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Rising Stars: Meet Shelly Gibson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelly Gibson. 

Hi Shelly, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Sammie’s Sunshine is a non-profit foundation that my sister, Christy, and I started in May. We started Sammie’s Sunshine after losing my niece, Samantha Raye, in an auto accident in July of 2020. Sammie was a smart, sassy, beautiful young lady. She was 14 on the day of the accident and passed away the day after her 15th birthday. Our family had an amazing support system during the most difficult time we had ever faced. Our support came from God, family, friends and complete strangers who stepped in to be there for us. We immediately knew that we wanted to be there for others, the way people were there for us. We want to offer others a “Raye of Hope”. 

Our mission is to offer hope and support to families facing tragedy resulting from auto accidents, as well as to provide education and awareness in order to decrease the number of these tragedies each year through seat belt awareness programs. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
In our situation, the biggest challenge you face is the grief of losing your loved one. You have to adjust to a new “normal”. There is nothing normal about not having your loved one gone, especially a child. As an aunt, it includes missing her every day, not having her there when you go visit, missing her at holidays, thinking about all those things she should have enjoyed and had as she grew up and the heartache you feel every day for her and everyone you love. For Sammie’s parents and siblings, this includes everything an aunt feels and so much more, including her just not being there every single day. It can definitely be a struggle. It is why you need a support system and why we want to help others that faces these tragedies. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Our work currently consists of two main areas. The first is to assist families after auto accidents. We work with each family individually to help as needed. Here are some of the examples of families we have been able to assist. 

Two 16-year-old girls were in an auto accident and we worked with both of their families. One sustained injuries and was home within the first week. The second young lady was in the hospital for 54 days and is now completing in-patient therapy five days a week. We were able to provide them with meals, snacks, and drinks while they were in the hospital. We were also able to send meals to the PICU staff who provided care for their child on behalf of them as a thank you. We know our first responders and our healthcare workers take care of our loved ones and we try to give back to them anytime we can. 

We have another family where a young man lost his life in an auto accident. He was the sole provider for his fiancé and their child. We have been able to pay off their rental agreement so we could take one burden off of her. 

A teenage girl who was in an auto accident had to have multiple surgeries and is still completing in-patient therapy. She only had a mattress on the floor at home for her bed. We purchased an adjustable bed and had it delivered to her home so she will have something more suitable for healing when she gets home. 

There have been multiple families who have lost loved ones in fatal accidents and we have assisted in finding the right grief therapist for different family members. 

With all of these families, I keep in touch with them and help where we can, no matter how big or small it might seem. 

The other side of our foundation is seat belt awareness. Unfortunately, Sammie was not wearing her seat belt. We know that seat belts save lives. We want to share this message with others. Sammie’s Sunshine has already worked with multiple schools and we continue to add to that number to raise awareness. 

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
Our foundation is made up completely of volunteers and our funding comes from donations. My sister, Christy, is the President. I am the Executive Director. We have five additional board members that volunteer. Outside of this, we have people in our communities that volunteer for our events. The people that come together to help Sammie’s Sunshine are amazing! Christy is located in Parker, Co and I am in Louisburg, KS. In both places, we have had one fundraising event and had adults and teens both come together to help make them successful. One of the pictures I provided was at our recent KS Spread the Sunshine Gala, where our youth did all the serving and working the event. We had over 25 teenagers volunteer their Saturday to help set up and spend the whole evening supporting this cause. We have had businesses and people alike donate for events. We will continue to collaborate with volunteers, businesses, schools, and other outlets to raise awareness and bring in donations to assist with helping families. We are always looking for new partners that want to get involved. 

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Image Credits

Corey Cassaw

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