A Lasting Legacy


There’s no doubt, that  over the past 20 years, local children have been safer. All thanks to the efforts of one local program.

It’s also thanks to the woman who’s been there for it all. And now, she’s moving on to a new chapter.

Julie Wheatley started with CASY, Chances and Services for Youth back in 1995. She’s a Wabash Valley native who’s definitely left a legacy. Soon, she’ll be on her way to retirement in Florida… With the intent to rest and relax, but some volunteer work may also be in the future.

“She is like the car seat guru… She has the answers to all the questions… We joke that she’s going to have to continue to be the resource even after she’s gone,” Chelsey Smith, development specialist with CASY said.

Installing car seats and double checking the safety presents many unexpected challenges.

“This van was a little bit more difficult because there’s a Riley issues seat, so it’s a medical seat, so we need to make sure that’s properly installed, and then there’s a couple of rear facing car seats in here too so we had to kind of play Tetris,” Smith said.

And through all of the challenges, decades of CASY workers have turned to one woman.

“It’s a dynamic field, that’s why it’s been interesting for so long, things are changing all the time,” Julie Wheatley, program coordinator said.

Although Wheatley plans to soon leave her field behind, her advocacy is not stopping.

She describes the statistics on child passenger injuries as staggering. For a long time, it’s been the number one killer of kids 14 and under, but with the right efforts, like Thursday’s monthly car seat check, any bit of help makes a difference.   

In fact, Wheatley just reunited with a parent who’s family car got totaled. The baby, in a car seat donated by CASY, was the only one un injured.   

“That’s you know, that’s a really good feeling,” she said.

Wheatley has one goal in mind for retirement to Florida.

“Right now I’m just planning on relaxing.”

But her will to help might overcome.

“I was looking into car seat technicians doing work down there. So maybe I can pick it up down there, maybe not, we’ll see.”

Wheatley says that making this move to Florida will be scary. She’s lived in the Valley her whole life, but she and her husband plan to come back to visit.


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