Worker Bee Extraordinaire
Worker Bee Extraordinaire
by Denise Milanese Photography by Christian Lee
If the Hilton Head community could write a description of the perfect Yankee transplant, a picture of Carolee Hutton would emerge. A retired special education teacher from Westchester County, New York, she moved to the Island 11 years ago and immediately set out to make her mark supporting deserving community service efforts across many disciplines. Her theme – as it has been for most of her life – revolves predominantly around children and animals. This self-described “worker bee” eschews the leadership spotlight, preferring to labor in the background doing “whatever [she’s] asked."
Carolee started life as the only girl in a family with three brothers. As early as high school she began volunteering with some friends at a residential facility near her home. They cared for the special needs children there on a nightly basis feeding, bathing and preparing them for bed. The die was cast and her drive to help those most in need proved to be a lifelong mission. She acquired degrees from Mercy College and Manhattan College to qualify her to teach special education, which she did for 22 years in her native New York. She and her husband added to their family by adopting a baby girl from China giving them two beautiful daughters. When the Hutton’s arrived in Hilton Head, she immediately joined the local group of families with international adoptees. She became immersed in the local Chinese community, holding special gatherings for Chinese New Year, which were attended by the adoptees and their families, as well as teachers from the school’s Chinese language immersion program.
Hilton Head Heroes is one of many Lowcountry non-profit organizations to benefit from her hard work. This group provides a one-week, all-inclusive vacation for families who have a child suffering from a life-threatening illness. A specially equipped home in Sea Pines, restaurant, food and activity vouchers are all provided. Volunteers provide concierge services for the family, working together to identify activities that are accessible to all members of the family and providing passes to everything from jet ski rentals to dolphin watch boat trips for them to enjoy—all free to a family in need of a carefree week of respite from the day-to-day burdens that a child with a serious illness place on the entire household. The need was identified and the mission founded by Lindy and Gregg Russell.
Carolee’s friend, Erin Sullivan, founded the Wish Upon a Horse charity, which again combines Carolee’s two favorite subjects, children and animals. Erin and Carolee welcome children for therapeutic horseback riding classes at Lawton Stables. The special needs children are given the opportunity to ride and interact with horses, encompassing a wide range of levels of contact depending on their capabilities and comfort levels. Carolee described the visible change in some children when they are placed on a horse for the first time. She said, “You can feel their muscles relax and see the stress leave their bodies. It’s very rewarding.”
Noah’s Ark’s Rescue is another charitable endeavor to benefit from Carolee’s support. Dogs who have been rescued from abusive or neglectful homes are provided care in foster homes to help them recover from their horrific beginnings and rehabilitated to make them into adoptable pets. Carolee’s eyes express the anger and frustration of a person who has seen the worst that a human can inflict on a dog and yet, ”they still wag their tails when you approach them.”
Even with all the community support activities Carolee does, she still finds time to mentor an elementary-age child every week—a child who was identified by school staff as someone who would benefit from the extra attention and caring a mentor provides. She proudly declares her commitment to her charge: “I will follow my child all the way through his/her school years, building a strong long-term relationship the child can rely on.”
>> Hosts one of the island’s premier holiday ugly sweater parties, where she revels in the interactions between guests from all the areas of her life.
>> Supports her daughter’s burgeoning crew participation, attending rowing regattas around the Southeast.
>> Shares her home with 3 rescues—2 cats and a dog, who she has had DNA tested to determine its mysterious (Lhasa Apso/Shih Tzu/Poodle/Bulldog) lineage.
>> Married to a retired businessman. Mom to two daughters—one grown (living in Chicago) and the other a student at Hilton Head High School (HHHS).
>> Active in HHHS PTA Seahawk support circle.
>> Spends spare time on crafty projects, including photography and scrapbooking
For more information on the organizations Carolee supports:
> Wish Upon a Horse: www.wishuponahorsehhi.org
> Hilton Head Heroes: www.hhheroes.com; FB: hiltonheadheroes
> Noah’s Ark’s Rescue: www.noahs-arks.net