California Teen Brings ‘Joy’ to Pediatric Cancer Patients
Sheila Baker didn’t know Jessie Rees when she was alive. But when Jessie died, Sheila felt a great loss. The two girls grew up, lived in the same small California town, and were the same age. However, Jessie was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and lived just 10 months before succumbing to the disease at age 12 in 2012. Although she was sick, Jessie dreamed up ways to help other children facing cancer. Her death affected the entire community, Sheila included. Sheila, who is named for her grandmother who passed away from stage four lung cancer, wanted to get involved helping kids like Jessie facing cancer. She has been a loyal and faithful volunteer with the Jessie Rees Foundation for the past six years, logging more than 165 hours so far in 2018.
Now 19, an age when many young people are focused on their own lives, Sheila chooses to give – of her time, her resources and her compassion. Sheila is making a difference in her community and is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree. Points of Light Spoke with Sheila about her commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
My inspiration is my buddy Carter, and all other courageous kids fighting cancer that I get to encourage. Carter is so special to me because he is the first courageous child that I was able to meet and build a friendship with. He was so brave and inspiring throughout his entire battle and always was the light in any room or situation.
Describe your volunteer role.
My role as a volunteer is mostly to help pack for and work events where we partner with compassionate corporations to stuff Joy Jars at their offices. I also love making the personalized jars that we send to children with cancer. I was also asked to travel with our team to events across the country as a representative of our organization. I started a club at my high school to spread awareness of our mission to the students and faculty on campus. And I led a campaign to collect toys and money for the Jessie Rees Foundation.
What is a Joy Jar?
It’s something Jessie, whose middle name was Joy, thought of to encourage other kids with cancer, a jar filled with love – fun activities, books, puzzles and other bits to break the lonely monotony of treatment and hospital stays.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my volunteer experience has been meeting kids who never ever give up, whether it is at hospital visits or when my high school hosted our own courageous kid Carter.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I have learned that what this foundation does is truly my calling in life. Encouraging kids and families to NEGU (never ever give up) is incredibly inspiring.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I am very excited to travel more with the foundation. My favorite part about volunteering is spreading Jessie’s mission to everyone I can, especially people who otherwise wouldn’t know what we did to help kids.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I think it is so important for me because I am the same age as Jessie and being able to help, even a little bit, carry on a legacy like hers is amazing and so inspiring.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I hope people can learn that getting involved in your community doesn’t have to just be for a day. I have been a volunteer for six years and have found my passion in life.
Do you want to make a difference in your community Sheila Baker? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.