By Andrea Stuart | Photo by Manny Espinoza
The fragrance of cypress hangs in the air, mingling with a fine mist that veils the windows. The ocean plays peek-a-boo with the serpentine road as the car weaves between forested neighborhoods. Morning dew dangles pendulously on the tips of pine needles, and the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee sits comfortably on the edge of nostrils.
Cruising along Seventeen-Mile Drive with java in hand has become a morning tradition for Sandra Silvestri and her husband, Alan, a tradition that began when they ferried their young children to and from school. “This is how we say good morning to our world,” says Sandra. “Sometimes the kids call while we’re on the drive. We tell them we’re driving the kids to school. They think we are so weird,” Sandra says as a laugh bounces out of her throat.
Despite having grown up in Hagerstown, Maryland and New York, Carmel is her home. The only discernible evidence of her eastern upbringing is an occasional charming accent that lilts off her tongue when she’s at ease.
Before coming to California, Sandra became a Ford model in New York at 16, eventually earning the title of first runner-up to Miss New York State for Miss World 1969. “Mom kept submitting my picture to all these places,” she says.
After her first year in college, she moved to New York City where she attended Columbia University. In that time, she appeared in over 100 commercials before being jettisoned out of Long Island and into a whole new world, where she became a student at UCLA and continued modeling.
Today, Sandra is revered for her involvement with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), having raised one million dollars for the organization over the last 22 years through the annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. After her son was diagnosed with diabetes, she focused her attention on assisting the organization in seeking ways to help support the search for a cure. She served a six-year tenure on several committees on the International Board with JDRF, and her work has been instrumental.
On the Communications Committee, Sandra acted as an advocate for children with diabetes and their families. On the Lay Committee, she helped oversee funding decisions for JDRF while following the medical science review board’s recommendations. And on the Government Relation Committee she was the first ChairMom for the JDRF’s 1999 Children’s Congress, a biannual event that brings children with diabetes and their parents to Washington, D.C. to advocate on their own behalf for diabetes research. In that role, Sandra worked closely with the government relations staff and volunteer leadership to develop the theme “Promise to Remember Me,” drafted by Alan Silvestri and Stephen Schwartz (of “Wicked” fame). She worked closely with the families throughout the process. “I continue to work with JDRF on the local level and on their International Board of Chancellors,” she says.
Sandra’s work with JDRF is close to her heart, but so is her role as the voice of Silvestri Vineyards. Contributing to the vineyard’s newsletter, Sandra fills their members in on all Silvestri adventures both among and beyond the vines. She has also recently started taking watercolor classes with local artist Kathy Sharpe, who she met through the Film Commission Festival. Sandra’s kaleidoscopic vision of the world just seems to grow each year. “I’m never bored!”
Since moving from Los Angeles to Carmel in 1989, Sandra has developed a sincere relationship with the Peninsula, having raised a family with her husband over the course of their 37-year marriage. Each day, she is reminded of how much she loves about the Peninsula, from the verdant landscape to the vital people who have enveloped Sandra and her family in the quality of life they cherish.