Brothers always keep Mingo County on their minds - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Brothers always keep Mingo County on their minds

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The minute the little guy climbed up into his exam chair, Dr. Steven Wilson knew something about this miniature-sized patient was going to be different.

Shawn Sammons of Mingo County said he knew from a very early age he wanted to be an eye doctor, but Wilson describes the scene a little differently than his young protégé.

“It wasn’t the first time I had examined Shawn’s eyes, but he asked the question, ‘What’s it like to be an optometrist?’” Wilson recalled. “I remember giving him my three-minute spiel about loving this profession, how it’s changing, evolving and how much I enjoy and love what I do.”

Wilson said it was then that he saw the 8-year-old Sammons cross his skinny arms, lean back in his chair and proclaim, “I want to be an optometrist!”

Shawn Sammons returned to his hometown to launch his career, and he isn’t the only member of his family who had his sights set on returning home; his brother Josh Sammons has the same dream.

Josh, a recent graduate of the University of Pikeville and current teacher at Mingo Central High School, said he wants to go to law school before returning back to the area to contribute.

“It was a long decision; I always thought about it growing up,” Josh Sammons said. “Being a lawyer would be something different every day you have to deal with.”

Josh Sammons said although there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere, he wants to be part of revitalizing his home.

Learning at a young age

While not many youngsters can pronounce the word optometrist, let alone know the meaning of the word, Shawn Sammons said he had a pretty good understanding at the ripe age of about 11 or 12 years old what he needed to do to accomplish his goals.

“I had a mental checklist of things I needed to accomplish,” he said.

His checklist consisted of staying out of trouble, getting a good education and returning to his hometown of Williamson to improve it for the better.

“I want kids in our area to see I grew up here and came back,” he said. “If you need to go somewhere else, so be it, but if you can come home and make your home better, that’s what I want to see happen.”

Shawn Sammons said no matter what he was going to do in life, his parents always told him to do his best and give it his whole heart.

“My parents say, if that’s all that you ever do in your life, then we’ll be proud,” he added.

Finding a calling

Wilson recalls wanting Shawn Sammons to follow his dream of becoming an optometrist, and was surprised to learn the next time he returned the young boy felt the same way.

“I said, ‘Shawn, that would be awesome, 20 years from now, the timing would be great,’” Wilson recalled. “There was no question in my mind; he set his sights on this, this is what he wanted to do.

“I had an opportunity to influence young people, who chose this profession, but his sights weren’t just set on the profession. I really think his sights were set on coming back to Mingo County.”

Wilson said just like sons look up to a father, he was happy to mold Shawn Sammons into what he wanted to be, just as he knows Shawn will do for the young people he sees.

“Young people need a role model to encourage them to consider the possibility of returning to this area,” Wilson said. “That seems to be Shawn’s passion as well.

“We’re going to keep him busy, but I think Shawn has a passion outside this office that will be interesting to see how he will contribute to our area as well.”

Shawn Sammons might be able to use the fact that his fiancee, Laura Suppa, is from Charleston to leverage his dream of staying in the Mountain State. Although the pair met at school in Indiana, Suppa is from Charleston and is currently practicing optometry in Kanawha City.

Always knew

Originally from Mingo County, Shawn Sammons returned home after completing optometry school at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Only being referred to as “Dr. Sammons” since May, he said he’s had to adjust to his new title.

Shawn Sammons said he knows West Virginia and his hometown in coal country need to find ways to diversify the economy. The passion he has for his work carries over into his desire to help his home become somewhere people want to come to live, work and visit.

“I don’t want to see this area die; I’ve been to the high schools and talked to the kids about going to college and what it’s like to go to college,” he said. “I’ve encouraged them to ask me questions. It’s important for them to know what it’s like to go to college, and my challenge to them is to go to college, and then come home and help me.

“I need help — we need help — to kind of reinvigorate and keep this area vitalized.”

Josh Sammons said there is simply no other feeling like being home.

“Don’t give up on this place; there’s a lot of opportunities here,” he said. “You don’t see many people coming back to this area but it can grow, and rebound back to where it used to be.”