In a true demonstration of crowdsourcing for a cause, Simon Bordwin ’13 is organizing a Relay for Tay fundraiser at Bowdoin this Sunday in honor of his late friend Taylor Matthews, who died from a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma at the age of 16. So far, 27 Bowdoin students have signed on to participate in the fundraiser and Bordwin has raised $1,123 for children’s cancer research on Crowdrise, an online fundraising site.
Taylor received her diagnosis at age eleven, when a malignant tumor was found on her ribs. After battling the cancer for five years—undergoing countless surgeries and treatments—she passed away in February 2008, during her junior year at Edgemont High School in Scarsdale, New York.
In seventh grade, Taylor founded Tay-Bandz, which her mother, Sue Matthews, describes as a “kids helping kids organization.” Tay-Bandz is focused on raising awareness and funding for children’s cancer, and started out by selling accessories like key chains, bracelets and sweatbands at local high school athletic events and community shops.
Since then, the organization has hugely expanded, and has now raised over $1.5 million thanks to efforts by Taylor’s friends and family to organize fundraisers across the country.
Bordwin stayed in touch with Matthews after graduating high school, and she recently approached him and a number of Taylor’s high school friends about organizing a Relay for Tay at their respective colleges.
“All of this really is a continuation of everything she had done, and it would have made her extraordinarily happy,” said Bordwin.
Bordwin, along with a number of his Edgemont High classmates, is working to fulfill Taylor’s mission. Ten colleges and universities—including Bates, Amherst, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Michigan—will host a Relay for Tay this year, and together these events have raised over $42,000 to date.
This is the first year Relay for Tay has expanded beyond Taylor’s high school.
Bordwin acknowledges that at Bowdoin, it has been “difficult [to organize] because it’s not a personal cause to the College…the name is so personal so it’s not getting as much recognition.”
The hope is that more community members will sign on to participate in the coming days, but “Whatever response this gets, I’m not too concerned,” said Bordwin. “It’s cool to be able to do it”.
Tay-Bandz funds research on children’s cancer at a solid tumor lab at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, which is named in honor of Taylor.
At Relay for Tay, students will walk laps around the outdoor track. Bordwin is also trying to recruit “celebrity” walkers around campus, including President Barry Mills and Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols.
Each walker—celebrity or otherwise—has collected donations for Tay-Bandz. Students interested in joining the cause can register or donate at www.crowdrise.com/bowdoincollege.
Matthews hopes next year the event can take place at least 30 schools and emphasizes the significance of every donation. Some treatments can cost as much as $20,000. In these past few months, two children have received cancer treatment as a result of Relay for Tay.
Taylor’s goal was to prevent other children from suffering from cancer, said Matthews.
“If she could save the life of one child, this would all be worth it,” she said.
Relay for Tay will take place this Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Whittier Field.