Heart of the Matter

2022 Heart of the Matter & Tin Man Awards

The Tin Man Awards celebrates and recognizes members of our community who help build resiliency in child abuse survivors and provide exceptional service to children and/or their families in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender Counties.

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Congratulations to the 2022 Tin Man of the Year!

2021 Tin Man AwardsIn 2015, the Carousel Center began the Heart of the Matter Fundraising event and wanted to recognize the dedication of our partners both volunteers and professional community members, the unsung heroes in the fight against child abuse.   They are the heart of our community, and they are continually the heart of how The Carousel Center is able to offer healing services to the child victims of abuse/neglect and maltreatment, who utilize our Child Advocacy Center each year.

In the iconic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man character traveled to The Emerald City with Dorothy because he believed he needed a heart from The Wizard. In reality. he had the biggest heart all along. The Tin Man was humble, loving, caring, and compassionate.

Community Professional Tinman of the Year

Detective Sydni Starnes, New Hanover Sheriffs' Office

Detective Sydni Starnes, New Hanover County Sheriffs’ Office

Detective Starnes serves as a Crimes Against Children (CAC) Detective in the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.  She is responsible to investigate all manner of crimes involving children, including cases of physical/sexual abuse, neglect, and child pornography.  Literally every day Det. Starnes works to create a positive impact for children, not just as their detective, but also providing reassurance, understanding, and support for the victims of these horrible crimes.  Det. Starnes is constantly engaged with the child victims, their parents or guardians, and MDT partners at DSS, District Attorney’s Office, and Carousel. Det. Starnes investigates NUMEROUS cases that involve predators contacting their victims using social media platforms.  In addition to investigating, she takes time to educate children, parents, guardians, and the public on the internet and personal safety in the hope that she can help prevent children from being victimized.

Community Volunteer Tinman of the Year

Beth Bell, Community Volunteer Tinman of the Year

For nearly 5 years, the first face you see at the New Hanover Carousel offices is Ms. Beth!  She has been a tried and true, dedicated Volunteer Greeter.  She is the cheerful face visitors experience week-in week-out, boosting the spirits of not only Carousel kids and their grown-ups, but for the whole Carousel Team, too. Always willing to do whatever needs to be done, rarely missing a week, seeking out projects when things are slow all show she has the Biggest Heart of ALL!  A champion for “behind the scenes” tasks, she is so kind and ready to help with any task, no matter how big or small, and her efforts keep Carousel operations humming right along!   Even away from Carousel, she looks for ways to help support Carousel’s mission. Ms. Beth not only lends her valuable time and talents to Carousel, volunteering for most of Carousel’s annual fundraising events, or outreach events, and spreading the word about Carousel, she gives generously of her treasure, too, making sure every Carousel family gets grocery gift cards as part of the gift package for Holiday Hugs.  As a direct investor in Carousel’s efforts, she never tires to educate others about our agency, its dedicated Team, and encouraging others to get actively involved, too.  Kids need consistency and routine.  They need caring and supportive adults in their lives.  Ms. Beth IS that consistent and supportive presence for Carousel children, learning from them, playing with them, and even learning a new work in a different language.  She is so genuinely invested in Carousel’s families and it shows!

Congratulations to all the 2022 Tin Man Nominees!

Gabby Korlacki, New Hanover County Department of Social Services

Gabby Korlacki, New Hanover County Department of Social Services

Gabby’s career as a DDD Investigator provides the vehicle for being an advocate for children every day. Utmost in her mind is the safety of each child. She promotes healing and resilience in every child and family. She works steadily through each investigation, providing caregivers with resources, education, and much-needed guidance along the way. As a member of the community Multi-Disciplinary Team, she is thoughtful, kind, and quick to learn – she looks for every option, is actively engaged in every case, and keeps an open mind to the possibility of new or different information. She is an advocate for children,  Every. Single. Day.

