Updated: Jul 19, 2021
It is with pride and joy I present to you the next member of Team Do Good, the mighty Mark Heilig. I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate Mark here via Tampa Bless and Team Do Good. His willingness to participate in this feature and to provide feedback is highly appreciated. Keep in mind, Team Do Good honorees are donating upwards of 2 hours of their time and energy to Tampa Bless in order for this feature to be completed properly. For that I am grateful and it is in no way taken for granted. But why bother? For the glory? No. It's because of the potential positive impact this may have on others. Love that! Speaks volumes. And now, without further ado...
Name: Mark Heilig
Place of birth: Tampa, Florida
Currently reside: Tampa, Florida
Heritage: My mother’s family is Italian and my father’s family is Irish. I suppose that makes us Americans.
Family: My wife Libby and I just welcomed our 7th child. We have five girls and two boys.
Alma Mater: Plant High, Ithaca College, and the Florida State University College of Law.
Activities you organized or participate in related to helping others and uplifting humanity? I realize this is an uncomfortable question to answer because it feels self-promotional, yet it's important to share so to inspire others:
I am an active member of Christ the King Parish in South Tampa. Among other things I help to lead the Society of St. Joseph, am a Past Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, have served on the school’s Advisory Board and on the Parish Pastoral Council, and assisted other ministries where I can. I have also volunteered as a high school basketball coach, youth basketball coach, Little League Coach, Flag Football Coach and once a youth soccer “coach” (I really don't know anything about soccer but the league was generous enough to help me along). I have also served on the Board of several local non-profit organizations. Most notably, I served on the Board of Voices for Children of Tampa Bay for 10 years.
The Tampa Bless 12
Let me preface this by saying that the term favorite or any superlative really is meant to be understood as a top choice because some people have multiple favorites.
1) Favorite pastime or hobby? Why? Please explain.
I love sports. And, as of late, I love coaching youth sports. This spring I was coaching a football team, a baseball team, and two softball teams. Little League Baseball and Softball, in particular, is the perfect combination of competitiveness and fun. It is also a great way to spend quality time with my children and get to know their friends. And it doesn’t hurt that they let me use their tractor to drag the infield before the games.
2) Favorite sport, team, or player? If not into sports, your favorite musician or album? Or answer one of each if you’d like or any combo. Please explain why for any one or more of the questions you answered.
I have been a lifelong fan, and occasional season ticket holder, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While I cherish their great years and great players, the teams from the early 90s -- Bucco Bruce and all -- will always be my favorites. That said, my favorite athlete of all time is probably John Starks. There is just something wonderful about a guy that went from bagging groceries to dunking on Jordan and Pippen.
3) Favorite movie? Why? Please explain.
I think my brain just vapor-locked. The other day, someone asked me if I had a favorite child and I answered ‘yes’ without blinking. But somehow, this question has stumped me. I really love movies. How do you choose? I love Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, My Cousin Vinny, Casablanca, The Natural, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Top Gun, The Big Lebowski. But, if pressed, I think It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite because I love George Bailey. He is such a relatable character because he is so ambivalent about his lot in life. And so anxious to envy those that he thinks are outpacing him. But, despite his envy, he always makes the right choice -- no matter how difficult that choice is internally. And his pile of small acts of charity remind us that helping our fellow man doesn't require a worldwide non-profit or international acclaim. In some ways, George Bailey is the film equivalent of St. Teresa of Calcutta. He treats his neighbors with dignity and charity and the world is a better place for knowing him.
4) Favorite place (country, city, town, etc…) you have visited and why?
New Orleans. There is something very honest about the city. A place that chooses to create great things -- food, music, literature -- instead of profitable things. At least that is the way it appears in my limited experience.
5) Last meal? You could have anything, what is it? Why? Please explain.
I feel obligated to name something sophisticated or decadent. Something that shows my refined palate. But, if I am going to die anyway, I think I’d just like a plate of chicken wings. Or maybe a Bloomin’ Onion...
6) Three activities or routines you would highly recommend? Please explain your reasoning for each.
1. Finding time to feed yourself, spiritually, mentally, and physically is important. But it cannot come at the expense of your duties. So, I rise early to exercise, read, and pray before any of my children are awake. If I have to choose between myself, my children, my wife, and my other obligations, I will always be last on my list. So, I arrange my day to allow space to prepare, grow, and worship.
