Ask anybody at Indian Creek Middle School — students, teachers, etc. — about Coy Mullen and you’ll discover a theme among the many smiling faces when you mention his name. Simply by talking to them for a couple of minutes you can see the impact he’s had on their lives and how much they love him.
Mullen, currently in the eighth grade, is the most joyous, red-headed special needs child anyone could ever meet. He wears a wide smile on his face from ear-to-ear like it’s a tattoo, and if you come in contact with him his magnetic personality will force you to wear one too.
“He’s just a wonderful bright spot in my day. When he comes in — he’s in my homeroom — so when he comes in he always has a smile on his face and he always talks to us and talks to everybody in the class,” Betsy Proffitt, Coy’s homeroom teacher, said.
“He doesn’t meet a stranger. He loves everybody,” Leigh Vrable, one of Coy’s teachers, said. Everybody is a friend. He loves everybody. He literally loves them. I don’t think he knows what the words “mean” and “hate” are. He doesn’t know that.
Mullen was born with an extra chromosome, which leads to Down Syndrome. He has been with his parents, Shelton and Shiler Mullen, who are both black, since he was five months old. Coy, however, doesn’t see color. To Coy, Shelton and Shiler are his parents. That’s it. He doesn’t see a reason why they wouldn’t be. Coy tells his teachers that he was born in his mother’s heart.
“Coy sees the world 99.9 percent like most people would like for it to be,” Shiler Mullen said. “He sees things [differently]. He’s a happy child and he doesn’t look at anything with any preconceived notions. Color is not a factor for him, disabilities are not a factor for him. He’s just a great kid.”
“He could not be anymore loved by anybody. His parents love him. It wouldn’t matter if she gave birth to him or not,” Stephanie Stonek, who also teaches Coy, said.
Before the Mullen’s took Coy in he had been in six different homes in a three-month timespan. Shiler Mullen says that Coy’s initial diagnosis was that he’d never walk or talk, but she didn’t believe that.
“I don’t consider him not normal,” Mrs. Mullen said. “In his world he is perfectly normal and that’s the way we’ve always treated him because I never believed when they said he wouldn’t walk or talk. I just never believed it.”
Shiler Mullen says that Coy began to walk after two years and he started talking around the age of four.
“It’s been amazing raising Coy,” Shiler Mullen said. “Sometimes it takes just a little bit of patience, but it’s been amazing because he can put a smile on anybody’s face.”
The love for Coy reaches well beyond his parents and the teachers that love him. Indian Creek held a pep rally for some of its fall sports on Friday afternoon. Coy is on the wrestling team and when his coach, Andrew Wimpey called his name the entire middle school erupted with applause.
“The other students have such a love for him and a tremendous amount of affection. They just embrace him. He is their friend and they encourage him and support him in everything that he does. It’s just really the coolest thing to see how much they mean to him and how much he means to them,” Proffitt said.
Coy is currently undefeated in wrestling, at a perfect 4-0. His teachers say that when he’s wrestling Coy is prone to getting a little distracted, mostly when he’s looking for the six girlfriends he talks about.
He doesn’t know what a girlfriend or sugarmama is but he has six girlfriends and he likes to refer to some people as sugarmama. That’s a recipe for success.
Coy says that he has lots of friends, which you could tell is true from the love and support he gets around the school. He added that Ricky Jackson, a fellow wrestler, is his best friend. With wrestling season coming to an end Coy says Jackson won’t have to shake in his boots anymore in fear of having to wrestle Coy.
“I love some Ricky Jackson,” Coy said.
“He be shaking out his shoes,” Coy said, wearing that big bright smile pointing down at the floor.
“Coy always has a smile on his face,” Wimpey said. “So, sometimes when we get a little down after a loss. A lot of times, Coy will wrestle after and it just helps bring the spirit of the team up. He’s always happy. He’s always here to wrestle. I think it just helps the overall atmosphere of the team for sure.”
“He’s full of jokes. He’s always got a funny comment to say,” Wimpey added. “After practice, we ask questions and Coy always has a comment to make everybody laugh. After we’ve been working hard and sweating all day, it’s nice to have that reminder and allow us to have fun so he’s awesome.”
Other than wrestling, Coy Mullen likes music and technology and he has a great sense of direction.
“He will sing you a song just like anything, and he loves R&B. But he will sing you a song and it’s all off-key and he’s bobbing his head and snapping his fingers like he’s right on key,” Shiler said laughingly.
“He’s a human GPS,” Mrs. Mullen added. “I don’t need a GPS when I have him in the car. My sense of direction is awful, but he can usually get me wherever I need to go exactly. If he sees it one time, he remembers.”
After the pep rally while talking with his teachers, Coy entered the room and immediately brought smiles to the faces of everyone in the room. Leah Johnson asked Coy how to get to Elizabeth City, which is in North Carolina.
After taking a second to think about, Coy replied, “If you come out this entrance you take that right, take it straight on covington bypass road, pass Jacob’s school and go all the way down. Then you hit I-20 Eastbound then you go out over the Alcovy river. Then you go right pass exit 98 and go right through those exits. Right through South Carolina, then you go through North Carolina. Then you hit 64 to 17. Then you see a sign that says “Welcome to Elizabeth City.”
Coy’s love for others surpasses his love for tech or music and even his ability to be a human GPS. Shiler Mullen recalls a time when a friend of her’s lost their mother and Coy insisted on calling her.
Shiler Mullen recalls him saying, “God just needed her a little bit more than the people in Alabama did.”
“Everyday I’m just amazed at the way he sees the world, just like we would want it to be all the time. People are nice to each other. It’s certain things with his disability that he just doesn’t understand.
Shiler says that Coy has been a blessing to their family, just as he has to Indian Creek. She says the thing she loves about Coy is his ability to change other people’s perception of life.
If you ask anybody to name one thing that makes Coy Mullen unique and fun to be around, they won’t be able to because that’s why he’s unique. His personality is wide-reaching and it has captured the hearts of many at Indian Creek Middle School.