Shirley's Story

Living her dream

Shirleyanne Johnson
Broken Arrow Seniors

A major heart attack is not what most women expect at age 54.

“I was in the prime of my life,” says Shirleyanne Johnson of Broken Arrow.

A “widow-maker” heart attack on June 20, 2016 led to a heart transplant November 7, 2016. Shirleyanne received the heart of a young man who died in a car accident.

To make matters worse, Ely, a registered Therapy Dog who was her Therapy Partner and companion for 10 years, died five days after her transplant . He was the inspiration behind Project Ely, a Therapy Dog outreach program she founded in 2006.

Her successful transplant was followed by six months of cardiac rehabilitation. But her most difficult challenge lay ahead.

“I had to use a walker to get from the car into my house, and soon found myself becoming isolated,” she recalls.

“I thought I was too young to go to a senior citizens center,” she says.

Now 56, she is BA Seniors’ youngest member and one of its most dedicated volunteers. Far from being homebound and tethered to a walker, she participates and even teaches fitness classes three days a week at BA Seniors.

“My health challenges led to financial challenges,” she said. “BA Seniors offers various activities at a low cost.”

She also is enrolled in the Bags to Mats class in which members use a loom to transform plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for homeless individuals. She participates in a crochet class where members make afghans and caps from donated materials for community members in need.

Shirleyanne now has a new Therapy Dog, Sarah Belle – a Great Pyrenees similar to her beloved Ely. Together they continue the mission of Project Ely along with ShortStuff, her other Therapy Dog.

“I don’t know where I’d be without BA Seniors. They offered me a lifeline, which allows me to fully pursue my second chance at life.”


Upcoming Events

Agency Tour of CAP Tulsa

Day of Caring community-wide food drive

2021 Campaign kick-off event

Day of Caring traditional service projects

UNITE! Campaign Celebration

Day of Caring holiday assistance

Click here for a
full listing of events

Latest News

View the Tulsa Area United Way's 2020 Annual Report to see 2020 highlights and how our collective impact strengthens our community.
The Tulsa Area United Way (TAUW) has announced new officers and members were elected to its Board of Directors at the organizationís February 23 Annual Meeting.
Day of Caring extends to quarterly events
Through multiple Days of Caring, Tulsa Area United Way will bring together groups of employees from Tulsa-area companies and connect them with the service agencies they support all year round.
10/9/2020 9:00:00 AM
Tulsa Area United Way CEO Alison Anthony announced the campaign chairs for the next three years in the organizationís effort to raise millions of dollars each year to support 59 area non-profit organizations, collaborative initiatives, and innovation grants.
Alison Anthony: Grounded in love, learning a new way to communicate
Tulsa Area United Way President and CEO, Alison Anthony, discusses this time of transformation and leaning into empathy and humility in this Tulsa World opinion piece.