Pennsburg woman’s caring legacy inspires project of comfort and hope

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PENNSBURG — Sarah Ott Carlin was a passionate advocate for children and vulnerable members of her community, and that legacy will continue through a project inspired by her desire to selflessly help others and one her loved ones say she’d embrace.

A graduate of Temple University’s School of Social Work, Sarah, of Pennsburg, was a service coordinator for the Montgomery County Office of Early Intervention for 15 years, coordinating various services for parents who had concerns that their children, infants to 3-years-old, were experiencing delays in their development.

“She took great pride in having a personal relationship with every one of those children and their families. She made a decision that this was going to be her career, caring for these little ones and helping them to be successful,” Judith D. Ott, Sarah’s mother, said affectionately as she recalled her daughter’s love of social work.

Tragically, Sarah passed away, the result of a vehicle accident on July 27 at the age of 39. She is survived by her husband, Scott C. Carlin, their daughter, Julia Grace, and her parents, Judith and retired Montgomery County Judge Stanley R. Ott.

Those who knew her described Sarah in online tributes “as an angel walking among us,” a vibrant young woman with a “funky, colorful style” whose “laugh would light up a room.” Friends said Sarah “brought a glow of sunshine wherever she went,” was a “devoted wife and doting mother” who also was gifted with animals, and they said she will be remembered for her “kindness and warm, sweet smile,” her “beautiful soul, beautiful mind, beautiful heart.”

While Sarah’s family waited for information about her condition at a Lehigh County hospital where she was transported after the accident, they sought solace in a private room to process their emotions as best as possible.

That experience and Sarah’s compassion for others inspired her loved ones to give back to the community and honor her by developing a project to create “comforting and welcoming waiting spaces” at Grand View Health in Sellersville, Bucks County, where Judith Ott serves on the board of trustees. The waiting spaces will be part of the hospital’s expansion project, which will include a new emergency department and Level II trauma center.

The Otts, of Schwenksville, said the waiting spaces will provide a peaceful environment for families who must deal with raw emotions, sometimes for hours, in an unfamiliar place.

“We’ve just come to really, really believe that this is a way to take this tragedy and turn it into something that will be a blessing for so many people who are in a very traumatic and difficult situation and hopefully, allow them to be at rest while their family member is being cared for,” said Judith Ott, who also had a long career as a social worker and advocate for community health in the North Penn, Souderton and Upper Bucks areas.

Stanley Ott views the project from a Christian perspective, recalling Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.”

“So even in a tragedy like this, we believe that this will be part of the good that God causes to come from tragic circumstances,” he said, expressing gratitude for the support shown to his family by those who knew Sarah and from his colleagues on the county bench and at the law firm Mannion Prior.

“I think what Sarah would say is people who are in those rooms, sometimes unaware of what the circumstances of their loved ones are, unaware of whether they are going to live or die, waiting for a chance to see them … are under really stressful, disorienting conditions; they are vulnerable people and if you can make them feel better, or more at ease or more comfortable, that’s what she would want to do,” the former judge added.

The project is something Sarah would embrace wholeheartedly, her family said.

“She would love it. She would be working on this. She would want to be involved,” Judith Ott said tenderly.

“It was Sarah’s nature to care about vulnerable people,” added Stanley Ott, who served as a county judge, primarily in the Orphans’ Court Division, from 1988 until his retirement in 2018.

Sarah attended Penn View Christian School and Gwynedd Mercy Academy prior to graduating from New Horizon Academy in Indiana and Temple University and always talked about helping others.

One of Sarah’s first field placements while in college was working with homeless veterans in Philadelphia.

“She could have been out in the suburbs working in a much easier setting but that was her passion, those that might not be able to get services. That’s who she wanted to work with,” Judith Ott recalled.

During her career, Sarah touched many lives. The families she worked with said Sarah was a beacon of light, love and hope.

If a child needed physical or speech therapy or education support, Sarah, who had a caseload of up to 80 children at times, would coordinate and link families with the appropriate providers.

“She really cared for her families. Regardless of the amount of cases she had at any given time she really would be so responsive to the parents and make them feel like they were the only child or family on her caseload,” said Kathy Marine, director of service coordination for Montgomery County Office of Early Intervention. “She could make a family feel that they were her most important priority. She really was dedicated and had a caring spirit.

“She always was someone who cared about people around her and she took the time to let everyone know how she felt about them. She was a person that really cared for her coworkers and families and everybody she met,” Marine added.

Sarah was known to get down on the floor with the children and play.

“Every step that those children took was a success for Sarah as much as it was for the parents,” said Judith Ott.

Ashley Benoit, of Souderton, met Sarah in August 2019 when she sought help from the Office of Early Intervention, concerned her 1-year-old son was delayed in crawling.

“It was divine intervention. It was definitely God that made that connection between our families,” Benoit said. “She was just a light for Christ and for people around her. It wasn’t about her. For her, it was about, ‘How can I help?’”

Another parent whose family Sarah assisted wrote in an online tribute, “She cheered with me through good times, and held me up through the bad.”

“I will treasure the memories of her getting down on the floor playing with my children and letting us know everything was going to be all right…,” another parent wrote.

“I’m so grateful for the time that she took to sit with me,” Benoit added. “She was so loving and just so kind.”

To make a gift to the project checks can be made payable to Grand View Health Foundation and mailed to 700 Lawn Avenue, P.O. Box 902, Sellersville, PA 18960-0902. Please note “Sarah Ott Carlin Memorial Fund” on the memo line of the check.

Donations also can be made online at www.GVH.org/sarah-ott-carlin-memorial-donate.