A bereaved 16-year-old girl interested in psychology and art.
A college upperclassman majoring in Computer Science.
An outstanding student at McCallie School, entering his junior year and not yet eligible for his driver’s license.
These three young Chattanoogans are founders, officers and directors of the Corina Field Carroll Fund, a Tennessee registered charity and IRS-approved 501(c)(3) organization. Their late mother, a beloved pediatrician, is the woman this unusual nonprofit is named after.
Dr. Corina Field Carroll was a partner at Highland Pediatrics, from 1996 until recurrent ovarian cancer forced her retirement in 2010. Her 50-month battle against that cruel disease ended on January 30, 2012. Her daughter Anna, then a sophomore at Girls Preparatory School, led the founding of the Fund in early 2012.
“It all started when we realized we didn’t want a ton of funeral flowers filling up the house,” Anna recalls. “We knew that Mom would have preferred the money go to a better use, toward helping people like she always did.”
The family started reaching out and filed articles of incorporation, with help from their much-loved neighbor on Missionary Ridge, retired local attorney and CFCF secretary, Jay Ku. One by one, three respected local pediatricians also joined the Board to add their ideas: Drs. Bob Wood, Dodd Shumate, and Karla Garcia. One of the children’s closest teachers, Carol Lockrow, brought her ample love and energy to the Board table.
“It took a while for us to choose a focus for the Fund,” says Corina’s husband, John Carroll. “The adults on our Board wanted Anna to take the lead in exploring the possibilities and making decisions. So during March and April I’d drive her around, meeting with nonprofits in the Chattanooga area. We thought about supporting community college tuition aid for single moms, which Corina felt brought great benefits. We talked about supporting the nursing program at Chattanooga State—another activity Corina knew often helped improve the lives of moms and kids.
“We also looked at ideas to help with education for Spanish-speaking immigrants, a group Corina belonged to herself.” Though always natively bilingual due to her British family background, she spent her childhood and youth in Caracas, Venezuela, where she and John had met as teens.
But the conversation about the Fund’s purpose always returned to the protection of children. Sadly, all pediatricians will from time to time see a young patient who shows warning signs of possible abuse.
“Corina had actually worked on a child abuse study for several months while she was waiting to be matched with her residency,” John recalls. “Whenever she saw a case of suspected abuse, her composure and peace of mind were just shattered. She would come home so upset, just beside herself, knowing that too often the situation could get blurred or simply denied, often leaving children exposed to further danger.”
Anna learned that it’s also documented that uncounseled child victims have a much higher risk of becoming abusers as adults. So Anna and the Board decided to attack this generational contagion, by focusing the CFCF on boosting availability of much-needed counseling for child abuse victims and their families.
State budget cuts from Nashville had resulted in the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County (CACHC) having to eliminate one of its two therapist positions. The CFCF campaign led by Anna combined online fundraisers, local events, and donations from family and friends of Dr. Carroll. The $25,000 raised, provided the CACHC with the funds to hire a new therapist, restoring counseling capacity to handle a growing caseload across a multi-county zone.
In September 2014, the Fund initiated a Grand Rounds educational series on child abuse at Erlanger Children’s Hospital. The first CFCF-sponsored session was delivered by renowned child abuse specialist Dr. Carole Jenny, to a packed room of pediatric residents and staff. The second Grand Rounds took place at Erlanger in May 2016, with a presentation by Dr. Deborah Lowen, the director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Child Protection & Well-being.
These early initiatives led to Anna Carroll being recognized with the 2013 Young Philanthropist of the Year award by the Chattanooga Area Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She was also named a 2014 Young Woman of Distinction for the area. With her cum laude diploma from GPS, Anna left that fall for Stanford University, where she is working on a dual-major in Computer Science + Art Practice. At CFCF, her brothers have stepped into the gap.
Ed, a Computer Science major at Harvey Mudd College in California, was looking for a coding challenge that would give him experience developing an app for the iPhone. A discussion over the family dinner table led to a free app being offered to the CACHC. Ed completed and published it on the App Store shortly after Thanksgiving 2015. That accomplishment led to a visit by all three Carroll siblings to another child advocacy center in Covina, California, near Ed’s college in Claremont. Here, Ed developed apps that would raise awareness about child abuse, connect supporters with child advocacy centers on social media and provide in-app dialing to report (via phone) cases of suspected abuse to the appropriate hotlines, nationwide.
Ed’s app accomplishments led to his joining the CFCF masthead as Vice President—and later to landing a programming job at a consulting firm in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, in early 2015, his younger brother David took over from Anna as Chairman, President and Registered Agent of the nonprofit.
David Carroll turns 16 in August. As the rest of the family began to move west, Dave decided that he wanted to stay in Chattanooga and finish as a boarder at McCallie (which was also Ed’s school). He’s on the Headmaster’s List with a GPA over 4.0 and was selected for TEPS, the school’s sophomore honor society. His classmate and fellow boarder at McCallie, Chase Gaume, recently agreed to join the Board of the CFCF. One topic both boys think is of growing importance is human trafficking—very widespread in Asia, but it also takes place right in Chattanooga. Chase and David are thinking about ways to get the CFCF involved.
Deciding the Fund’s activities and priorities has been easy all along.
“We’ve all just tried to look at every idea by asking what would Corina want us to focus on. We always can feel in our hearts what that would be. And we know her wonderfully giving spirit is smiling on these projects we’ve managed to put together’” says John. “We don’t have the scale to focus on money or publicity. So we just focus on good ideas, then see if we can figure out a way to make progress, starting out small.”
David says the Fund has a long-term commitment—specifically, he and his brother Ed, coding together—to produce apps for children’s advocacy centers around the nation. He feels that this is how all organizations will communicate with the public in the future. But he also has an idea for another focus… an idea which originated in this year’s election debates.
David noticed that the candidates rarely were asked much about issues involving the wellbeing of children, and rarely spoke up on the topic. He is thinking about a new CFCF initiative, to help all state candidates in Tennessee go on the record and take responsibility for their positions on key issues affecting kids.
“There’s an old song that says, ‘I believe that children are our future.’ What are we willing to change, in order to protect our future? It would make my mom sad to see the way kids’ needs continue to get so little priority. Is it because kids don’t have votes?”
For more information on the Corina Field Carroll Fund, please visit corinafieldcarrollfund.com or, to donate or get involved, please contact David Carroll at 423-208-2724.
Photography courtesy of CFCF and David Andrews