Stillbrave: Fighting Cancer with Heart

Tom Mitchell, USA

Dinan Elsyad on December 14, 2018 in Health & Sanitation

8.9 million. That is the estimated number of cancer related deaths in 2016. Life with cancer can be scary, especially for young kids - often, they find themselves without hope. Tom Mitchell fought to be brave for both his daughter, Shayla Mitchell, and himself; and though she lost her battle, Tom wanted help other families stay brave like he strived to be. He made a promise always to be brave. That was the inspiration for his non-profit organization, Stillbrave.

Tom Mitchell, better known as “Tattoo Tom,” started Stillbrave with one goal in mind: to help families battling cancer in any way he can. Though this includes aiding with the financial burden of cancer, and raising funds towards cancer research, there is one aspect of Stillbrave that makes them different from all the other cancer non-profit organizations. As their website says, “There is only one organization dedicated to providing ‘Strength for the Strong.’ There is only one Stillbrave.”

Stillbrave focuses on the small things. When you and your family are battling cancer, often, chores aren’t your mind. The organization will take care of a family’s yard work and babysitting, so that the family is focused on being together and the important battle to fight. Additionally, the organization takes special notice of not only the child with cancer, but the siblings, as well; Stillbrave provides books and materials that spark happiness in the siblings’ lives.

Stillbrave has a variety of events that they host to help those battling cancer. One of their unique fundraisers is the Stillbrave 200. First ran in September, 2015, Tattoo Tom runs this marathon to raise money for families battling cancer. Each mile he ran was for someone that is either battling, or lost their battle to, cancer. This has become an annual event.

Another program that makes Stillbrave unique is its All-Star Siblings Program. The program aims to give the siblings of cancer children attention and show the siblings that they matter, too. The program organizes small activities that go a long way for these siblings; these include going to the movies and eating dinner together.

One of its most popular programs, an idea created by Tattoo Tom himself, is its RENEGADE Backpack Program. Therapy for cancer, especially chemotherapy, can be very demanding on the child. To aid the child, Stillbrave puts together backpacks with items of comfort, such as blankets, stuffed animals, and journals. The backpacks currently feature an iPod touch, but they are hoping to eventually have an iPad in each backpack. Each backpack costs $400 dollars to purchase and fill.

One child Stillbrave helped was Sabareesh Sundarraj. The kindness of Stillbrave inspired him to give back and help others.

“After my treatment was over, I felt great - I mean, I was cancer free, but then I started to feel empty, because I wasn’t doing anything to give back,” he said. “In 2017, I started a fundraiser in which I cooked Indian food at my house and people would come by and eat for a donation. We raised close to $2000. Then, I joined their board. We’ve been planning many events as fundraisers and as events for kids who are sick and either currently in treatment or have finished treatment and are in remission.”

One event was the Carnival of Kindness, where Stillbrave organized an event that had all the aspects of a carnival. Sundarraj is currently planning his own toy drive to collect items from books to Xbox games - anything that will bring the kids joy. He will host the drive at three places: his high school, his religious group, and his community. The collected items will be cleaned and given to sick children in the hospitals for the holidays.

Stillbrave spreads hope, and the desire to give back to the community. To learn more about their mission, visit their website, https://www.stillbrave.org/. To get involved with their mission, visit their page, https://www.stillbrave.org/volunteer/. To watch Tattoo Tom’s TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wyXEDuau14.

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