Casey Joiner, left, accepts a donation to Sandcastle Kids, the nonprofit organization that he and his wife Shelley, center, founded to provide children battling cancer time with family and fun on the beaches of Destin and South Walton Florida. Also pictured at far right is Allie Hershman, a Realtor colleague of Casey’s and a supporter of Sandcastle Kids.
SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. – Several years ago, Casey Joiner and his wife Shelley, saw several friends “walking through some battles with childhood cancer. We felt the need to do something,” says Casey.
Casey, the broker of Joiner Group Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty in Santa Rosa Beach and Shelley, a neonatal ICU nurse, put their heads together to figure out a way to help.
“With Shelly’s relationships with social workers and doctors, and my relationships with the rental community at the beaches, we decided to offer all-expenses-paid vacations to our beautiful beaches for children suffering from cancer and their families,” he says. “We wanted to give the families a break.”
Thus, in 2015, Sandcastle Kids was born. Sandcastle is a non-profit providing children battling cancer time with family and relaxation on the beaches of Destin and South Walton Florida. The five-person board of directors works closely with social workers, who help families apply for the program. The board then reviews the applications, checks the family’s needs and requests, and then – with the help of their sponsors – arranges their travel, finds a home for their stay, purchases groceries and plans their meals, and fun activities for the entire family. Sandcastle Kids has helped more than 20 families over the last three years.
“We started in 2015 with one child, and in 2016, we brought eight children. In 2017, we helped 16 children and their families,” says Casey. “I didn’t understand how hard it is for these families with how much treatment is involved. Children are being treated at a hospital far from home; parents have to leave a job because they can’t handle both. They lose income; the healthy children want attention too. Bringing them all together for a family vacation is often the first time in a long time that they’ve been able to do something together as a family.”
The best part, says Casey, is that the entire community has been instrumental in helping raise funds for the families.
“Homeowners have offered their vacation properties free to these families. Restaurants and beach photographers donate meals and services,” he says. “With the free lodging, we can sponsor a family for about $1,000, which includes gas cards and groceries for a seven-day vacation.”
In addition to those donations, the Joiners recently completed their first golf tournament fundraiser and raised over $10,000. “That will bring about nine children and their families here,” he says. “We’re budgeting for growth. By 2019, we hope to give 25 families a week-long vacation.”
Casey says that the families are inspirational. “We had our first terminal child come for a vacation, and it was heartbreaking. He was an 8-year-old boy, and it brought a whole new level of meaning to what we’re offering,” he says.
“For us, it’s been equally rewarding as the homeowners get their kids involved. Our kids get involved as well and leave gifts and write notes to the kids,” adds Casey, who has two children, Mason and Mady. “It’s been a blessing to see how all the people who help us have been impacted by these families.”
He says, “Sandcastle has been more rewarding than I ever could have predicted.”