September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of this, Inspirer will be sharing a few articles throughout the month highlighting individuals making a difference in the world of pediatric cancer awareness.
As a childhood cancer survivor herself, Taylor Scheibe started her non-profit “WithLove” in 2012. What was meant to be a toy drive to give back to a local hospital, grew into a full fledged non-profit with the mission to bring joy to families and kids fighting cancer. Not only is WithLove raising awareness for childhood cancer, but it is also providing many kids the opportunity and relief to just be kids during their fight. I am honored that Taylor took a break from her duties to talk with me about her journey.
Can you tell me about your background?
I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I grew up dancing, loved writing and creative arts. I was a straight “A” student and even won my high school pageant. I graduated from FSCJ with my Associate’s degree. (As WithLove put a hold on my Bachelors – but in a good way!) Over the past five years, I have received awards for my work in the community such as Jacksonville’s Top 30 Under 30, The Positively Jax Award and as an Outstanding Young Professional of Jacksonville.
I am a total daddy’s girl and my mother is my biggest inspiration. I was raised in the church, but grew to appreciate the personal relationship I had with God over my religious upbringing. Along with my family’s love, the community’s encouragement and the support from my doctors and nurses, my faith had a lot to do with my push to beat cancer. I may not have recognized it then, but my life has a purpose. I am not only meant to share my story to help others, I am meant to spread light and love.
I took a huge leap of faith just this year, to take WithLove on the road. I have lived in Jacksonville all my life and now, at the age of 26, I have decided to expand WithLove’s reach to children fighting cancer across the country. My first stop? Nashville, Tennessee.
What is the main objective of WithLove?
The main objective of WithLove is to give children with cancer the opportunity to be what they are – kids! Our mission is to curate events tailored to them and their need to simply have fun and enjoy time with their loved ones outside of all the treatments and hospital visits. My hope is to remove them from their battle, for at least a moment, and remind them that they are still a kid.
As a childhood cancer survivor yourself, do you have any advice for kids/teens going through that journey now? Or advice for anyone dealing with adversity for that matter?
As a survivor, I know that each journey is different, especially when dealing with children and teens. I try to just listen first. The biggest advice that I can offer, no matter if you’re on a journey with cancer or not, it’s to be honest and let people know how you truly feel. When dealing with any high stress and physically tolling experience in life, we tend to shut down and shut out people around us. When I was sick the first time, I held so much in and it was mentally draining me. I was depressed and often wanted to give up. My second battle was different, I knew I needed to release the negativity – bad thoughts, etc – and just open up. As I expressed all my emotions, I could feel myself regaining strength and it also allowed me to build fresh relationships. So be honest not only with yourself, but with others. Never be afraid to ask for help, even if it’s just a listening ear.
Were there any organizations or events that helped you when you were going through treatment?
The Jay Fund, Dreams Come True, Make a Wish, The Children’s Miracle Network and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society all held wonderful events for my family and I to participate in. These organizations put us in touch with other families and helped us feel like we weren’t alone on our journey.
What made you decide to start your own charity instead of (or in addition to) volunteering at existing organizations?
Honestly, I never imagined WithLove would be a non-profit. It was a simple toy drive to give back to the hospital that treated me. However, when I met the patients and their families, my whole world stopped. Their joy and gratitude weren’t just propelled by a toy donation, but the fact a survivor was standing in their presence. The reactions from the parents I met five years ago, still stick with me today. At their darkest moments, most of them were hanging on the words of a doctor. Then to see, talk to and hug a real life survivor of exactly what their child is fighting against… Hope. Pure hope.
I knew I had a bigger purpose in life. I wish that I had someone who had walked through cancer as a child come to me when I was starting my journey. I think to see a survivor and have them just be present with you is a huge deal. It’s the relate-ability and connection that allows you to be rawer when you open up to them. There’s also a sense of hope, a volt of courage almost, that you get when you meet someone who has overcome what seems to be a dead-end road.
