Even though Shelley Walker, retired director of social work, no longer works at Akron Children’s, her impact on the hospital’s social work department is still earning her accolades. Shelley was recently honored at the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)–Ohio Chapter’s annual social work gala as NASW Region 2’s lifetime achievement award recipient. The lifetime achievement award recognizes outstanding achievements and accomplishments over the social worker’s career, including contributions that extend beyond the immediate workplace to create a lasting effect.
“The lifetime achievement award focuses on the impact the social worker has had on social justice issues and being a good ambassador for the social work profession,” said Danielle Smith, executive director of NASW Ohio. “Shelley explained the value of social work to the clinicians and others she worked with, which helped expand the number of social workers at Children’s to serve the hospital’s patients and families.”
NASW is a professional organization of social workers with 4,700 members in Ohio. Region 2 is composed of Erie, Huron, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties.
For 42 years, Shelley worked in the social work department at Children’s in clinical and administrative roles before retiring in October, 2019. During that time, societal changes impacted family functioning, causing Children’s providers to see more violence, mental health, child maltreatment and serious psychosocial issues. Children’s also grew its subspecialty areas to serve more children with chronic conditions. Whether she saw a program that was needed or was asked to deliver specialized services to address these issues, Shelley advocated endlessly for patients and their families, as well as for the social workers with whom she worked.
“Shelley saw the positive in every situation,” said Kris Grayem, vice president of population health, which oversees the social work department. “In fact, Shelley’s theme word for her department was ‘positivity.’ Shelly modeled the way around positivity, and she built it into the work she did with her team and with every department at Children’s. Shelley’s positive can-do attitude inspired her team and her colleagues.”
When Shelley learned she had been nominated for and received NASW Region 2’s lifetime achievement award, she was surprised. She knew firsthand how hard it was to deal with the social determinants of health — things like lack of access to food, housing, childcare and transportation. That’s why she found ways to highlight the positive aspects of her department’s employees personally and professionally.
“I was very honored and pleased when I heard I received this award,” she said. “To be recognized by your professional organization is a very special honor. It was a nice way to end my career and go into retirement.”
Earlier this year, NASW Region 2 held its awards dinner during which time, Shelley received the Region 2 lifetime achievement award. At the gala, Shelley was recognized along with other award winners from all 8 of NASW Ohio’s regions.
Please visit Akron Children’s social work department to learn about how it impacts children’s and their families’ lives. If you’re interested in a career at Akron Children’s, check out our social work job opportunities.