When most people think of special needs, they often imagine a life filled with struggle and
hardship. But for Kaitlin – a member of The Embrace Special Needs Ministry of Brentwood Baptist Church – her needs have created a sense of belonging and acceptance within the community. Her story is one of hope in the face of adversity, and her courageous spirit displays how one person can change lives for good.
Kaitlin, the middle child of the Pinkard family, lives with Down Syndrome. A typical day in her world involves maintaining a very consistent schedule. She routinely spends her mornings on the family’s home computer, laughing at videos on YouTube or singing along to musicals. She loves learning new things and gets frustrated when something is out of order.
Although an adult by physical means, Kaitlin’s emotional intelligence is comparative to an 11-year- old. Now, at the age of 23, she is no longer part of the public school system. But her zeal for learning hasn’t ceased. She fulfills her thirst for knowledge twice a week through the Embrace Special Needs Ministry.
The Embrace Special Needs Ministry exists to create a safe and secure environment by meeting the unique needs of individuals and families impacted by disability. From Sunday morning programming to Friday respite nights, the ministry is determined to provide care and support to the community so that people, such as Kaitlin and her family, feel right at home.
Kaitlin’s mom, Michelle, mentioned: “It’s an amazing blessing that Kaitlin gets to engage her mind at Embrace’s adult day program. She loved public school and is the only young person I know who hated Saturdays! A day without learning is tragedy for her, so we are blessed to have Embrace.”
The Pinkards first heard of the Embrace Special Needs Ministry after relocating to the Nashville area from Knoxville, Tennessee. Three years ago, a job opening came available at Joint Force Headquarters, and the military family packed their bags right before the COVID-19 pandemic. During quarantine of 2020, the Pinkards watched Brentwood Baptist Church’s services online and followed the church on social media. That’s when they discovered the great opportunities for special needs adults in the area.
Kaitlin’s parents mentioned: “Growing up, Kaitlin needed a one-on-one setting. If she attended a church service with us, we would spend the entire time managing her, which often kept us from really being able to engage. Being without community was difficult and discouraging. But Brentwood Baptist, with its heart for special needs people and their families, has opened a whole new world of opportunity for our entire family!”
When Kaitlin joined the Embrace community, they had no idea the impact she would have. They’ve discovered that Kaitlin is a passionate extrovert and makes new friends every day. She genuinely loves people and has the desire to make them feel comfortable in her world. On a Sunday morning, you can find Kaitlin worshiping the Lord with all her might. She holds nothing back and lives a life of full abandon.
Jill Hartsfield, Embrace Special Needs Programing Director, mentioned: “Kaitlin ‘KP’ Pinkard is a joy to know. She is deeply loved by our staff and her peers. KP displays a welcoming attitude and willingness to offer others a helping hand. Our ministry is better because of the gifts and talents KP brings.”
Despite all the challenges that come with having special needs, Kaitlin has brought hope and joy to everyone around her. The Pinkards have many happy days, but they do face difficult ones, as well. Kaitlin often struggles with fragile health and a weakened immune system. Simple colds often become more serious. She has undergone open heart surgery, a spinal fusion for severe scoliosis, and multiple surgeries on her ears, as well as treatment for her tonsils and adenoids.
Michelle Pinkard mentioned: “Challenges often come in many forms. There are physical challenges that limit her ability to participate at times. And – as a mom – I face hurdles, too. Fear is the chief of them. Fear of knowing that her life may not be as long. Fear of me dying and leaving behind a child that cannot care or provide for herself. That’s where the heavenly Father steps in and calms the fear. He always provides and knows His plan. We just need to trust in Him.”
The love and support of her church family has been a huge blessing for Kaitlin and the Pinkards. They know that no matter what challenges they face, they are not alone. Kaitlin is a beautiful reminder that joy can always be found and that God uses everything for His glory.
To learn more about the Embrace Special Needs Ministry, visit Brentwood.Church/special-needs.