OKEECHOBEE — Spreading Sunshine’s 2021 Florida Role Model Ashley Marker really knows how to make a difference in her community.
When Ashley heard about the Spreading Sunshine Role Model title, she knew she wanted to apply. After all, she has spent the majority of her life trying to be a role model to her younger sister and to others in her community. “I feel like giving back to people is what makes me a role model. Growing up, I always had a desire to give back to people who didn’t have as much as I did.”
A life-long resident of Okeechobee, Ashley graduated from a high school program through Indian River State College. Daughter of Bernard (Boatsie) and Robina (Robin) Marker, Ashley is one of four children. Her younger sister Carol is a Special Olympics athlete, and Ashley has been helping with Special Olympics since the program recommenced in Okeechobee about four years ago.
Prior to helping with Special Olympics, Ashley helped with other activities within the special needs community. “Because my dad was always working in that field, I grew up helping too,” said Ashley. Any time she was out of school, she helped him help others. “He taught me about giving back.”
Not only has Ashley spent a lot of time helping with Special Olympics and the special needs community in general, she also spent some time with Big Lake Mission feeding the homeless. “I wanted to see the smiles on their faces when they got a warm plate of food. It made their day but mine too. It feels really good to help others.”
Since graduating from high school, Ashley has plans to go into the nursing field and plans to begin nursing school soon.
About Ashley, the pageant director Diane Campbell said, “The judges were most impressed with this young lady for taking time to write her community service in a paragraph. She took this contest on 100%, herself. Personally, in my opinion, this young lady is a fantastic member of her community.”
In her application for the title, Ashley wrote the following paragraph which really impressed the judges:
“Hi I’m Ashley Marker. I’m 19 years old and from Okeechobee Florida. I think I should be Spreading Sunshine’s Florida Role Model because I have volunteered for Special Olympics Florida and Special Olympics Okeechobee for almost three years now. I have traveled all over Florida to volunteer at Special Olympic tournaments. I’m also a Bocce Ball coach, cheerleading coach, and bowling coach for Special Olympics. I put in 30+ hours a month for Special Olympics. Recently back in March and April (2020), my dad and I partnered up with OCSO and Noel Stephen to help a special needs kid at South Elementary to get a new wheelchair. We sold BBQ dinners, swamp cabbage and fry bread. We were able to raise enough money not only help one special needs kid but every special needs kid in each school.”
About pageants in general, Ashley said, “I personally think it’s a great opportunity to help young girls build up their confidence, and to help them realize they are perfect in their own way.”