Actor Martin Sheen visits brother at Sunshine Haven, helps raise funds for hospice
May 10, 2010
By Travis Whitehead, "The Brownsville Herald"
OLMITO – Actor Martin Sheen couldn’t stop bragging about his brother Carlos.
"He’s been a professional gardener, a horse trainer; he used to cook on the ships that carried supplies to the oil
platforms," said Sheen. "He’s done a lot."
Sheen was visiting his brother at Sunshine Haven, a licensed special care facility. The facility cares for people who are
terminally ill, and Carlos Estevez, Sheen’s brother and a resident of the Rio Grande Valley for the last 10 years, has
terminal lung cancer. On this particular afternoon the 74-year-old Estevez seemed in great spirits as he sat on a screened
patio looking out at the birds visiting feeders.
"I love it," he said. "This is like a bird sanctuary. There must be two dozen species that come through here."
His sister Carmen had just arrived from Madrid, Spain, to visit her brother. Sheen’s wife, Janet, was also tending
Sheen, famous for his leading roles in "Apocalypse Now" and "The West Wing," hadn’t planned to go public about his
visit. However, when he learned Sunshine Haven was holding a golf tournament May 8 at Treasure Hills in Harlingen to raise
money for new rooms, he decided to participate in the event to help raise more money. The facility currently has rooms for
only three people. Charlene Rowles, executive director for Sunshine Haven, has built a wing with eight additional rooms, and
she plans to use one of the existing rooms for a chapel once the new addition is in use.
Rowles, who is also a registered nurse and a certified hospice and palliative nurse, said construction is about 80 percent
complete, though she needs another $50,000 to finish the job.
"This addition started because of the great need," said Rowles, who was walking with Sheen through the hallway where eight
rooms waited for finishing touches so they could begin serving the community.
"We need an emergency power generator, a/c units; we need plumbing and electrical work," Rowles said.
"This is a wheel-in shower," observed Sheen enthusiastically, referring to a room in which a person could simply be rolled
in to take a shower. As things are, they must be bathed in bed, a task requiring more than one attendant.
"If this was ready," said Sheen, nodding to the shower room, "they could just wheel them in there. That’s a tremendous
improvement. Only one person is needed to do it."
Rowles said there is a long waiting list of people in hospitals who would like to spend their last days at Sunshine Haven,
where they would have the benefit of a large living room with comfortable couches, a big-screen television, a piano and furnishings
meant to create a family atmosphere that makes patients comfortable. The facility employes several certified nursing assistants
to make the patients comfortable, which includes preparing home-cooked meals.
"We provide comfort care to the terminally ill," Rowles said. "We do that on a donation basis only. We do not bill families
or insurance or Medicare or Medicaid. We make sure people’s final wishes are met whenever we can, and we work in conjunction
with the hospice companies to provide end-of-life care."
Estevez was brought to Sunshine Haven by a hospice organization called HealthCare Odyssey, which was caring for him at
his home, said Christina Brown, community education representative.
Sheen said he has canceled all of his engagements until at least May 27, when he’s scheduled to speak in Vancouver.
"I’m here for the long haul," he said.
More golfing events are scheduled to raise money for Sunshine Haven. The next scheduled event is on June 12
at River Bend in Brownsville. Sheen remarked he may participate in that golf tournament, too.
Here's how to donate
By Mail: Sunshine Haven, P.O. Box 4478, Brownsville, TX 78523
By PayPal: Use your PayPal account to send funds to Sunshine Haven's account, firstname.lastname@example.org.