By Dustyn Rappe, Freelance Writer
Helping those around her has nearly always been a cornerstone trait of Candace Tibbetts. Throughout her life, she has gravitated toward opportunities to lend a hand to those who simply need a little extra help. Although her life has been turbulent, Candace is now undoubtedly thriving.
Currently, Candace is living in Tennessee with her children and grandchildren. She is a therapist practicing Applied Behavior Analysis for children with autism. In this role, she strives to help children navigate the world around them. From an assistant teacher, to substance abuse counselor, to now a therapist, each position she’s held has been a stepping stone along the path to triumph through compassion.
“Those who help others are heroes. I believe we are all supposed to be heroes…to someone at some point,” remarked Candace. This mindset has developed over time but its catalyst came at a very young age. When Candace was just four years old, she began a chapter in her life that ushered in the rest of her story.
For four-year-old Candace, life was scary and confusing. Her mother, Candy, had explained to her and her older brother that they were going to a place where there would be other kids, where they wouldn’t be hurt and where they would be taken care of. At the height of all her mother’s promises was that she would be back for them.
At this point in her life, Candy had experienced abuse, addiction and homelessness. The life she was able to provide for her children was not much more than a roof over their heads. In the early 1980s, at the young age of 20, Candy entrusted her two children, ages four and five, to Baptist Children’s Home (BCH) in order to seek mental and physical help.
“It was a huge, ginormous building,” remembered Candace. In her eyes, life at BCH was daunting. Everything from the buildings to the number of children was larger than Candace had ever experienced. Although this new home was at times overwhelming, Candace recollects the environment being nurturing and calm. “As a child, I remember being so sad, scared and alone. As an adult, I can’t imagine the responsibility of caring for so many children,” explained Candace. “I was fed, nourished and cared for by women who didn’t even know me.”
The comfort shown by the caregivers at BCH has been etched into Candace’s mind. After a special outing with her mother and her brother, she remembers a fresh wave of sadness as she was once again without her mother. As this little girl began to weep, one of the women at BCH knelt down and began to console Candace. “She hugged me and let me cry,” she explained. “She brought me extra cookies and hugged me really tight, [and told] me everything was going to be okay.”
Just a little less than a year after arriving at BCH, Candace’s mother had successfully fulfilled all of her promises. Candy and her two children were reunited as a family. “I remember life being good. My mom looked cute and happy,” recalled Candace. “I remember her sitting behind the desk of this job as the manager and just being so proud as a little kid like, ‘That’s my mom.’”
Although her family’s life wasn’t perfect after her short chapter at BCH, Candace continues to see the impact that BCH has had on her life to this day. Candace readily admits that this period at BCH has made her a better parent and human being. “I learned we all do things that just don’t make sense sometimes, and we all face struggles. We all end up where we belong for a purpose,” explained Candace.
Ever since her very first job, Candace has been directly impacting other’s lives like her own life was impacted by dedicated caregivers. “My struggles and sorrows gave me compassion for the struggles of others,” explained Candace. “OBHC gave me my love for children and the ability to nurture all little ones, especially the ones who seem to march to their own beat.”