More Than Just a Pretty Face
Mesothelioma victims’ advocate speaks out for asbestos cancer patients
Vida Sheffield Hargrett, the 2020 Mrs. South Florida America pageant winner, will be competing in the 2021 Mrs. America contest to be held March 19-27, 2021. Among the causes this accomplished wife, mother and mental health clinician has promoted during her lengthy pageant career is bringing awareness to malignant mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused solely by exposure to the toxic fibers of the mineral asbestos.
A Family Affair
Vida Hargrett’s mother-in-law, Patricia Powell Hargrett, was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2012. At the time, neither Vida nor her mother-in-law had ever heard of the disease. Patricia Powell Hargrett spent twenty-five years as an elementary school teacher in Florida public schools, where asbestos products were commonly used to tile the school-building floors, plaster the walls, tarpaper the roof, and insulate the plumbing and cooling systems.
She was also married to a U.S. Air Force serviceman. Patricia accompanied her husband, Jerry Hargrett, when he was stationed at an Air Force base in Germany, not knowing that asbestos products were frequently used in the construction and maintenance of base buildings and military housing.
Upon learning of her mother-in-law’s diagnosis, Vida Hargrett sprang into action to raise awareness about mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. Among her activities, she partnered with the NBA’s three-time champion Miami Heat basketball team in 2014 to host a “Mesothelioma Awareness Night” at a game between the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. More than thirty percent of the funds raised during that game were donated to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization for further research and education about asbestos-related diseases.
Expanding the Message
Since then, Vida has broadened her original role to raise awareness about what the disease of mesothelioma actually is, and now helps bring attention to other aspects of this rare but devastating illness. Vida considers it her mission to unite and give voice to asbestos victims, educate the public and medical community about asbestos-related diseases, support research that leads to early detection, prevention and a cure, protect asbestos victims’ civil rights, and work to pass legislation banning asbestos in the United States. Since 2017, she has been the national spokesperson for the Mesothelioma Awareness Foundation.
A Powerful Voice for Victims
In the Spanish language, Vida’s name means “life”. Vida says it sums up her vivacious personality and so much more. At 36-years-old, this 24-year pageantry veteran has no plans to step down from her public pulpit anytime soon. Vida has pledged that she will always work to empower victims, educate people, and strive to eliminate asbestos-related diseases “by utilizing my voice, networking capabilities, and heart as a megaphone to save lives”. And for as long as Vida Sheffield Hargrett plans to keep it up, Baron & Budd will salute and appreciate her dedication to speaking up for victims of malignant mesothelioma and other deadly diseases caused by exposure to asbestos.