TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The First Lady of Florida, Casey DeSantis, steadily balances her personal life, with a family of five, and her official duties – a feat that requires a lot of patience, grace, and poise. From rallying millions of “Mamas” around the state to kicking off a hunt for invasive pythons in the Florida Everglades, Casey consistently distinguishes herself from the pack.
Before she became First Lady of Florida, Casey DeSantis was an anchor and reporter for two TV stations in the Jacksonville area. She was going to take a break from her show to spend more time with her family. But she decided to leave it behind to support her husband’s run for governor of Florida.
In October 2021, after the governor announced his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis, DeSantis told Floridians in a press conference that it hasn’t been easy, but First Lady Casey DeSantis “is a very, very strong woman.”
“She fights. She’s tough,” DeSantis said “I mean she’s basically resigned that, you know, better that she has to go through it than others who may not be able to handle it as well. And that’s just, that’s why I love her. She’s an exceptional person.”
The First Lady joined her husband at a fundraising dinner in May 2022 after receiving the good news in March that she is now cancer-free. At a campaign event in The Villages dubbed “DeSantis Day”, Governor Ron DeSantis told supporters, “we are blessed to have the best First Lady in all fifty states.”
As the governor welcomed his wife to the stage for the first time since she was diagnosed with breast cancer, he told the crowd “they said it was a ‘DeSantis Day’ dinner, and I didn’t know if they meant me or her, so I figured I would bring her along with me.”
“I am a testament that God is great and God is good, and hope is alive,” said Casey DeSantis as she brought the audience to their feet in applause. “No matter what you’re going through in life, no matter how hard things seem like they are, no matter how hard it feels like you have to pick yourself up off the ground or you feel like your back is against the wall. Fight. Fight like hell. Never, ever, give up. Never, ever, back down,” said Casey DeSantis.
MADISON, MASON, AND MAMIE
The DeSantis’ have three young children, Madison (5), Mason (4), and Mamie (2). Mamie is the first baby born in the Governor’s Mansion in more than 50 years.
On her Twitter feed, the First Lady gives a glimpse of what it’s like to travel with three littles in tow. Often waving at supporters as they stroll across a football field, or greeting a crowd of supporters, the DeSantis’ are a tight-knit group and a symbol of the traditional American family.
ONE MILLION “MAMAS”
As the mother of three children, Casey DeSantis is concerned with the lack of public safety in parts of the nation. Florida’s administration has proudly proclaimed that the state “has the blue’s back.” She’s grateful that in 2018, her husband won the election, because if his opponent had won, the state might look very different today, especially after the pandemic.
One of the issues Casey is most passionate about is education. She feels strongly, along with the governor, that we should not be indoctrinating kids in the classroom, but rather educating them in core subjects. The First Lady believes that parents have a fundamental right to be closely involved in the education of their children.
Laying a foundation with civics in the classroom is essential, according to Casey, because the next generation needs to understand that our rights come from God – and it’s up to the government to protect our rights. At his campaign events, Governor DeSantis frequently stated that governors in other states had violated citizens’ rights during COVID, including denying people the ability to see their loved ones at the end of their lives.
As a “Mama” herself, Casey DeSantis coordinated other Mamas across the state to get out and vote. These moms, according to the First Lady, are fired up in support of the governor’s agenda. During COVID many of these moms were able to peer into the classroom for the first time to see what was being taught without their consent and behind their backs.
Moms from all over the state wanted to know how they could be involved in making sure that Governor Ron DeSantis was elected for another term. "I am proud to announce that we have secured more than one million mamas across the state of Florida who are voting to re-elect Governor Ron DeSantis, the most pro-parent Governor in the country,” said Casey DeSantis.
FLORIDA CANCER CONNECT
In April 2022, the First Lady unveiled Florida Cancer Connect, an initiative focusing on providing information on cancer treatment, caregiver tools, and stories from brave Floridians who have fought the disease on one centralized website.
