raise money for them. “Since she’s been diagnosed with the arthritis, she sees an ENT [ear, nose and throat doctor]. She sees a pediatric pulmonologist. She sees a rheumatologist. She sees an eye doctor. This year has been tough, but it has made it all that much more special to do the race.”

On top of caring for her two daughters so thoroughly and supporting the children at the hospital, Courtney is a Special Education IA (Instructional Assistant) at Sand Creek Elementary. “I’m a data geek,” she says. “I crunch a lot of numbers showing student progress.” However, when asked about her favorite part of the job, Courtney says it’s “the relationships I have with the students. I’m in the classrooms … one kindergarten classroom specifically … and have built relationships with all the kids in the classroom, and that’s just the best.” Once again, even though her responsibility is only for a few of the students, she cares for all of them.

When asked about her hobbies, Courtney replied that she and the girls collect toys and gifts from the neighborhood each year at Halloween to take to the kids in the hospital who can’t go trick-or-treating. She calls it “Trick-or-Treat Off Their Feet.“ Even her hobbies are filled with giving and caring.

Courtney and her husband, John, have known each other since they were 5 years old. Their relationship began when they were in 8th grade. John is a mechanical engineer with Beckman-Coulter Biomedical Manufacturing. He believes Courtney deserves to be Mom of the Year because of how she deeply cares for and enjoys being with their two girls. “She loves being around them,” says John.

Courtney’s mom, Tracey Smith, nominated her for this honor. When asked about her daughter, she answered, “Courtney’s a very genuine person. She’s nice to everyone. What I like most about her is she’ll go out of her way to help anyone out.  She’s a sweet, honest person every day. I can’t emphasize enough the genuineness.”

Courtney is the oldest of four kids, all of whom participate in coordinating the Family Fun Run. “She and her siblings are really close, and when something exciting happens, she’ll text them,” Tracey says. “Everyone’s busy, but they take time out to do this [race]. It’s a family event where little kids are the stars.”  She is also impressed with Courtney’s parenting skills, stating, “[I love] the way she is with the girls. She’ll always put them first. She instills good values in her girls, too. They are being taught, through her actions (Fun Run, Halloween event), to give back to the community at a young age … and they love it.” Even Courtney commented about her girls’ participation in the race: “They come with me. They help and they really enjoy the race.”

Courtney’s maternal instinct isn’t limited to humans. She has three adopted dogs named Shadow, Sandy and Sally, and a furry black bunny named Oreo. According to her mom, she is also always helping stray dogs find their homes.

As a mother myself, I knew I was entering the home of a great mom when I saw all the family photos and handmade pictures on the walls and refrigerator. There were also plenty of toys and children’s activities to make this home better than the Kool-Aid house (if you’re old enough to remember that commercial). However, probably the biggest telltale signs of parenting excellence were the adorable smiles and giggles emitting from Ellie and Lilly. While they were too shy around the new person in the room to tell me about their mom, their interaction with her spoke volumes. It said, “This is a special human being, and I am lucky to call her ‘Mom.’”

If you would like to help out or participate in next April’s 5K Family Fun Run, you can contact familyfunrun@yahoo.com or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

About Tom Britt

Tom Britt is publisher and founder of the TownePost Network, atGeist.com and Geist Magazine. If you have local story ideas, email Tom@atGeist.com.

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