Local Folks: Anna Valent

Local Folks: Anna Valent
Anna and Kevin Valent with daughters Riley, Sawyer and Mary Parker.

Helping her community and being of service is at Anna Valent’s core. She knew from a young age that being involved in something bigger than herself was what she was meant to do – and she does just that. Not only professionally as the incoming executive director of Dreams Come True, but through her volunteer work as well.

“I always knew I wanted to be in a service role,” Valent said. “At the end of the day, what drives me is knowing that what I’m doing is impacting something else.”

Valent grew up in Georgia, most recently in St. Simon’s Island. She left after graduating high school to attend the University of Florida (UF) and swim at the collegiate level; she was a world-ranked distance freestyle swimmer and the 2002-2003 co-captain of the swim team.

After graduating from UF with a degree in psychology and public relations, she was offered a position at the Make a Wish Foundation in Jacksonville.

“They wouldn’t let me back in Georgia,” Valent joked.

She didn’t know anyone when she first moved to Jacksonville, so she found a place downtown at 11 East Forsyth. She was one of the first residents, which consisted mostly of young people and recent graduates.

“I felt like that would be a good way to meet people,” Valent said. She ended up not only making friends, but also meeting her future husband, Kevin, who had been in Jacksonville since age 12.

Kevin and Anna Valent
Kevin and Anna Valent

“I always thought I would go back to Georgia and that Jacksonville was just a stop along the way,” she said. “And then I met him. His marriage proposal was, ‘If you’re ready to call Jacksonville your home, I’d love for you to be my wife.’”

They’ve now been together for 20 years, married for 18, and have three daughters: Riley, 15, Sawyer, 12, and Mary Parker, 8.

Sawyer, Mary Parker, Riley, Anna and Kevin Valent at a Florida Gator football game.
Sawyer, Mary Parker, Riley, Anna and Kevin Valent at a Florida Gator football game.

“I joked that I wasn’t going to date the first guy I met in Jacksonville, I’m going to marry him instead,” she said. “He loved it, and he understood the value of Jacksonville. I had the opportunity to see it, too, and I’m so glad he was adamant about staying here.”

After working at Make a Wish for a few years, Valent followed up with positions at the JAX Chamber of Commerce and Athletes for CARE before transitioning to her current position at Dreams Come True, a nonprofit organization that grants the dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Anna Valent with members of the Dreams Come True Horizon Board on a visit to Give Kids the World.
Anna Valent with members of the Dreams Come True Horizon Board on a visit to Give Kids the World.

“Our whole mission is to bring hope and joy,” she said. “And so that’s literally what we get to think about every day is, how can we make this more fun? How can we bring more joy? How can we take it up a notch. That’s such a fun spot to be in. What will make them smile today?”

Being a swimmer, one of her favorite dreams was when a little boy got the chance to not only meet Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, but also swims laps with him. Another was of a little girl who had cancer whose dream was to get her mom blessed by the Pope. They traveled to the Vatican, where both were blessed.

“She survived and is now an oncologist herself,” Valent said.

Outside of work, Valent is also heavily involved in her community. She is the membership chair for the San Marco Preservation Society, chair of Little Friends Preschool at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, on the PTA at Hendricks Avenue Elementary School, and on the board of the National Charity League, which is a mother/daughter charity organization. 

“The preservation society really focuses on the San Marco area and making sure that we are growing in a responsible way and protecting our historic features,” she said. “And making sure that people have the resources they need to grow and really make this area thrive. I love San Marco.”

Valent and her family have lived in the area for nine years. Prior to that, they lived near the Jewish Community Alliance in San Jose.

“We just love the walkability. We love the restaurants. I love the way things are growing. I feel like it’s getting even more active, and I love that. And I love raising our kids here,” she said.

Some of her family’s favorite spots around town are The Bearded Pig, Grape and Grain, and Posting House. Her daughters also like going to Firehouse Subs and The Loop, or “anywhere in San Marco.”

Anna Valent and her tennis team at the USTA Sectionals in Orlando.
Anna Valent and her tennis team at the USTA Sectionals in Orlando.

In her spare time, she also enjoys playing tennis. Around 2017, after she joined San Jose Country Club, she started playing along with a group of other women who were beginners.

“We got super competitive about it, and had a lot of fun, and really focused on learning how to play,” Valent said. “And I created a bunch of really amazing friendships out of that.”

By Jennifer Jensen
Resident Community News

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