Heather Lee, New Hanover County Department of Social Services

For 12 years, Heather has been a positive force for children in our community. Starting her career as a Child Protective Services Social Worker, she often handled the most serious physical and sexual abuse cases.  Regularly a face at Carousel, Heather’s career grew, as she assisted Carousel to grow.  Moving up into a DSS Supervisor role, she continues to oversee the forensic investigations of child abuse cases for New Hanover County, carefully balancing policy knowledge, passion and integrity.  Heather is a calming presence in the midst of tragedy and conflict.  She cares for her Investigative Team, her community partnerships, and the entire community, in her heart, through her actions, and recognizing the importance of relationships and teamwork. Always forward-thinking, she helped to bring specialized secondary traumatic training to her organization to mitigate its impact on the workers in the field.  Always focused on helping children and families increase resilience she does what is right, not always what is easy.  Heather knows our child abuse response system in and out – not just policies and procedures – but she also sees the humanity in the midst of the system.

Alissa Price

Working alongside Alissa is a pleasure.  She is direct, prepared, and a great Team player.  Working at DSS, it is easy to become overwhelmed with cases that never stop coming in, and the heartache inherent in each one. Alissa measures success based on the successes of each child.  Especially this past year, Alissa has been involved in several very complicated cases with many visits to Carousel for Child Medical Evaluations (CMEs), multiple family members to manage, adults with their own histories of trauma and mental health concerns, multiple forms of child abuse alleged, kids in care in different places.  Alissa just simply remains flexible, on top of each case, and rolling right along with each new aspect that pops up.  She stands up for what is right for the children, even if it is not convenient.  She stands firm, working with her Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) members to come up with the best possible solutions for all involved.  It never matters if the solution was not the “popular” one, or if it added work on her own plate, Alissa’s passion for this work begins and ends for children to have the best possible opportunities for success. She is an advocate, educator, and looks at each new case as an opportunity to give every bit of herself so that the child and family have the best chances for success. It is an honor to work alongside her.

Daniel Ruisueno

Detective Ruisueño is a very welcomed new addition to the Wilmington Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Investigations.  He has an unwavering dedication to this community its children and their families. Det. Ruisueño jumped right into the MDT, ready to go, without reservation, and with an open mind.  Just “Ruisueño,” as he is known in the halls of Carousel, he actively seeks more knowledge, expertise and seeks feedback from the experts readily available to him as he investigates each child abuse case, because he wants to best serve our kiddos. Throughout the entire investigative process, Ruisueño remains in contact with each family, keeping them informed on the case progress regularly to keep them informed on what to expect and always available to answer their questions or concerns. Ruisueño, dedicated to getting justice for children, even connects new evidence secured, which was also evidence in a past case. He didn’t hesitate to reopen the old case and work to improve it along with his others so that he could hold the offenders accountable.  Even in this short time, Ruisueño had had a positive impact on his cases, the MDT, and our community, too! Ruisueño really is amazing!

Detective Audrey Smith

Detective Smith is very dedicated to her work as a Special Victims Unit (SVU) Detective with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.  She shows her victims compassion and works WITH them to assure the best possible outcomes.  Especially when the case is one child initiating behaviors that hurt another child, Det. Smith always seeks the best outcome for BOTH kiddos. Det. Smith is an outstanding forensic interviewer, and in the majority of her cases, the suspects often confess, strengthening each case, and ensuring her child survivors see justice happen. No matter the time of day or night, Det. Smith works with victims’ shows they feel comfortable working with her.  She has a way of putting their minds at ease, even during the worst possible moments of their lives.  She supports the Carousel mission by utilizing its services, all right at her fingertips, gaining education, expertise, always asking questions to provide better service to her families.

Detective Brandi Thompson, Pender County Sheriff's Office

Detective Brandi Thompson, Pender County Sheriff’s Office

Detective Thompson decided to leave the general working world, for the honorable world of Crimes Against Children (CAC) Detective with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office.  She’s jumped into these investigations without hesitation and works tirelessly to investigate cases of child physical and sexual abuse.  Det. Thompson always handles her cases with care, consideration, and the desire to protect children.  Det. Thompson works on and off the job advocating for children and Domestic Violence survivors.  She fiercely investigates these cases to protect children, charge the perpetrators, when able and even hold adult caregivers of children accountable if the evidence demonstrates they’ve failed to protect them. Det. Thompson is the rallying professional to implement a Family Justice Center in Pender County.  The first of its kind in southeastern NC, she’s motivated the entire community to get behind this effort, nearly single-handedly!  She’s arranging and writing grants, speaking engagements, appeals to Pender County officials and mustering community support to get this collaborative agency in place and functioning for Pender residents.  Carousel stands united with her efforts!  We are prepared to be the anchor agency in the new Pender County Family Justice Center.

