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Learning from the best
Taylor Fitch hanging out with children of special needs

Passion is anything powerful or compelling; anything that drives one to push boundaries and press the limits of their own being. Everyone has a passion, mine is to see every child succeed.

While competing for Miss South Carolina Teen, I chose a good friend of mine to participate in the program as a “Palmetto Prince”—a program specially designed to mentor young boys and allow them to be a part of the amazing organization. I chose Colby, a young man in a wheelchair with Cerebral Palsy, to be my Prince and my escort in the evening gown phase of competition. At first, everyone was skeptical of my decision, but that would soon change. Throughout hours of rehearsals, he never once complained. That gleaming white, boyish grin was permanently plastered across his face! On the big night, Colby fought his excitement in order to be able to push his chair with one hand, and grasp mine tightly in the other. His joy was overpowering and humbling, crystal tears filled the eyes of the awed audience. The steadfast perspectives of others changed as they were faced with a child whose smile was capable of lighting the entire Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium.

I have worked with special needs children since I was a little girl and I have witnessed firsthand as some of these children’s dreams and aspirations were ignored and pushed aside. The dreams of a child are precisely what our world is based upon. Their fresh, undaunted spirits inspire us, and their dreams become innovations, then inventions. Children are our future. And God has a purpose for each and every one of them, no matter their physical condition.

Prom Makeup steps 8-9

Girl Talk: Sometimes even just taking a little time out to talk with a child, Taylor says, can make all the difference.

These children inspire me. They instill a desire in me to take life into perspective and learn what is truly valuable. Often, I am unable to get them off of my mind and find myself thinking of new ways to help and advocate for them. That is why I developed my platform, Overcoming Physical Challenges: Heart, Mind, and Hands. I work with organizations such as March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Jymsu, Family Connections, Anderson Disability Board, and was previously the spokesperson and an “Angel of Change” for Easter Seals. I share my message, along with the stories of several special needs youths, who I’ve personally seen overcome their physical challenges and achieve success beyond belief. People like Ryan, who is paralyzed, but paints amazing pictures—already worth thousands of dollars—with his mouth. He is also currently in law school. Or Jonathan, who has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life due to Cerebral Palsy, but is now a preacher. He travels with me and preaches after I speak. He is also my very best friend.

My most recent passion is developing “Taylor’s Team.” I’ve begun running 5K races with wheelchair teams. We travel around recruiting new runners to push the wheelchairs in the race, allowing the children to also be a part of the competition. You can hear their exuberant screams for miles.

I can’t even begin to explain how much I’ve personally grown through volunteering with these children. Of course I’ve grown in obvious ways, such as in leadership and my public speaking ability. But these kids have caused me to take another look at my life and realize how much I truly have. Just spending a day with a child always humbles me. These children are in wheelchairs or on crutches and most will probably never walk or run. Despite the trials they constantly face—they smile. The joy they have radiates from their bodies and I can’t help but smile too. Being around these smiling individuals causes me to reexamine my life. So maybe I am not the best, maybe my life isn’t always a bed of roses. But if these kids can find a reason to have joy and to smile, so can I.

People will comment on how much I have taught “my kids,” but honestly I see how much they have taught me. They teach me to laugh when I really want to cry. I see their tenacity and try to replicate the same quality in my life. I see how gracious and caring they are, completely selfless, and I attempt to mimic these characteristics as well. They have taught me to be thankful, brave, strong, loving and indestructible. Most of all they have taught me what life is truly about and how to live to the fullest; to take everyday and perceive it as a gift and view each trial as an opportunity. These kids have truly changed my life and helped mold me into the person that I am today.

This spring, I challenge everyone to join “Taylor’s Team,” whether running in a 5K event with a child in a wheelchair or simply making a difference in the lives of a child with special needs.

 

Taylor Fitch with Taylor's Team

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