A legacy of GOOD
With relentless passion, Samuel P. Bell III left a legacy that will forever change the future for Florida’s children. A fierce and loyal child advocate, Sam carried a powerful voice to influence decisions that would create a stronger, healthier, safer Florida for kids; through Sam’s leadership in the Florida Legislature, he was responsible for numerous initiatives impacting child health, including the launch of Healthy Kids, mandatory screenings for tuberculosis, infant metabolic screenings, adoption subsidies for special needs children, Children’s Medical Services and much more. As Children’s Home Society of Florida board member Victoria Weber recalls, “Sam was the first male legislator to stand on the floor to talk about the needs of children – until then, it was considered a ‘woman’s issue’.”
While Sam’s distinguished list of accomplishments in the legislature paved the way for safer, healthier communities for Florida’s kids, the conclusion of his legislative service was only the springboard to continued advocacy for kids. Sam devoted decades to building bridges to success for children through his leadership on the state governing board of Children’s Home Society of Florida, during which he also served for several years as our Public Policy Chair, leading the charge to influence policy and funding to benefit kids.
Sam’s heart for children – and his commitment to their future – led him to become one of the state’s strongest advocates for Community Partnership Schools, an initiative developed by Children’s Home Society of Florida, Orange County Public Schools and the University of Central Florida. With Community Partnership Schools, local partners, health care entities, universities, nonprofit organizations, businesses, community leaders and others collaborate to – as Sam beautifully described – “wrap their arms around students, their families and the school” and turn odds into opportunities for children living in under-resourced neighborhoods.
Because of Sam’s leadership, influence, advocacy and determination, Hillsborough County’s Mort Elementary School adopted the Community Partnership School model in 2016, forging a long-term commitment among Children’s Home Society of Florida, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Tampa Family Health Centers, University of South Florida, Tampa Innovation Partnership and University Area CDC.
Sam was instrumental in growing support for the Community Partnership School at Mort, which now boasts a highly active Very Involved Parent Program; dozens of afterschool, leadership and enrichment programs for kids; a health care clinic within walking distance; onsite mental health services; onsite food distribution, and much more.
Sam’s advocacy for Community Partnership Schools was instrumental in securing legislative appropriations to expand the model into dozens of schools, and he had a special place in his heart for every student attending one of the schools as well. Determined to do all he could to help students succeed, Sam was a strong supporter of Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Youth Advocacy Grant Program that sponsors our teens to spend a week in Tallahassee serving as Senate Pages or House Messengers. For dozens of kids, this experience changed the course of their lives as it allowed them to dream beyond their circumstances – and work to achieve those dreams.
Sam’s fierce advocacy for children was matched only by his warm heart and genuine smile that sparkled every time he spoke of the kids he cared so deeply about.
Sam, thank you for your passion, for your heart, for your leadership. Thank you for showing us all what it means to live a life of good.