PALATKA, Fla. — Each year we recognize 12 unsung heroes on the First Coast. Just 18 years old, Sydney Sheffield, is one of the youngest 12 Who Care recipients this year.
What started off as a simple Facebook post she made grew into an act of love that spread across the country.
Performing as Elsa in her high school production of "Frozen," Sydney saw the smiles on children's faces when they got to meet one of Disney's most popular characters.
“Once the pandemic hit, I decided that I wanted to lift the spirits of little kids and send them encouraging personalized messages and birthday messages for those who couldn't celebrate, couldn't see their friends and had to adjust to the whole pandemic and online school,” Sydney explained.
The pandemic sidelined several major milestones she had been looking forward to her senior year at Palatka High.
“We were supposed to go to New York with her theater group, graduation. We lost so much, and then she decided to do this, and I was so proud of her,” Jill Sheffield, her mother, said.
Instead of focusing on what she didn't get to do because of the pandemic, Sydney turned her attention to bringing joy to children, who like her, were stuck at home.
“I honestly thought it was just going to be a few parents from my town, but it ended up being a lot bigger than that,” Sydney said.
From birthday messages to Zoom calls and video chats, this beloved Elsa spent hours a day connecting with kids across the country.
“I absolutely loved it because performing is what I love to do,” she said. “I got a lot of parents who would send me a video of their child back, their child reacting to the video, and their child would just be overwhelmed with joy seeing this.”
The more videos she made, the more requests she got as her word of her free gift spread.
“Just parents posting on Facebook, and then more parents would get in touch with her,” Jill Sheffield recalled. “I'm just really proud that she thought about other people first.”
One of her most memorable moments was speaking with a little girl in the hospital battling cancer.
“I got on the video chat with her, and I talked to her and sang to her. She was just thrilled, and honestly, it was very touching, and I loved getting to do that for her,” Sydney said.
Using her gifts and talents, Sydney showed how much she cares for others by touching the lives of more than a hundred kids thrilled to get a virtual visit from Elsa that they'll never forget.
“It made me feel amazing. It warmed my heart truly because I even if I could do something small to put a smile on their face during this time, it meant the absolute world to me,” she said.