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Julie Whitacre

“There is a lot that you don’t feel like you should fight for, for yourself, but it is completely different when it is for a child without a voice.” These are the words of Julie Whitacre, the devoted mother and fierce advocate of Ava Gray and Havyn Whitacre, two six-year-old twin girls who love dancing, dinosaurs, and Bruno Mars. Ava Gray was born with hydrocephalus, which left her with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. TennCare had provided Ava Gray with nurses to allow her to live at home with her family until last year when Julie was informed that TennCare was cutting their nursing hours below what Ava Gray needed to stay safe at home.

That is when Julie reached out to the Tennessee Justice Center, and our team helped find representation for Ava Gray to appeal their cut nursing hours. Jack Smith represented the Whitacres, and his skill and determination won them the appeal.

Fortunately, Julie has not been alone in this herculean effort of herding nurses, doctors and therapists for Ava Gray; planning class field trips, homework and lunches for Havyn; running her own business; and, navigating the complexities of TennCare. Kristina Pettigrew, Julie’s best friend, has shown unwavering dedication to Julie and her girls since day one. Kristina recalls holding Havyn in the hospital while Ava Gray was in the NICU and, at that moment, deciding to be a constant of stability, support, and love in their family.

Despite the stressors and challenges of raising a child with a complex medical condition, the Whitacre-Pettigrew team radiates levity, positivity, hospitality, and a hunger for life that is simply contagious. We are thrilled to honor both Julie and Kristina as 2018 Mothers of Year.

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