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Sheila Vincent

Sheila Vincent

Five Rules for Living, One for Giving

The first thing you need to know about Dream Builder Sheila Vincent is that she has five rules for living:

  1. Respect all people and cultures
  2. Be a peacemaker
  3. Have empathy for the poor and marginalized
  4. Remain humble
  5. Have a sense of humor

You only need to talk to her for five minutes to realize she should have put humor first. "I'm telling you, these ideas get you through," she laughs. Sheila laughs a lot. It's infectious.

"My parents were good people and this is what they taught me. My dad was in the Navy. We lived in a lot of places. You learn to have a lot of empathy for people, especially children living overseas."

That empathy has carried Sheila far and has helped many people, especially children.

Sheila first got interested in Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital more than 20 years ago when her best friend "dragged" her to an event to volunteer. She was hooked.

"I was at an event when I made it official," she pronounces dramatically. "I got legally adopted by the Guild." Well, maybe not literally ... The Sarasota/Manatee Branch of The Guild, which supports and fundraises for Johns Hopkins All Children's, has been her favorite. Over the years, Sheila has relied on her own connections, friendships and even professional relationships to create events, raise money and volunteer time for the children at the main campus and at the Outpatient Care, Sarasota location.

Once when touring the main hospital, she was so impressed by the bright lights and swirling parts of a Vecta machine designed for autism therapy—and to create distractions for children fearing unknown machines like an MRI—that she recommended that the Sarasota/Manatee Branch use its Legacy fund to purchase a Vecta for the Sarasota location.

Speaking Four Languages Can Mean Four Times the Help Sheila is a firebrand and her positive, fun-loving personality is not to be denied. As a worldly woman who speaks four languages, she now devotes her time to offering translation services to organizations including the non-government organizations of the United Nations, the Franciscan Federation, and Congressional committee meetings. She also has a loving relationship with the dancers of the Sarasota Ballet, so it's no coincidence that, before long, a trail of professional dancers entered the Children's Auditorium to perform for patients at Johns Hopkins All Children's. She also has convinced ballet members to volunteer at events in Sarasota.

Sheila makes things happen and when she decided to become a Dream Builder, she knew exactly how she wanted her money spent. She credits Lydia Bailey, senior gift officer for Johns Hopkins All Children's Foundation, with convincing her to take that next logical step and include the hospital in her will. "Lydia is so sincere. It was evident that she really believes in this hospital, and she made me realize that there is so much more I can do as a Dream Builder even more than through a large donation now," Sheila explains. "Indigent care is so important to me. I follow the Franciscan tradition, and I believe in taking care of the poor. The idea that someone would be reticent to take their child to the hospital just because of money just doesn't sit well with me." So Sheila decided that was how she wanted to help. She also chose pediatric cancer as a recipient of her donations.

And, of course, she still volunteers. "I do the registration for All Kids Wonderland every December at the main campus," she explains. Wonderland provides holiday gift options offered by donors to stressed and busy parents who can't leave the hospital. "I get to talk to every single parent who participates in the program, and it's unforgettable to see the looks on their faces, the relief," she recalls, shaking her head. "I talked to one mother who said her child was having heart surgery at that moment.

You can't forget these things. I've also done several tours of the hospital, the neonatal intensive care unit. You see dedication first hand. And the children themselves are so in love with this hospital and so dedicated.

Sheila invited a family friend and former hospital patient to tell her story at the recent Miracle Ball. The girl had leukemia when she was 3 and came to Johns Hopkins All Children's around the time Sheila got involved. Now she's about to head off to college but took time to tell her story. "That's dedication," Sheila says.

Sheila's five rules for living are paying dividends. Not only for her, but for everyone around her who has "caught" her infectious zest for life, her incredible empathy and her dedication to helping those in need.

Maybe they should become the five rules for Dream Builders.


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