Firm: Church & Sawin Planning Group of Raymond
James & Associates
City: Naples, Fla.

Age: 58
Years as an advisor: 29
Years with current firm: 19
AUM: $270 million

 

In 1986, Shelly Church’s son Kyle Fernstrom was born with a heart defect.

As tragic as that was, it inspired her. She organized fundraising walks around her home of Naples, Fla., and ran the local chapter of the American Heart Association.

When her son turned six, he joined her in an annual walk to raise money for the American Heart Association. The duo called themselves “Kyle’s team” and walked three miles that year, raising $3,500. They would walk in every annual event, even if it rained.

Ultimately, Church became the president of the local American Heart Association’s Collier County Chapter, serving from 2002 to 2005. (The name was changed more recently to the Southwest Florida Chapter.) The next year, she was awarded the prestigious Special Services Award for Florida.

In 2005, Kyle tragically passed away, and Church backed off from her activities on the board. Although it was a hard time, she eventually dove back into her volunteer work, with her son’s death recharging her. 

“I saw how crucial research and education was for fixing people’s hearts,” she says. “Every time I thought I'd back away, something happened to pull me back in.”

Today, Church continues to do the annual American Heart Association walk in Kyle’s memory. This year’s walk had 125 participants, raising around $60,000. “We’ve created a legacy and people are happy to be involved,” she says.

About five years ago, she threw herself into Go Red for Women, a new effort organized by the American Heart Association to help women learn about the differences between heart disease symptoms in women and men, and raise money for research. She just organized her fourth fundraising luncheon, with 400 women in attendance at a resort halfway between Ft. Meyers and Naples. They raised around $280,000.

Church has also joined the board of Camp Boggy Creek, a weeklong summer camp near Orlando that her son used to attend. The camp allows seriously ill children to enjoy a summer camp experience they wouldn’t normally be able to have. Now Church is the treasurer and heads the investment and finance committee. She makes the five-and-a-half hour drive to meetings held four times a year at the camp.

On her desk is an acrylic plaque that reads: “One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for other.” Says Church: “It comes back tenfold in the joy you see in people around you.”