Vickroy: Honoring Mom by helping kids who’ve lost parents to homicide
BY DONNA VICKROY email@example.com Twitter: @dvickroy May 9, 2014 10:54PM
Oak Brook, 05/07/14--(l to r): Kevin Doyle, Kristin Doyle, Kelly (Doyle) Paroubek. Kelly (Doyle) Paroubek, Kevin Doyle, and Kristin Doyle have set up a foundation in memory of their mother who was murdered in 1993 that will raise money for other victims who lose their parents. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 12, 2014 6:54AM
Kristin Doyle was just 8 the night her mother was shot in the head and left to die inside the trunk of her car in the garage of the family’s Palos Township home.
The 1993 murder of Sheilah Doyle, a nurse whom prosecutors say was killed because would-be robbers wanted the hood of her car, was horrific, frightening and senseless.
To her children, particularly her youngest daughter, it was also devastating.
“There were so many times when I just wanted my mom. I wanted that closeness, the hugs, the kisses, the safety,” said Doyle, now 29.
It was a longing that would haunt her for years — she acted up in grade school, became reclusive in junior high and got into trouble in high school until the day, at age 18 or 19, she approached her dad and asked for help.
Counseling enabled her to untangle painful repressed feelings and develop ways of dealing with the hurt. She eventually emerged from the depressive state that had gripped her for a good decade. Counseling also underscored for her the importance of having someone to turn to through the grieving process.
“Grief is a very sensitive subject,” Doyle said. “People don’t know what to say or do, especially when your loved one is murdered.”
Today, she works as a hairstylist and is director of camps and outreach for the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation, a nonprofit group started by her older brother, Kevin. It provides college scholarships and healing camp experiences to children who’ve lost parents or siblings to homicide.
To honor his mom
Soon after Kevin Doyle graduated from the University of Iowa, he and a friend opened an information technology business. With his professional career underway, Kevin realized a void in his personal goals. For a long time, he had wanted to do something in memory of his mom.
Then, one day in 2009 while talking with a business colleague about how his mom died, Kevin devised a plan to set up a scholarship fund. At the time of her death, Sheilah Doyle was enrolled in classes at Moraine Valley Community College.
“She was a (part-time) licensed practical nurse who wanted to become a registered nurse,” Kevin said. “She had hoped to go to full time to help us through college.”
That night, he took his idea to his sisters, Kristin and Kelly, and his dad, Bill. Everyone embraced it, so he applied for a federal nonprofit designation and put together a board.
Later that year, while chatting with three representatives of New York Life about the scholarship program, Kevin was asked what he was doing for the upcoming Mother’s Day.
“I told them I was going to the cemetery,” he said.
He explained how his mom had been killed when he was 17 and a student at Sandburg High School. Though he believed the scholarship fund was a great way to honor her memory, he told them he wished there was something the foundation could do for young kids whose lives were disrupted by violence.
One of the reps told him about Comfort Zone Camp, the nation’s largest bereavement camp. At the time, Comfort Zone Camp, which had programs in several states and had helped children after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was looking to expand to the Chicago area.
After visiting a camp in Virginia, Kevin said, “We knew we had to offer this to kids in Chicago. I wish it had been available for me and my sisters when we were young.”
Though Comfort Zone Camp provides healing experiences for children who have suffered the loss of a parent or sibling due to any cause, the Doyles modified their program to be specifically for children whose loss came through violence.
Held in September at Camp Manitocqua in Frankfort, the three-day camp is available to children ages 7 to 17. It provides opportunities for grieving kids to build confidence, share their stories and their feelings and make lifelong connections.
The program culminates in a memorial service, during which each participant is invited to remember their loved one in his or her own way. Some read poems or play songs. One year, two brothers played basketball as their tribute to their dad, Kristin said.
Each child who attends the camp is paired with an adult “buddy,” someone who has been through a similar experience. Though the camp can accommodate 40 children, last year it had to limit enrollment to 35 because there weren’t enough adult male volunteers.
If this year’s recruitment campaign is successful, the camp will be able to accommodate all 40 campers, Kristin said. And with enough support, and enough volunteer “buddies,” the foundation will eventually be able to offer the camp twice a year, she said.
To date, the Sheilah Doyle Foundation has raised about $600,000 from grants, donations and fundraisers. In addition to paying for the camp, the foundation awards scholarships to high school seniors who have attended the camp. So far, it has awarded six scholarships, valued at $12,500.
The foundation also partners with Heart Connection at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park to provide counseling and bereavement events throughout the year. Last Christmas, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart donated more than 200 Brookfield Zoo passes to the foundation so it could invite 25 grieving families to participate in the zoo’s tree-trimming event.
A robbery gone awry
The night of July 3, 1993, was like countless others for Sheilah Doyle. The nurse who specialized in alcohol and addiction treatment finished her 3 to 11 p.m. shift at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park and headed home.
As Doyle got out of her new Toyota Camry, she was accosted by two men inside her garage. The men, along with a third who was waiting inside his car, had followed her for at least 30 minutes to her driveway, planning to steal the hood of her car.
Cook County prosecutors said Gregory Jackson, of Country Club Hills, and a friend, Antwon Tyler, 22, had a few days earlier accidentally shot a bullet into the hood of a 1992 Toyota Camry owned by Jackson’s mother. Their plan was to steal Doyle’s car and swap out the damaged hood. Sadly, for less than $400, they could have had it replaced at a repair shop.
But Doyle, 40, fought back. As Jackson waited in his car, Tyler and Marcus Gray forced her into the trunk of her car and shot her once in the back of the head, authorities said. They then closed the garage door and fled. Nothing was stolen.
Bill Doyle awoke about 12:30 a.m. and, realizing his wife was not in bed, began a search. He opened the access door, noticed that her car was in the garage and that her purse and nurse bag were on the passenger seat of the car.
In the heartbreaking hours that followed, Bill would be taken in for questioning by Cook County sheriff’s police, investigators would comb through Sheilah’s belongings and Kelly, Kevin and Kristin would be told their mother had been killed.
By the following month, police arrested the three men. Tyler and Gray would be convicted of murder and receive life sentences. Jackson, who was a college student at the time and had stayed in the car, was acquitted.
In her memory
Kristin Doyle remembers her mom as being kind, empathetic and fun-loving. Among the last things Sheilah and Bill Doyle did together was attend a Tina Turner concert.
As children, Sheilah and her twin sister were in the foster care system before they were adopted by a couple in Nova Scotia, Kristin said.
“My mom was awesome,” she said. “She was always laughing, and she never gave up on the people she helped at work.”
Kristin recalled how she and her mom used to visit an older woman every week to help clean her house.
“We’re not first responders, we’re about helping kids after the dust has settled,” Kevin said.
The foundation, he said, does as much for the Doyle children as it does for the children who come to camp.
“This is what my mom was — she never gave up on people,” Kevin said. “We’re just continuing on with what she did.”
For more information on the
Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation,
call 708-885-3900 or visit
www.sadfund.org/ or www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJL4GI-2J84
For more information on Comfort Zone Camp, visit www.comfortzonecamp.org/