In photo, Seniors Olivia Wivestad (left) and Shealyn Kennedy
Tafties think about the school motto—not to be served, but to serve—a lot. They think about it when they plan their afternoon ex, when they sign up for a service trip, when they plan charity events, and when their sports teams hold youth clinics or toy drives. Shealyn Kennedy '19 was even thinking about it last summer on vacation, while relaxing on the sofa.
"I was thinking about how important service is in our community," says Shealyn, "and wanted to come up with a way of giving something back once the school year started up again."
As day students, Shealyn and friend Olivia Wivestad '19 have something a lot of other students don't: wheels.
"We were doing Starbucks runs all the time, offering to pick things up for our friends when we went," Shealyn says. "I thought we could make something good out of something we already do and that people really appreciate and enjoy."
And they have. Taft Coffee for Charity is an Instagram-based initiative that has allowed Shealyn and Olivia to donate HOPE kits for cancer patients to a local hospital, and to purchase equipment for the Watertown-Rhino Youth Disabled Hockey Team, a program established nearly two years ago by Caeley Smith '19 (read about Caeley's work here). They hope to support one more charitable project before they graduate in June.
A few times each week, Shealyn and Olivia post an Instagram story in the Taft Coffee for Charity account letting people know that we're about to make a Starbucks run; subscribers get notifications from Instagram when they do.
"People then place their order using the Starbucks app," Olivia explains. "and we run and pick it up. We ask that people make a minimum donation of one dollar when we deliver their coffee to them. We definitely have our loyal customers, and some people have been quite generous, making donations as large as $20."
Shealyn and Olivia launched Taft Coffee for Charity in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
"We thought it made sense to start with the National Breast Cancer Foundation as our first charity," says Shealyn. "Our goal was to raise $150 to purchase HOPE kids for cancer patients—we were very happy to not just meet our goal, but to exceed it."
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, patients undergoing breast cancer treatment consistently look for common comfort items—things like lip balm, unscented lotions, fuzzy socks, educational resources, and journals. The foundation ships the kits to donors, who often assemble them during HOPE parties, then deliver them to local hospitals, which Shealyn and Olivia did in February. Around the same time, they made their second crowd-funded gift.
"Our great friend Caeley Smith '19 created a nonprofit hockey program for disabled children, giving them the unique opportunity to play the sport free of charge," Shealyn explains. "One of the players, eight-year-old Owen, has cerebral palsy, meaning he doesn't have full mobility in his legs. Caeley received a grant from the Connecticut Hockey Conference to buy him a sled, allowing him to experience hockey more independently. We purchased sticks with picks on the end that allow him to move the sled on his own."
The sticks are standard equipment in most ice sled programs. They have a curved blade at one end, and six to eight picks at the other end of the blade that enable maneuvering and propulsion. Players move their sleds by gripping the ice with the metal picks, then pushing forward. To protect both the ice and the other players, regulations require that the metal picks not be overly sharp, and not protrude farther than 1cm beyond the stick.
"It was such an amazing surprise when Shealyn and Olivia let me know that they had chosen to support my program through Taft Coffee for Charity," says Caeley. "I am unbelievably grateful that other students in our school—as well as members of the greater Watertown community—see what I see in these kids and in this program. Growing this program as really been incredible for me and for the players. I couldn't have done it without all the support I've received."
Members of the Taft community looking to support the work being done by Shealyn and Olivia should follow Taft Coffee for Charity on Instagram, enable story notifications, and download the Starbucks app.