By Ann Leach
Sheila Stevens loves her job as a bus driver for preschoolers with special needs. “It’s the most fabulous job ever,” she said. “Kids are my world, and I have worked in childcare, been a pediatric nurse and have three adult children of my own and a stepson and many grandchildren and great grandkids in the family.” She rides a bike for relaxation and stress management.
And now Stevens is putting her money where her bike pedals are. Well, it’s not just her money but donations from her community of Lamar that are supporting two of Stevens’ passion projects: Stop Soldier Suicide and the Alzheimer’s Association.
“My dad was a Marine veteran from WWII and had many demons that followed him from the war,” Stevens said. “He tried to chase those demons with alcohol, but the alcohol ended up taking his life in a fatal car crash. And my oldest brother also joined the military and returned with demons, too. They both suffered from PTSD without getting any help. I would like to see all soldiers get the help they need to live a life without the nightmares of service to our country constantly haunting them.”
The Stop Soldier Suicide (SSS) group was formed in 2010 by three veterans who decided to help soldiers work through PTSD and mental health issues and manage the move from soldier to civilian.
“I saw an SSS announcement about a biking fundraiser and signed up,” Stevens said. “I learned 22 soldiers a day commit suicide and that was heartbreaking to hear. I did 250 miles of riding in my first week, which was the mile goal of the fundraiser.” Stevens’ granddaughter challenged her to do more and go for 1,000 miles. Stevens did just that.
“Last year, I intended on doing 1,000 miles again but only got to 965, due to getting Covid,” Stevens explained. “But the last day of the ride, I put in 100 miles.” And she’s on track to meet her goal for this year’s ride, too. “I’ve just reached a total of $2,500 in donations from friends and family for all of these rides,” Stevens shared.
And they continue to support her biking efforts. Stevens is going into August with a total of $2,030 to support the Alzheimer’s Association, thanks to her friends.
“I cared for my mother who had this disease for eight years,” Sheila Stevens said. “It was hard but rewarding to care for this person who gave me life and to hold her hand during her last hours here on Earth. Many on my father’s side all passed from Alzheimer’s, too.”
Once again, Stevens saddled up and put the pedal to the metal by riding for the Dementia Society and completing 150 miles for their 100-mile ride that brought her almost $200 in donations. She did the ride again this year and logged 400 miles that produced $400 for the cause.
“So, I ride, post my progress and wear my awareness T-shirts to bring hope through donations. I appreciate all the support so much.”