Pasco 11-year-old spends prize money on homeless
As the first notes of Celine Dion's “Power of Love” came out of 11-year-old Caileigh Sheldon's mouth, jaws dropped.
The energetic pre-teen left the judges and audience in shock with her ability to hit the high notes and control her voice. Described as passionate, talented and soulful, Caileigh won the right to be crowned the first Buffalo Wild Wings Idol and was presented an oversized check for $1,000.
The Mittye P. Locke Elementary School fifth-grader was thrilled to have won her first competition after discovering her talent for singing, thanks to radio hits such as Adele's “Rolling in the Deep.”
Caileigh, a New Port Richey resident and a straight-A student who has never missed a day of class, discovered her vocal talent two years ago. She said that if she ever becomes a famous singer, she wants to use her earnings to help local homeless people.
The Buffalo Wild Wings singing competition gave her that opportunity.
More than 60 people of varying ages and singing experience tried out at the Trinity Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. Caileigh made it into the top three for the finals on May 10.
After being crowned the winner, she told her mom that the first thing she wanted to do was make care packages for some homeless individuals and then treat them to a hotel room and shower, then to dinner.
I always see (homeless people) having trouble and just sitting there,” she said. “There's a lady always by herself, and she pushes this stroller around all day and is always getting sunburned, so I felt really bad for her.
“There's a son and his mom, and the mom has no legs, and the son pushes two wheelchairs around, one full of stuff and the one with his mom in it. I feel really bad for them because they don't have much, and I feel like I do have stuff — so why not give to others?”
So she and her mom, Natalia Santos, went to Walmart and filled their cart with everything from crackers, toothbrushes, sunblock and bottled water to baby wipes, tissues and hand sanitizer. She then picked out sturdy duffel bags, which nearly overflowed with the items she packed into them.
Caileigh said she knows there are a lot of homeless people in Pasco County and that many of them are children her age.
Pasco County was cited as having the second largest homeless population in Florida, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Caileigh said that she plans on starting off small on her singing career, with local competitions. If, or when, she becomes famous, however, she wants to open a homeless shelter in Pasco.
“I want to win more competitions so I can do more stuff like this,” Caileigh said.
Santos is a proud mother, but she brags more about her daughter's kindness and willingness to help strangers than she does her singing voice.
Caileigh is gearing up to start middle school in the fall and hopes to continue singing in her school chorus and honing her skills.
“When I was pregnant with her, I used to listen to the music all the time, and I swear that has something to do with it,” Santos said.
The Daystarter: Brace for some cooler weather; new strategies getting to Performing Arts Center on time; candlelight vigil in Seminole Heights; Bucs let one slip away