Like a seasoned politician, Shannon Brown reacted admirably to the one-day notice she inherited when she agreed to prepare a campaign for 2014 honorary mayor of SouthShore.
New SouthShore Chamber of Commerce president Carrie Elwell, who also happens to be Brown's boss as co-owner of Kids R Kids learning center in Gibsonton where Brown has been the school's assistant director for the past 4 ½ years, persuaded Brown to run after hearing her story.
The next day, Brown found herself standing in front of community and chamber members at the Ruskin Moose Lodge, pitching her platform with a personal touch.
Brown's drive came from her late husband, Aaron Ziemba, who in 2011 died from brain cancer at 34, just 58 days after they wed in Ruskin. Ziemba was an athletic trainer who believed in supporting and nurturing young athletes, especially those who were economically disadvantaged.
"He would always come home with cleats or tennis shoes for kids in need," said Brown, 27, who met Ziemba when they both lived in Michigan.
The emotional plea resulted in victory for Brown's philanthropic cause, Refuse to Lose, and for SouthShore, which designated her the second honorary mayor after her monthlong charity drive brought in more than $7,000.
"Shannon entered the honorary mayor's race with so much passion for her cause," said Melanie Morrison, SouthShore Chamber of Commerce executive director. "She brought attention to the fact that there are local students who would excel in sports but due to financial restrictions at home, they are unable to participate.
"Our members were very happy to support her cause, knowing that there will be local students who will have an entirely different high school experience as well as outcome because of their participation."
Brown will team with the South Shore Anglers club to stage a charity fishing tournament March 15 in her first act as the new goodwill ambassador to the SouthShore community. She chose fishing because it was one of her husband's passions and the money raised will benefit the local Buddy Ball organization, a nonprofit for kids with special needs who want to play sports.
In 2007, Ziemba moved to Florida to work for Florida Orthopaedic Institute in Brandon as well as the Chamberlain High School football team. He spent the previous 10 years as an athletic trainer in Muskegon, Mich., working at Hackley Hospital and Reeths-Puffer High School.
Two years later, Ziemba was diagnosed with brain cancer. After becoming paralyzed in his right arm and leg, he continued to volunteer his services for Armwood's football team.
"As an outsider looking in, I never knew how much of a family they create with their team," Brown said. "What he did for those kids was amazing."
To emphasize her point about young athletes and the bond they create playing a team sport, Brown said more than 200 kids stood up at the funeral service to honor a man who touched their lives.
Brown said she was able to advance her ideas through spaghetti dinners, raffles, family fun nights and serving more than 300 families at her school.
"These people don't know me," Brown said. "I have a big fan base at Kids R Kids. My passion is for children."
Brown recently presented Lennard High School and East Bay High School each with $1,700 checks earmarked for athletics, specifically to provide students in need with equipment. To help the Refuse to Lose fund or to participate in next month's fishing tournament, email her at email@example.com.
Eric Vician can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.