“When I was going through my cancer fight, I saw the need for a centralized hub that housed everything patients and caretakers could need while dealing with this disease,” said Casey DeSantis. “Florida Cancer Connect arms Floridians with valuable knowledge while instilling hope into the lives of those facing cancer by sharing positive survivor stories. Our mission with this website is simple – make the cancer battle easier and instill hope in those fighting.”
To combat the fatherhood crisis in Florida, the First Lady started Hope Florida – A Pathway to Prosperity, an initiative primarily to help single moms struggling to find mentors for their kids. The initiative includes a youth ambassadors program, helping kids make it through the Department of Juvenile Justice. Graduates of the program get an opportunity to visit the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee.
When students arrive at the Mansion, the First Lady often asks how they were able to make it through the abuse, neglect, and challenges in their life. Most kids say the key was that someone, at some point, took an interest in their life.
Casey believes that the government can’t, and shouldn’t fix all of society’s problems. But she does feel that as a state we can incentivize mentorship to allow more kids to have a father figure in their life.
EMPOWERING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
In her work with the Office of Adoption and Child Protection, part of the Executive Office of the Governor, Casey works closely with state agencies to promote adoption and support adoptive families. “We understand how wonderful it is to be able to watch families grow, to watch forever families happening right before our eyes,” she said.
In February 2021, Casey’s resiliency initiative was launched. The program aims to empower kids to be able to persevere through life's challenges. Many mental health issues were exacerbated by the pandemic. The initiative includes a resiliency toolkit, and Hope Ambassador Clubs, designed to create "kind and compassionate school environments" through peer-to-peer volunteering.
“With mental health, what I noticed in traveling the state and speaking with a lot of kids is that if they come forward and say that they have a mental health issue, they feel like a victim and that there's a stigma associated with it,” said Casey DeSantis.
Resiliency Florida rethinks the way mental health is taught in the classroom. New curriculum in schools will focus on problem solving skills, critical thinking, coping, perseverance and compassion.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
Improving the environment in Florida has been a major priority for the governor. The First Lady understands that the waterways are the lifeblood of the state and that Florida should be left to our kids in a better state than we found it.
The First Lady held up a massive python, along with other state and local officials, for a photo op as she kicked off the Florida Python Challenge in August 2022. The Florida Everglades is home to a variety of species important to Florida’s ecosystem, including native birds, mammals, fish, and reptiles.
But invasive Burmese pythons, which do not belong in Florida, have become a serious problem. These non-native species will eat almost anything in their path, posing a threat to natural wildlife.
Close to 1,000 people from 32 states across the nation participated in the challenge. Some winners will receive prize money, but the goal of the challenge is to remove as many pythons as possible while bringing awareness to the governor’s initiatives to protect the environment.
ASSISTING HURRICANE IAN VICTIMS
In September 2022, the First Lady announced the activation of the Florida Disaster Fund to support Florida’s communities impacted by Hurricane Ian. “The governor and I are thankful for the graciousness of those looking to assist Florida’s communities in their time of need,” said Casey DeSantis. “I’m pleased to announce that Volunteer Florida has activated the Florida Disaster Fund so that people can donate directly to those affected by Hurricane Ian,” she added.
After Hurricane Ian made landfall, the First Lady was out in the field as soon as it was safe to do so. She joined soldiers of the Florida National Guard to help deliver food and water on Pine Island. She also fed first responders, provided resources to the public at Murdock Baptist Church, and visited with veterans in Port Charlotte.
CAMPAIGNING ACROSS FLORIDA
The First Lady was intimately involved in the campaign, often bringing all three children along as the couple canvassed the state. Her experience as a TV news anchor provided insight as she advised the governor on campaign strategy and how to deal with the media.
She appeared in several campaign ads, including one that focused on how her husband helped her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021. Viewers got a look behind the scenes at the relationship between Ron and Casey DeSantis. “He was there to pick me off the ground when I literally could not stand,” she said in the ad.
The week before the midterm election, the First Lady hosted a “Stand with DeSantis” tour stopping in Volusia, Lee, Sumter, Marion, Citrus, and Gadsden Counties.