Teagan Stedman was 8 years old when he conceived of Shred Kids Cancer, a music-based charity to benefit pediatric cancer patients. Teagan talked with Kids That Do Good about how he was able to turn his and friends’ passion into a force for good.
TELL US ABOUT SHRED KIDS CANCER
Shred Kids’ Cancer is an organization that allows kids the chance to help their peers who are battling cancer, and show kids who are battling that their friends are here for them.
WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA?
About 9 years ago I wanted to help my friend who was battling cancer but, since I was only 8 years old at the time, there was not a lot I was qualified to do to help.
Both my friend who was battling cancer and I were into music, and I knew other kids who wanted to help, so I came up with a plan to put on a concert – a battle of the kid bands to battle kids’ cancer. In this case, we actually wanted to “shred kids’ cancer”. Lots of rehearsals and organizing happened which was a bit overwhelming for an 8 year old but a few months later this concert, the Shredfest, was born.
It was a great way for my friend who was battling cancer to be able to see that we were all here for him. He even was well enough to come on stage and perform a song.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU RUN INTO?
I wanted to help my friend who had cancer, more than just give him a get well card but there were not many programs that allowed kids my age to help. There were many restrictions placed on kids as to getting involved in various programs. I thought about what I could personally offer and since I knew how to play guitar, involving music seemed like a good plan.
I reached out to a few prominent large organizations but they were not able to offer much assistance due to my young age. I was really trying to do something for my friend to get his mind off his illness and show that we cared. After our first event, my friend’s health improved. However, soon after, another person approached us and asked if we could do another ‘battle of the bands’ concert to help their friend who was battling cancer. Soon after our second successful event, it was only then that I decided to look into making the idea into an official organization.
There were a few challenges at first such as getting people on board initially probably because of my young age. The more I pursued it, the more they realized I was serious. Later there were a few challenges of how to get official – to create and operate a non-profit business simply because I did not know a lot of basic information about business.
HOW DID YOU SOLVE THE CHALLENGES?
I first did a lot of research online to get a good understanding of what I needed to accomplish. I also knew a lot of people would be willing to come to an event if I was able to get a great venue. I called the iconic Roxy on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles and spoke to the booking coordinator. I actually had very little experience talking on the phone, up until then I only had phone conversations with relatives. So when it was time to hang up – I did what I always do and said “Ok bye, love you” which I think at that point they agreed to host the event. Having the Roxy as a supporter boosted my confidence immensely. People started signing up left and right. I literally went door to door asking for support from local corporations, venues, government municipalities and even celebrities. I actually knocked on Ozzy Osbourne and Alex Van Halen’s doors – things I do not recommend doing!. Most everything was a learning experience from just making a simple introduction via phone or email all the way to creating a budget, a business plan, corporate bylaws and filing for a 501c3 which I did during the summer when I was 10. What allowed me to keep going was knowing that our friends were sick and dying and needed our help.
HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE IMPACT YOU’VE MADE?
Although we have raised $375,000 and funded 9 clinical trials, we like to measure our impact not by money raised but by seeing how many kids we involve and how they get to feel empowered that their actions are changing the world. I also see that there have been many friendships and collaborations both musically and otherwise that have begun as a result of our events bringing people together. We even have a few celebrities that started to connect and collaborate after meeting at our events. We have held over 25 events and involved thousands of kids, a lot of corporate sponsors helping support many kids with cancer.
HOW HAS YOUR PROJECT GROWN?
We have branched out by doing other events outside of music such as 5Ks/10ks, awareness campaigns (such as Be Bold, Be Bald) and even have letter writing campaigns to get more funding for pediatric cancer research from government agencies. We have been “going on tour” with events on both coasts. We have granted funds to Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MAKE SKC SUSTAINABLE?
We have built upon those events that are successful and repeated them as well as tried to create new ones to diversify and appeal to more people. We started a program that allows kids anywhere to form their own Shred Kids’ Cancer “start up”. We help them through the process of organizing, creating and implementing anything from one time events to more formal clubs and provide everything for successful kid-run events from standard operating procedures, suggested events and corresponding budgets, marketing materials, and for the more advanced, we provide metrics and seed money to help make their start up successful.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT?
For the past two years I have been doing independent research at UCONN Health on my original idea to deliver cancer drugs to tumors more effectively without harming healthy cells and I plan on continuing this research in this field.
HOW DOES HELPING OTHERS MAKE YOU FEEL?
I don’t feel any more special for helping others, but I know I would feel a void if I was able to help but I chose not to. Pediatric Cancer does not discriminate and there is no known cause so I think those of us who are lucky enough to be healthy owe it to our peers to do the right thing and try and help, any way we can.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO OTHER KIDS WHO WANT TO DO SOMETHING GOOD?
There really is nothing stopping you from doing something good. Age is not a deterrent. If you are first starting out, try and see if there is an organization that you can join. If not, start your own by starting small and then expand if you see success.