Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Only took one tour to hook Sandy Humenik on Florida Center for Early Childhood

Sandy Humenik’s life’s journey had a great beginning. She now helps Florida Center for Early Childhood offer the same opportunities to area children and their families.

  • By
  • | 10:00 a.m. February 16, 2023
Sandy Humenik understands that enriching experiences in early childhood are vital for a child’s healthy development.
Sandy Humenik understands that enriching experiences in early childhood are vital for a child’s healthy development.
Photo by Lori Sax
  • East County
  • Schools
  • Share

 "The secret is in the beginning." Sandy Humenik takes that saying to heart. She understands that early childhood experiences provide the foundation for future learning and wellbeing. That’s why the Florida Center for Early Childhood is so important to her. “Early childhood is a crucial stage in human development,” Humenik says. “It lays the foundation for your adult self. That’s why early support makes all the difference — and that’s just what the Florida Center provides.” 

Humenik’s passion for the Florida Center is clear. What forged that passion? Let’s go back to the beginning.

In 2014, Humenik and her husband, Mike, were part-time residents of Lakewood Ranch. The couple led busy lives in Maryland — both working in executive positions for General Electric. Sandy was invited to attend the Florida Center’s annual Winter Gala. At the event, she learned a little more about the Florida Center — but just the broad outlines. That changed when Sandy’s good friend, the late Sylvia Zimmerman, took her on a tour of the center, including its Starfish Academy, a nationally accredited childhood education program, where highly trained therapists and educators work with children up to 5 years old.

Humenik saw the powerful synergy between the children and their mentors. Her eyes and heart were opened. And her undying passion for the Florida Center was born.

“Seeing the children interacting with the teachers was such an aha moment for me,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

And that’s just what Humenik did. In the years that followed, she devoted more and more time to the Florida Center. In 2017, Sandy and Mike became yearlong Ranchers. After that, her involvement intensified. 

Humenik began serving on various Winter Gala committees and served as co-chair of the event this past December. To help raise awareness of the center to fellow Ranchers, she invited nearly 40 of her neighbors to join the celebration. 

“We’re all very fortunate to live in a beautiful community like Lakewood Ranch,” Humenik says. “I think we should recognize the tremendous need in our own backyard.” 

Humenik’s gala responsibilities go far beyond neighborly invitations. She also secures the gala’s live and silent auction items. For the last four years, she and her husband have provided a child’s electric car to kick off the live auction festivities. Thanks to these and many other creative acts of generosity, the center recognized Humenik as its Volunteer Champion for Children in 2020.

Kristen Theisen is Florida Center’s chief development officer. She’s seen Humenik’s tireless commitment firsthand.

Kristen Theisen, Florida Center’s chief development officer; Sandy Humenik; and Kristie Skoglund, Florida Center’s CEO.
Photo by Lori Sax

 “Sandy’s been so helpful in spreading awareness about Florida Center’s programs and the need for them,” Theisen says. “She is a force to be reckoned with. When she sets her sights on something, she’ll do whatever she can to make it happen.”

What drives Humenik to be such a force for good? Once again, the secret is in the beginning.

Humenik grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. Money was tight in her parents’ blue-collar household. But their love and encouragement flowed abundantly. And her mother’s commitment to education made all the difference.

“My mother had only a sixth-grade education,” Humenik says. “But she wanted us to go beyond her. She constantly taught us the value of education. More than that: she taught us that perseverance is key. Learning new things can be tough — but never give up.”

Learn all you can. Work hard, strive for excellence and don't ever sell yourself short. 

Those were her mother’s lessons. Humenik learned them well as a child and put them into practice when she graduated from high school. Since her parents couldn’t afford to send her to college, Humenik applied for a secretarial job at GE Medical Systems (now GE Healthcare). She saw it as a first step, not as a dead end. Thanks to her drive and her parents’ encouragement, Humenik advanced to better positions at GE and finally went on to college with GE’s support. Although she was still working fulltime, she earned a bachelor’s degree in management studies. 

Humenik’s life took off from there. 

“Success” has many definitions. Today, this Rancher qualifies for all of them. But she’s grateful, not boastful. She may have “arrived.” Humenik knows she didn’t get there on her own.

Her journey of life had a great beginning.

“My mother was always there for me and she let me know she always would be,” Humenik recalls. “She instilled the value of discipline. She coached me, encouraged, and nurtured me. That early support made me who I am today. I count myself lucky.”

Humenik adds that many children in our region aren’t so lucky. For a host of reasons, their parents can’t provide the early support they need. The Florida Center does. That’s why she supports them. It’s as simple as that.

“Florida Center stands in the gap for these children,” she says. “They give them and their families the help they need — at the time in their lives when they need it the most. I was lucky enough to have that kind of support at home. Helping Florida Center is a great way to pass it on.”

How can interested Ranchers get more involved with the Florida Center?

Humenik answers without hesitation: “Join me on a tour!”


Latest News