10165338676?profile=RESIZE_710xSandy Sexton, a Fuller Center volunteer since 2018, has ensured that hundreds of children get ‘the treatments, interventions and education they need,’ Fuller CEO Ellyn Okrent says. Photo provided

By Jan Engoren

Working with children is a passion for Sandy Sexton, a retired speech pathologist for the Palm Beach County School District and resident of Carriage Hill in Boca Raton.
Once she retired in 2018, Sexton continued her work pro bono at the Fuller Center in Boca Raton to get children the services they need. Many of the children come from underserved homes, where parents may be working and/or not able to provide adequately for their children.
“I volunteer because the staff works so hard to do the best for the children,” Sexton says. “The parents want the best for their children but may have limited means.
“My work helps the kids get the step up that they need. When you see the expression on their faces when they’re learning and their eyes open up, they smile a wonderful smile and there’s a brightness in their faces.”
That’s the best part of her work, she says.
Sexton, 71, recalls a 4-year-old boy who had severe dental issues that sometimes hindered his ability to eat and speak. When she learned the parents did not have the resources to procure treatment, Sexton reached out to the Sunrise Rotary Club, where she is a member and past volunteer of the year, and located a colleague and pediatric dentist who provided some information and direction for when treatment woud be most appropriate.
Additionally, she encouraged her fellow Rotarians to help paint classrooms at the Fuller Center West site and to assemble more than 150 bikes for the children that were donated by Boca West Children’s Foundation.She participated in these activities which were initiated and coordinated through the Sunrise Rotary Club.
Her other volunteer activities have included Boca Helping Hands Family Feeding Night, Spirit of Giving, Global Volunteers (Cuba) and the Caridad Ball Committee (2020).
Another satisfying memory for Sexton was helping a 3-year-old child who fell from a tree. He was diagnosed with agenesis of the corpus callosum, a congenital brain abnormality that can cause intellectual deficiencies.
Sexton found services for him, allowing him to enter kindergarten with the language skills he needed to succeed.
“Do something to make someone else’s life better,” says Sexton. “That’s my motto. That’s why I volunteer.”
Ellyn Okrent, CEO of the Fuller Center, says that “we are so grateful for Sandy’s priceless gifts. Her most significant contribution was teaching us how to identify children with special needs and how to work with the school system to get them assessed and to access the services and interventions they need.
“Sandy’s gift of wisdom and expertise has ensured that hundreds of children are receiving the treatments, interventions and education they need,” Okrent says.
Sexton, a native of St. Louis, grew up in an era when women were supposed to be housewives, teachers or nurses, but she knew she wanted something else.
In retrospect, she credits her parents, both children of the Depression, with being the role models who shaped her.
“The strength they exhibited made me who I am today,” says Sexton, a Daughters of the American Revolution member whose family traces its roots back to England and Henry VIII. While studying her genealogy, she discovered one of her great-great-grandfathers was a stone mason who helped build the Anheuser-Busch plant in St. Louis.
An inveterate traveler, Sexton has been to 50 countries and says that Peru with its “mystical culture” is her favorite.
In 2015 she traveled to Cuba and was so enamored by the country and its people she returned the following year to teach English to children through a Global Volunteers program.
This year, she returned from a trip to Morocco, where she camped in the Sahara Desert and watched the sun set.
She has hiked to Machu Picchu via the Inca trail in Peru twice and hopes to hike it again. She has plans to hike in Bhutan. She planned to go to Easter Island this year, but the trip was canceled because of the coronavirus. Next year she hopes to visit Japan for cherry blossom season.
Closer to home, Sexton, a widow with one daughter (a tax attorney in Washington, D.C.), enjoys going to the beach, playing pickleball twice a week, riding her bike and swimming.
Sexton says she’s motivated by the joy she sees on kids’ faces when they learn something new.
“Seeing their eyes light up, seeing them be successful and feeling good about themselves is what makes me happy and keeps me going,” she says.

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