2. It seems cliche to point out the importance of spending time investing in the relationships that define your life. But, in an era where online interaction has replaced the human touch, it is important to deliberately spend personal time serving the people you love. For me, that means an intentional effort to spend individual time with my wife daily, and with each of my children every week.
3. I love to learn new things. My grandfather was a true renaissance man. He went to work before finishing high school but still managed to have a career in advertising, own his own business, become an incredible craftsman, baker, and artist. I try to read broadly and learn new skills. I think it’s important to pursue a life as a generalist, especially in an era that seems to encourage specialization.
7) A) Personality trait you highly value? Why? Please explain. B) The personality trait you highly dislike? Why? Please explain.
A. Joy. Someday, anthropologists will look at our era and define it by our complaints. Despite the comfort and ease of modern life, we seem hard wired to find something to complain about, even if those complaints are just “first world problems.” That is what makes a joyful person such a breath of fresh air. Particularly a person that is joyful about their vocation. Whether it is a Priest, a Teacher, or the guy collecting trash, I am always thankful when I get to interact with a smile and a laugh.
B. Selfishness. When we were kids, our teachers and parents always reminded us not to be miserly with our goods, thoughts, or emotions. Somehow, that lesson translated into a modern world where we idolize those that find a way to work around the system to their advantage (and the disadvantage of their fellow man). Look no further than our recent obsession with stockpiling toilet paper during this pandemic. We curse people hoarding goods in the abstract while simultaneously looking for a crack in the system to benefit ourselves and our families. I think it speaks to a great lack of faith that the Good Lord will provide in our times of need. At a more basic level, though, it speaks to a zero-sum worldview that I simply reject.
8) Favorite thinker (author, philosopher, theologian, etc…)? Why? Please explain. And what is your favorite piece of advice, quote, or text from them or in general? Why? Please explain.
I enjoy reading broadly. And am interested in the ideas of many different thinkers. As of late, I have enjoyed the writings of Walker Percy. His mix of Catholicism, Stoicism, and the American South ticks a lot of my interests. But, if we need to identify a single quote, I am fond of Willie Stark’s advice on finding a dark secret about a seemingly honest political rival in Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men: “There is always something. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something. …And make it stick.”
9) Biggest influence in your life or a top one, and what was it about them that really stood out?
I have been blessed with so many mentors. But all of those wonderful mentors sit second to my incredible parents. Both my mother and father taught me how to give. Both worked tirelessly in their careers, and in their volunteer activities. Whenever a person or organization was in need, my parents responded to help, no matter if they had the energy or resources necessary. I hope that my family, friends, and colleagues can count on me the way our community counted on my mom and dad.
10) If there is one thing you could change in the world, what would it be?
This question is harder than it seems. Maybe it is lucky that I have yet to find a genie in a lamp because I appear to be unprepared. I am regularly frustrated by the proliferation of Relativism in modern life. The subtle way our culture has come to believe that nothing is objectively good, true, or beautiful seems to be the cause of our divisive and caustic society. If I could change one thing, it would be a return to a shared sense of all that is good, true, and beautiful. If we could stop arguing about facts and return to arguing about right and wrong, I think the tenor of our public and private discourse would improve exponentially.
11) Where did your desire to help others and uplift humanity come from? Please explain.
I learned by watching my parents and my Grandfather. Whenever someone was in need, whether they asked or not, my parents, and my Grandfather before them, would offer personal assistance. They were not people of great means but they gave from the one finite resource we all share: time. I hope that I am living up to their example.
12) What are you working on now and how can people get involved?
I am not working on anything in particular, at the moment. But perhaps people can follow the example of my parents and Grandfather (and George Bailey?). Rather than looking around the world for causes or movements, offer your time and energy to your neighbors.
Editor's note: Tampa's Society of St. Joseph, which Mark mentions his involvement in, is currently doing a fundraiser in which they've been able to organize a match for the group. The goal is to raise at least $40,000, and they will match dollar for dollar up to $20,000 - together providing more than 16,000 to-go meals! Link here: https://donate.feedingtampabay.org/event/society-of-st-josephs/e285065
Thank you so much for your time Mark and for all that you do. The place we live in is that much better because of you. I hope that this feature has served to inspire you, as well as successfully celebrate those that help others and uplift humanity.
If you like, please subscribe to the Tampa Bless blog and be on the lookout for the next featured member of Team Do Good as well as Team Do Good's 1st signature apparel drop coming soon. This is going to be a great opportunity to celebrate and represent your neighborhood Do-Gooders and look good doing it. Let's go! May God bless y'all and thank you for your support. Much love and appreciation.