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Miracle Makers: Sheets Family Shows Compassion and Strength After Tragic Loss

Outstanding Commitment by a Volunteer

The Sheets FamilyWhen Jim and Stephanie Sheets lost their baby boy, James Kempton, just 11 days before the Stroll for Strong Kids, they had a very tough decision to make. Should they cancel the plans they had made with family and friends to walk in honor of James? Or were they ready to push forward, even though he was no longer with them, knowing that the funds they were raising could help others? Their answer gets to the heart of who this incredible family is and why they’ve earned the Miracle Maker award this year, for Outstanding Commitment by a Volunteer.

Jim and Stephanie did walk on June 3, 2000. And, while the dedicated effort they’ve put forth in volunteering for many hospital events over the past 12 years has helped others like their son, that’s not the reason they walked. They did it for the nurses and hospital staff, who had cared for their son during the many months he was in and out of Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“We really just believed that the nurses and hospital staff had done so much for our family that we didn’t want to miss our chance to support them,” said Stephanie. “A lot of times, when you think about the Stroll and the kids there, you think of kids who had been in the hospital but went home. Here we were, walking for our son, yet we didn’t have him any longer. But at the same time, seeing all his nurses was great. They had really become like family to us.”

James’ stay in the hospital was a formative experience for everyone in the family, including Stephanie’s daughter Laura, who was only 5 years old when her brother was ill. Now a mature young lady, 17-year-old Laura aspires to be a pediatric nurse. She is enrolled in New Visions at BOCES, an impressive program that trains high school students planning on careers in health care. It seems almost serendipitous that Laura is right back where she was as a little girl, training on the hospital’s 4-1600 unit with the same nurse manager, Jeanne Kirby, who cared for her baby brother all those years ago.

“It’s amazing that, at such a young age and given the circumstances, Laura walked out of the hospital with a positive experience. It says a lot about the nurses and staff and doctors at Golisano Children’s Hospital,” Stephanie said.

The Sheets offer to help Golisano Children’s Hospital whenever and wherever they can. Jim and Stephanie joined the Stroll committee the year after their first walk, and they’ve been helping run the show ever since. Jim is really “the co-director on the day of the Stroll. He’s our guy,” said Michael Fahy, assistant director of Advancement at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

They also volunteer at the Gala, help with the Fairport Music and Food Festival, lend their support to the Ten Ugly Men Festival when they can, have assisted at the Genesee Valley Hunt Races, sit on the Community Fundraising Committee, share their story at community fundraising events, and the list goes on.

“We cannot thank the hospital enough. Jim and I have always taken the approach that wherever the hospital needs some elbow grease, we’ll be there,” said Stephanie. As appreciative as they are, it’s really the hospital that has gained the most from the contributions that this warm, gracious and enthusiastic set of supporters has offered. It’s both an honor and a privilege to honor this wonderful family with this year’s Miracle Maker award.