Longtime Naples volunteers Reg and Sandra Lee Buxton to lead May 6 Hope Shines event
Like many Naples volunteers, civic leaders and philanthropists, Reg and Sandra Lee Buxton face no shortage of appeals from worthy causes for their time, energy and financial support.
The list of organizations and causes close to their hearts is extensive, as are their leadership roles. But when it comes to NAMI Collier County, the couple know their efforts won’t just benefit a niche demographic, but rather the entire Collier County community.
“Mental health challenges aren’t confined to one street, or one geographic area,” said Sandra Lee Buxton, a former NAMI Collier County board member. “It’s in every neighborhood in Collier County. It could be the checker at Publix, your doctor or your neighbor. So when you’re helping NAMI, you’re helping the entire community.”
As honorary grand marshals for the 21st annual Hope Shines mental health awareness walk, part of Mental Health Awareness Month, the couple is once again stepping up to lead by example.
The May 6 walk takes place at Baker Park in Naples, from 8:30 to 11 a.m., and will include music, refreshments, face painting, balloon animals and family-friendly fun in support of NAMI Collier County.
“I believe in wellness,” said Sandra Lee Buxton, a nurse, healthcare risk manager and corporate compliance expert who works at a local psychiatric hospital. “Illness and wellness are on a continuum — you don’t stay in one place. When you support someone with mental illness, the whole approach should be about moving illness to wellness.”
Buxton’s career in healthcare has provided an up-close view of how society’s understanding of mental illness has evolved — and how much work remains.
“Public acceptance has changed radically over the years, but there’s still too much secrecy,” she said. “People are afraid to tell their families, or their coworkers, while some still think, ‘There must be something wrong with you.’ This is a medical condition. It’s no different than a physical illness.”
The walk caps a momentous month for NAMI Collier County, which in early April moved its administrative offices and all services under one roof at the former Naples Senior Center building at 5025 Costello Drive in Naples. NAMI Collier’s programs were previously held in several rented spaces, with the administration building on the other side of town.
NAMI Collier County offers a dozen of programs and support groups at no cost to support adults, kids, their families and caretakers. For the Buxtons, the organization’s focus on the needs of children at risk is particularly compelling.
“Kids today face so many more challenges and stresses than we did when I was young,” she said. “Thanks to its Health Under Guided Systems (H.UG.S.) program, NAMI Collier County can help identify and treat children at risk or with behavioral problems in the critical early years of life.”
As Michigan natives who moved to Collier County as young adults, Reg and Sandra Lee Buxton have had a front-row seat to the region’s growth and transformation. After also living in Missouri and several other states, they are proud to call Naples home.
“We fell in love with this community for so many reasons, from the near-perfect weather to the wonderful people who call Naples and Southwest Florida home,” Reg Buxton said. “We’ve also seen how this community’s unmatched generosity raises the sails of so many worthy organizations. It’s our pleasure and privilege to lead the Hope Shines walk as grand marshals, and we look forward to seeing so many of your smiling faces this weekend.”
To register for the walk, visit namicollier.org/events/.