Skip and Joyce Vilas
Skip is a retired Episcopal minister who founded GreenFaith: Interfaith Partners for the Environment. Joyce has been a partner in all his endeavors, and has worked as a nursery school teacher and thrift shop manager. As parents of a child born with a congenital illness that required many hospitalizations, they have long advocated for child and family centered care, even before these terms existed in healthcare. They are pleased to act as volunteer ambassadors for the Standish Foundation.
Cheri Oliveri is from Killeen, Texas, but was born in Maryland during a family visit. She pursued her education in early childhood education and business. She was a preschool teacher for many years, has vast experience in real estate management, and has successfully partnered in building and ultimately managing multiple multi-million dollar businesses from the ground up.
Mrs. Oliveri is forthcoming about being raised by a single mom and struggling financially. As an adult and a professional she is dedicated to giving back and has spent countless hours volunteering with Believe in Tomorrow, Christ Episcopal Church Day School, and the Standish Foundation for Child and Family Centered Healthcare. She also encourages her children to give and serve.
Mrs. Oliveri’s family includes her loving and supportive husband, six children and one grandson, and she understands, perhaps better than most, the importance of child and family centered care, and how difficult traumatic situations can be when it is absent. Her two oldest daughters have undergone three brain surgeries between them to correct complications from Chiari Malformation with Syringomyelia. Additionally, at a young age, Mrs. Oliveri’s son was diagnosed with Aspergers, a high-functioning form of autism.
There was a time when Mrs. Oliveri was a single parent struggling to set up payment plans to secure treatment for her children. Her background has left her full of compassion and the desire to take her past and turn it into a positive for others.
Mrs. Oliveri describes her daughters’ brain surgeries as life altering. She experienced first-hand how hospital staff, including doctors and nurses viewed their responsibilities simply as day jobs; the sterile environment and lack of warmth, communication and nurturing; and she knew instinctively there was a need to address how children experience healthcare. She knew children, her children, deserved to feel safe and unafraid when going to a hospital, staying in a hospital and facing the unknown. She also came to understand wholeheartedly how crucial open communication is between doctors, nurses and parents.
Mrs. Oliveri has taken those experiences and turned them into a passion for serving, and she has made a difference. Today, her daughters are grown and doing well—one of them is studying to be a pediatric neurologist.
The Oliveri Family spends much of the year in Annapolis and has made it home in order to be close to John’s Hopkins where Dr. Ben Carson has performed all three of the girls’ brain surgeries. However, Mrs. Oliveri and her husband, who is a University of Texas graduate, love Austin and have made it their second home for over a decade.