2022 Tin Man Community Volunteer Nominees

Linda King

Linda King

When you need a boost of positive outlook, find Ms. Linda at Carousel.  She is an active Carousel Greeter volunteer who jumps in to help, even when our Finance and Development Team needs a hand with the administrative side of Carousel’s work!  No matter what is going on, Ms. Linda looks for ways to assist Carousel’s Team to get it done and remember how amazing they are.  Not just at Carousel New Hanover, Ms. Linda readily volunteers to help Carousel for community events, and with our annual fundraisers… never without a smile and a “How are you?”.  Even during COVID times, when we were protecting our volunteers from exposures and it just wasn’t safe to be present at Carousel, she regularly called in to see what tasks she could come to pick up, take home, complete, and return.  If there was a lull, she hand-crocheted beautiful and comfy blankies for us to give to each child that visits Carousel.  We couldn’t do this work without her!

Travis Foster

Picture it.  It’s 2014, and the Carousel is buzzing like a beehive with Child Medical Evaluations, therapy appointments, staff training, interns in orientation, administrative meetings occurring… in walks Travis Foster from Johnstone Supply.  Johnstone Supply was organizing a golf tournament that they’d like to make a regular annual event, so he was researching local child-serving agencies to become the designated beneficiary. He looked no further! “Tee It OFF!” for Kids Golf Tournament was born and over the last 7 years has raised over $80k for Carousel’s operations. Travis and Johnstone Supply have not only financially invested in Carousel, but actively recruit and connect other potential sponsors and duffers to get involved with Carousel as well. Putting Carousel Team in front of diverse groups of businesses and professionals that would otherwise never know Carousel existed. The true definition of having “The Biggest Heart” may vary from person to person, but when an individual, organization, or company is always ready, willing, and actually steps right up and in to be sure the waiting room has a brand new train table, just because, that is a community treasure indeed!

Previous Tin Man “Biggest Heart” Award Winners


Community Volunteer

CarpetSmart of Wilmington

2021 Tin Man Awards

Jon Blackburn

2021 Tin Man Awards  Detective Stephen Baize, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department


Professional Volunteer       

Jason W. Smith, Assistant District Attorney,             
Sixth Prosecutorial District


Professional                                                           Volunteer

Detective Chawana Moore-Johnson                Justin Sorrells
New Hanover County Sherriff’s Office            GLOW Academy


Professional:                                  Volunteer:

Detective Holt Wooddell                   Danielle Boisse
Wilmington Police Department       Port City Design Group



Marino, Wanda – Assistant Director-New Hanover DSS


Vandenberg, Angelena – Volunteer Therapist – UNCW School of Social Work



Clinard, Steve – Det. Sgt. Pender County Sheriff’s Office


Snyder, Michael – Carousel Center Greeter

Community Professional – Awarded to the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) members who were present at the official National Children’s Alliance Site Visit on December 10, 2014, and made it possible for The Carousel Center, Inc. to achieve full Child Advocacy Center Accreditation Status:

Amy Horgan, CoastalCare

Colleen Mistovitch, New Hanover Regional Medical Center

Det. Peter Oehl, Wilmington Police Department

Lance Oehrlein, Assistant District Attorney – NC 5th Judicial District

Det. Justin Ovaska, Wilmington Police Department

Amy Phillips, Rape Crisis Center of Coastal Horizons Center, Inc.

Kari Sanders, New Hanover County Department of Social Services

Det. Kelly Sellers, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department

Det. Mike Tenney, Wilmington Police Department

Lt. Thomas Tilmon, Wilmington, Police Department

Det. Amy Womble, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office

Community Volunteer – Awarded to community volunteer(s) who go above and beyond in their efforts to assist child victims of abuse through thick and thin.  These Biggest Hearts in the Cape Fear Community give of their time, energy, talents, and/or financially to ensure The Carousel Center remains available for children and families who need Child Advocacy Center services:

Bill & Debbie Rudisill

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