Story of Impact: Compassions Training and Awareness Center

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on December 26, 2017 # Quality of Life Grant Spotlight, Caregiving

“For me, a disability is not a state of being, it’s something you learn to live with. I don’t have time to cry, I only have time to live,” said Edna Sutton who has lived with quadriplegia since 1988 when she was punched through a window during a domestic violence incident at the age of 24. “We face more challenges but we can still be successful.”

Sutton is certainly living proof. After spending a year in the hospital and two years in a nursing home following her injury, Sutton was determined to live independently. She earned her GED and continued her education at Ohio State University. Despite her hard work, her life was filled with challenges.

“I lived with a lot of abuse from the people who were supposed to care for me,” said Sutton. “I was raped and robbed by people who were tipped off by my home caregivers. I was left for days when caregivers didn’t show up for work. I almost lost my house due to theft.”

Often the people sent to help Sutton didn’t know proper bathing, transfer or catheter care. The state of Ohio does not require any hands-on training for home health aides and there is no way to track home health aides who have committed crimes against people with disabilities. Sutton found herself retraining the caregivers herself, teaching them how to cook, do laundry and different ways to bathe and transfer her.

“Cleanliness was a big issue,” said Sutton. “There was a weakness in the training. Once I saw a success rate at home, I decided to start my own caregiver training business so others didn’t need to suffer the way I had.”

Sutton enrolled in business classes and in 2008, her new venture, Compassions Training and Awareness Center, became an official 501(c)(3).

“I wanted to challenge myself and be an example for my three sons and others,” said Sutton. “I wanted people to see the significance of the caregiver position. Without a caregiver, I can’t go to work or to school. I’m in a boat without a paddle. It is such a vital role.”

To help get her business off the ground, Sutton decided to apply for a Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grant.

“I had read a Reeve Foundation book when I was in the hospital and I always go to the website as a resource for living with paralysis,” said Sutton who learned about the grants on the site and first applied in 2010. “The Reeve Foundation gave me my first major grant which opened the door for others to believe in me because they did. Their support allowed others to see the importance of investing in caregiver training.”

Sutton used that first grant to move the business out of her home and into a training facility. Since then, Sutton has received two additional grants and has trained more than 600 people. Several months ago, Compassions moved into a new, better-equipped location with a functional kitchen, living room and bathroom designed for training.

“There is no doubt in my mind that without the Reeve Foundation, Compassions wouldn’t be here,” said Sutton. “They have helped me so much with the financial and informational resources that I needed to get my business going.”

Sutton’s passion and determination has earned her numerous accolades and awards, including an American Red Cross Hero award, the Ohio Governors Council for People with Disabilities Maureen Fitzgerald Award and a Minority Leadership Award. And she has no plans to slow down.

“I am still a person with goals to reach, and I hope one day to take this business global,” said Sutton. “Someone recently reached out to me from Kenya and said they are in desperate need of caregivers who know how to help people living with paralysis. My goal for the next year is to raise money to go to Kenya to start a new caregiver training program.”

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.