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Just Giving Back

11/11/2012 07:34AM ● Published by Christie Gibson

Understanding that it is important for everyone to contribute, many parents provide their children with chores, teach them to give to charities, and hope that their children will find pleasure in the giving. Sammy Poppell’s parents were no different. “Giving back” and “How can I make a difference?” have been a part of his life since he was a very young boy. Though the phrases have carried different levels of meaning over the years, their importance has only increased. 

Sammy remembers at the age of three or four going to his dad’s office and “working.” Dressed as a little doctor, his job was to greet the patients and call them back when it was time for them to be seen. Occasionally, he would grab a yellow steno pad and scribble out a few words with a smiley face, hand it to the patient and make sure they knew that was their prescription. At one point, he told his dad that this was not a real job. His dad was quick to reply, “Yes, it is. You are making a difference by bringing joy to the patients. A smile can go a long way.” 

Living in Shalimar, FL, Sammy ventured into many small businesses. With each one, he remembered that by keeping others in mind, the potential to thrive would be increased. Over the years, his businesses included gathering pinecones, raking leaves, pet sitting, dog walking, and carrying groceries for the elderly or people needing help. When clients asked him the cost, he would always reply, “Whatever you think is fine.” All these jobs were lucrative for this young man, and he always gave a portion of his earnings to different charities, usually involving animals or children. 

Then, at the ripe age of nine, he and his family moved to Destin. He was looking at a new school, a new group of friends, a new neighborhood, and certainly new jobs. Destin was very different. Sammy could not find lawn jobs because people hired lawn service companies. However, he noticed many of these people had pets and lived where fences were not permitted. He then began installing electronic pet fences. He also helped people train their dogs, which often meant training the owners. 

After meeting so many people with beautiful homes and lavish cars, he started car detailing. Making money was a goal, but so was reaching out to help. As a student at Destin Middle School, he helped to form Builders Club, whose goal was to raise money that would in turn help people within the community. Because he was a large and very strong young man, he was constantly called upon to do heavy work, too. He recalls being called out to some condos when the furniture a couple ordered would not fit into an elevator, so the delivery guys just left it in the lobby. He and a friend carried the heavy furniture up numerous flights of stairs. He was also quick to help with clean-up after bad storms and hurricanes. Grabbing his dad’s chainsaw, he and his brother Kyle would check with neighbors to see how they could help. 

Over the years, Sammy has traveled with People to People, worked with Habitat for Humanity, organized canned food drives, delivered food to shelters, and most recently sponsored the Kids In The Arts program, as well as youth sports teams. He has raised money for Children in Crisis, and this December is sending 28 children from the CIC Children’s Neighborhood to see “The Nutcracker.” 

Now, a need has arisen close to Sammy’s heart. Brenda, the mother of one of his friends and a Destin resident, is battling breast cancer and is in need of help. Brenda’s family has a long history of breast cancer: both her mother and grandmother died from the disease, and her sister was also diagnosed. Brenda went misdiagnosed for more than a year and was finally diagnosed with Stage 3 Lobular Breast Cancer, with 18 out of 23 nodes positive. She had to have a full bilateral mastectomy, 7 ½ months of chemo and 6 ½ weeks of radiation. Additional complications arose due to an allergic reaction to the chemo, making completion of her treatment more difficult and causing more damage to her joints. 

Last year, Brenda was able to walk only halfway through the Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk. This October, she and her girlfriends walked the entire distance. Brenda is now on the road to recovery and will soon proceed to the reconstruction phase of her treatment. She is also reaching out, speaking to groups and trying to help others get through their battle with this horrible disease. She is involved with the American Cancer Society as well as cancer support groups in both Bluewater Bay and Destin. 

On November 7, Sammy Poppell, of Sammy’s Pizza and Subs at 4677 East Hwy 20 in Niceville, will be donating proceeds to Brenda. Stop by and enjoy a meal or have one delivered to your office that day by calling 259-4790 or ordering online at, and join Sammy help a community member in her time of need.

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Community destin sammy poppell giving back charity american cancer society generosity breast cancer

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