Finding Philanthropy Through Tragedy
A person recently told me, “You’re invaluable.” Although I don’t feel like I am, she made me feel it was so. The crazy thing is, she had had just moved me to tears with her story of triumph and impact through tragedy.
We often showcase examples of philanthropy’s impact through a series we’ve called “What Does Philanthropy Look Like?” Philanthropy is defined as a love of mankind, often demonstrated by generous gifts to charitable causes. As I sat across the table from Taylora Schlosser, I realized she is one of those examples in a very real and raw form.
Taylora started her story by telling me what she wants to accomplish with the Rae of Sunshine Foundation, what it has already done and why it is important work.
I listened. I nodded. I asked the occasional question. As she began to reach the end of the numbers and examples of people she has encountered, I took the opportunity to ask a question, “Why did you decide to start Rae of Sunshine?” Then I followed with, “When did you decide to start Rae of Sunshine?” I got an answer that shocked me and gave me great insight into Taylora.
Six hours – that’s how long it was after finding out her daughter, Taylor, had committed suicide when Taylora knew that couldn’t be the end of Taylor’s story. And although that’s how she tells Taylor’s story, Taylora’s passion and work with Rae of Sunshine is much more about others than it is about Taylor. Taylor is her inspiration. A love for mankind is her passion.
Despite, or in in conjunction with – depending on how you look at it – being a school superintendent, Taylora devotes her personal time to carrying out the mission of Rae of Sunshine. But the time and personal financial investment is just the tip of what Taylora puts into Rae of Sunshine. Carrying out the mission – to raise awareness of mental health issues and decrease the stigma around these issues – means Taylora tells her daughter’s story publicly, repeatedly, personally.
To date she has spoken to thousands of people.
And heard from teenagers, parents and senior citizens about their experiences with mental health and suicide.
And given out thousands of items with the suicide hotline number on it.
She even had a girl tell her she was calling a therapist after hearing Taylora speak because the girl didn’t want her mother to have to live through what Taylora has gone through.
She also has established the Rae of Sunshine Scholarship in Taylor’s memory. By providing scholarship money to individuals pursuing careers in the mental health field, Rae of Sunshine hopes to encourage the establishment of resources to change the stories of individuals who are struggling.
Did I mention it has been a year today since Taylor died?
And that folks, is what philanthropy looks like.
Davette B. Swiney
CKCF President and CEO
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