So for me, I love volunteering, and have had the honor to do so with amazing organizations, but I have my own story to tell. I have my own mission to help these children and I have my own way to give hope. It’s WithLove!
What are some of the challenges with running your own charity and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge of running my own charity is that it is my charity! I am a perfectionist and total momma bear to my mission, so I tend to try to do everything on my own. I’d have to say this is my biggest weakness – I need to learn to ask for more help. My board has been great at helping me alleviate some of this stress though!
Honestly, balancing WithLove while working a full-time job, trying to keep up with my own health and just try (key word: try) to have a social life… it’s exhausting! I’m not going to lie, it gets very difficult and some days I just want to give up. However, every time I start to doubt myself and get frustrated, I look at pictures of the kids I’ve helped, read messages from the parents, and think about the children I have yet to meet. This keeps me fighting for them. These kids are my strength, they are my heart and they are my purpose. They are WithLove.
Can you tell me about some of the ways you raise funds?
A lot of our funds are raised through social events such as happy hours or fun brunches! We are able to incorporate a toy drive with raffle drawings, benefiting us with both financial and in-kind support. Shirt sales and online donations are also ways we raise awareness and funds for our cause.
Do you have a favorite event you put on every year?
A favorite?! I honestly love all of our events with the kids but if I had to choose one, it would be the Halloween Party we host at Wolfson Children’s Hospital’s oncology unit every year. We are able to bring Halloween to the kids who are stuck inside all day and unable to go trick-or-treating. We have a blast dressing up, bringing in cosplayers for the kids to meet and the patients get to pick from hundreds of toys that we donate.
Do you have a favorite memory or moment from one of your events?
Every child and teen I meet through WithLove teaches me something new and has their own little piece of my heart. Every interaction and opportunity to just connect with them are memories I will cherish forever. Since you are making me pick a favorite, I will go with the moment that made WithLove what it is today.
I would have to say that one memory I will absolutely never forget is my first toy drop-off. It was a giant hug and tear filled “you have no idea what this means to me” from the mom of the first child I ever met. We were standing in the doorway of her daughter’s hospital room. As she squeezed me, I watched as her little girl was sleeping, connected to multiple IV lines and oxygen, with the baby bear I had just delivered on the foot of her bed. This mother wasn’t thanking me for my toy donation, she was thanking me for being me.
How can people get involved with WithLove?
Because most of our events are private, we are limited on volunteer opportunities, but that doesn’t mean people can’t get involved! Hosting events or toy drives to benefit the children we work with are great ways for people to help our mission. For more information on becoming a sponsor or possible volunteer roles, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are your hopes and goals for the future of WithLove?
In five years, I hope to be able to operate WithLove full time and have established events and operations in three other cities, besides Jacksonville and Nashville. Right now we have donated roughly $170,000 in toys and games to children with cancer and their treatment facilities since 2012. I hope to triple this by 2022. More importantly, I want double the number of children I am able to meet each year and pray that the impact WithLove has on each of them will always be positive and uplifting.
What is something about childhood cancer that you wish the public was more aware of?
The effects of cancer never end. Even after you are told “you’re in remission!” you will still face side effects such as depression. Many children will have growth defects and damaged senses, like hearing and eyesight, from the treatments. The mental stress cancer creates, almost never leaves and becoming re-adjusted back into a “normal” lifestyle isn’t the easiest. I believe your support for these children should go beyond the last chemo and after port removal, for the first few years in remission can truly be the most difficult.
What does Childhood Cancer Awareness Month mean to you?
For me, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is a golden unity. You are connected to thousands of others who share their story in hopes of raising awareness for children with cancer. My daily mission is to bring hope from my journey, but during September, it is recognized globally. It’s 30 days for the world to recognize the fight of these courageous children and do something about it; a month of a spotlight on the true superheroes of the world.
Please follow WithLove at:
Instagram & Twitter: @withlovecharity