Special Kids

Carrie Goodwin stands outside Special Kids’ nursing care building on Arnette Street.

Special Kids Therapy & Nursing Center founder Carrie Goodwin said she has a vision for the next project for the non-profit to tackle.

The building on Arnette Street where the center was founded 20 years ago is one of several buildings now where Special Kids provides therapy and nursing services to special-needs children, regardless of income. The problem is, that building, which is used for nursing care, is on the other end of Arnette from the rest of the facilities, forcing workers, parents and patients to walk down a street with no sidewalks.

That’s just not safe, nor efficient, Goodwin told The Murfreesboro Post last week while walking down Arnette and dodging a car driving down the street.

Goodwin said the non-profit is in the early stages of creating a capital drive to raise the money to build a new nursing center on some land Special Kids owns behind the rest of the buildings on Arnette, with the goal of creating more of a campus setting.

Goodwin is not involved in the day-to-day operations at Special Kids, which has served more than 4,000 children, but she stays in constant contact with the staff. And she said she makes frequent trips down Interstate 24 from her home and businesses in Chattanooga to visit and attend functions.

She said she had the inspiration for Special Kids while working as a nurse at a private children’s therapy center in Chattanooga. She said it broke her heart to see kids turned away because they could not afford the services.

Goodwin put her Christian faith into action and worked to open Special Kids in Murfreesboro in 1998. Her husband, Rob, had been transferred to Middle Tennessee at the time for his corporate job with McDonald’s.

She said God put it on her heart to open the organization without debt, which she did. Her father, Dick Kleinau, helped financially. But it was the support of the Christy-Houston Foundation that went a long way to opening the doors.

Serving at Special Kids is a Goodwin family tradition. Rob Goodwin has served on the board and helps with strategic planning. Goodwin’s uncle serves on the board. And one of the Goodwins’ five children, A.J., is active on the board, as well as being a certified McDonald’s owner-operator (such a designation comes through mandatory training by the McDonald’s corporation).

A.J. Goodwin, 26, said his brothers are becoming more active at Special Kids.

Just as Special Kids is a family tradition, so is business. The Goodwins own and operate a McDonald’s franchise company, A&A Management, in Chattanooga, North Georgia and Alabama, Goodwin said.

McDonald’s restaurants are known for supporting the Ronald McDonald House. While the Goodwins do not own any local restaurants, they know and work well with the Murfreesboro operators, who support Special Kids through donations, Goodwin said. The local McDonald’s owners even donate coffee for Special Kids staff and parents.

Special Kids relies on donations to keep the doors open. They charge families a sliding scale based on income, A.J. Goodwin said. They accept TennCare, but that does not pay anywhere near enough, his mother said.

A.J. Goodwin said that Special Kids has a unique blend of therapeutic and nursing services. His mother said that they take newborns. Some clinics have a six-month waiting list for newborns; but within that time frame, minor nerve damage can become a permanent disability because of how quickly nerves grow. Special Kids can help that newborn with therapy taking just a matter of weeks, she said.

Special Kids trains parents how to provide home-based care, Carrie Goodwin said. They offer both drop-in outpatient services as well as daylong care for disabled children, allowing parents to go to work instead of staying home all day, thus likely losing income and health insurance.

Parents of special-needs children are special themselves, Goodwin said.

“I think they’re the heroes,” she said. “With what we do, they can just be a family, not a therapist.”

Recommended for you