C.J.’s Bus Creator Wins Award

How does tragedy affect you? One mother, who lost her son to a tornado in Southern Indiana, is changing the world, one disaster area at a time. Kathryn Martin of Evansville, Indiana has been awarded the Ivy Tech 2009 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for the creation of C.J.’s Bus. Her harrowing story has touched the lives of dozens of families across the United States, including many Indianapolis children.

Kathryn Martin was the loving mother of a two year old boy, C.J. But one fateful morning in November of 2005, a tornado ripped through her small town, taking her mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law and worst of all, C.J., with it. Heartbroken over the loss of her child, Kathryn Martin was determined to triumph in the face of tragedy.

She returned to school at Ivy Tech Community College, where she studied Human Services with a focus on child advocacy. Helping children in Indianapolis and across America was constantly at the forefront of her mind. After earning her degree, she returned to her destroyed home in Otwell, Indiana. Ever since, she has been changing the world around her for the better.

She helped build a memorial Indiana park for the surviving families of the  Eastbrook Mobile Home Community, where she and C.J. had lived. She was persistent with the Indiana State Legislature in Indianapolis and was an instrumental force in the passage of C.J.’s Law, which mandates mobile home manufacturers equip each home with a NOAA weather device that can provide life saving information in the event of dangerous, possibly deadly weather.

And perhaps the simplest and most beautiful gesture Kathryn Martin made was to load her car up with coloring books, crayons, juice boxes and a friend. Together they searched through the wreckage of Otwell, Indiana. When they found Indiana children playing in the debris, Martin would offer the parents some peace and quiet amid the chaos. Martin sat and played with the children, keeping them distracted so their parents could have a few moments to decide how to move on.

When Kathryn met Jeff Parness, a survivor of the 2006 San Diego wild fires, the two had a brilliant idea. They purchased a bus and decked it out with entertainment for children. Now C.J.’s Bus is deployed nationwide to various areas torn apart by disaster. The bus creates a safe space where kids can be kids in the middle of chaos.

This Hoosier mom is an inspiration to us all. After experiencing a crisis that would make most mothers wild, she created one of the most innovative Indianapolis nonprofit organizations, specially designed to aid children in Indianapolis and across the United States. A testament to the fact that anyone can make a difference in the world, Kathryn Martin and C.J.’s Bus is a truly inspiring tale.

For more information about C.J.’s Bus and how you can get involved as a volunteer that helps Indianapolis children, visit the organization’s official website.