Features

Profile: Taylor’s Gift Foundation

Written by Mindia Whittier

Name of Organization: Taylor’s Gift Foundation

Type of Organization: 501c3

Executive Director/President/Organization Leader:  Tara Storch, President and Co-Founder

Year Founded: 2010

Geographic region served: National; based in DFW.

Annual Budget: $181,000

Number of Staff: 3

Number of Volunteers: 50+

Organizational Mission: Taylor’s Gift Foundation’s mission is to provide free emotional and grief support to organ, eye, and tissue donor families.

Origin: In March of 2010, on their first day of vacation in Colorado, Todd and Tara Storch were faced with something they never thought they would ever face in their lifetime – their oldest daughter Taylor had been in a skiing accident, and the doctors told them there was no hope of her surviving.

Sitting in shock in the hospital that day, they were asked a question that forever changed their lives.  “Your daughter is a beautiful candidate for organ donation, would you consider it?” Immediately they said yes. 

Taylor saved and improved the lives of five people with her gifts of life. Her heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and cornea gave individuals a second chance at life. 

Organ donation created a mix of emotions for the Storch family; Grief because of the sudden loss and Gratitude because Taylor saved lives. Their pain sparked a purpose for sharing the importance of organ donation and for helping others who are walking a similar grief journey which led to the creation of Taylor’s Gift Foundation.

Through their experience, the Kindred Hearts Program was created as the foundation’s signature program.

Programs and Services: The Kindred Hearts Program available through Taylor’s Gift Foundation exists so that no organ, eye, or tissue donor family ever grieves alone. The grief support services provided within the program have no costs to donor families and is available across the nation. 

When Taylor’s Gift is connected with a donor family, the organization reaches out within 24-48 hours to offer support. If the family would like to receive grief support, they are assigned a personal Caring Guide. Support Groups are also available to the family.

All of the organization’s Caring Guides and Support Group Facilitators have lost a loved one. In addition to this lived experience, the Caring Guides and Support Group Facilitators have participated in and completed a comprehensive training workshop for their specific role. As certified grief peer professionals, Caring Guides support donor families through peer-to-peer relationships. All support group facilitators are trained experts in Taylor’s Gift Foundation and have experienced similar pain and trauma to the participating donor families. 

This grief support is available at no cost to each individual in the family – and to the family as a whole – for as long as the family needs support, which could be a year or more. 

Donor families learn about the Kindred Hearts Program through social media, family, friends, medical professionals, and Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs).

The need for the grief services provided by the Kindred Hearts Program continues to grow on a daily basis. 

Formative Moment: In late 2010, Taylor’s story was featured on Good Morning America along with the moment where Taylor’s loved ones first met Patricia, the recipient of Taylor’s heart. The moment they listened to Taylor’s heartbeat within Patricia was so powerful it left the Good Morning America hosts silent and tearful for a long moment. 

Taylor’s Gift Foundation was also featured on Ellen and the Today Show, and was chosen as Heroes Among Us from People Magazine. 

Following the national media exposure, Taylor’s family was approached about writing a book, which was eventually published in 2013. The book, entitled Taylor’s Gift, with a foreword by Max Lucado, talked of faith, family, and finding purpose. It shares the raw and real journey of the family and the hope that can follow. 

The process of writing this book was difficult and amazing at the same time. It was a way to let everything out.

Recent Highlight: The Kindred Hearts Program was recently recognized by the prestigious Langone Health at NYU. They recognized the need in the nation for emotional and grief support, specifically for donor families, and acknowledged that the Kindred Hearts Program is filling a gap. Through their partnership, there is now a national pilot program and research study about the Kindred Hearts Program.

Funding Model: Funding comes from individuals, sponsorships, events, and giving opportunities such as monthly giving and special campaigns. Taylor’s Gift Foundation is currently engaging a grant writer to assist with additional funding requests. An active board is also assisting with development.

The Need: Organ, eye, and tissue donation usually happen because of an unexpected accident or tragedy. Family members are grieving and trying to navigate the sudden loss of their loved one who was able to give others life through organ, eye, and/or tissue donation.  In 2021, there were 13,861 donors in the US. In addition to that number, there are donor-in-spirit families who altruistically say “yes” to donation, but the donation process is not able to be completed. That would equate to thousands of family members who are grieving.  

All of these families are called donor families. All are grieving the sudden loss of their loved one.

Many times, people don’t search out grief support because they feel that they can’t afford it or don’t know where to find others that have experienced a similar situation who could relate. Taylor’s Gift Foundation never wants finances to get in the way of donor families getting the emotional support they need. That is why its services are free of charge. And all of the leaders within the Kindred Hearts Program have experienced personal loss.

There needs to be more awareness that the Kindred Hearts Program is widely available as a grief support resource. Taylor’s Gift Foundation wants donor families to know: There is help. There is hope. Their loved one’s gift goes on. They can, too.

Challenges: Resources to bring on talent to extend the reach of the foundation is a challenge. As the organization grows, it needs more hands to extend its reach. Hiring a Program Manager is top priority, along with additional Caring Guides.

Lastly, Taylor’s Gift Foundation sees a challenge in keeping the organization’s message fresh and engaging to the public. Consistent and creative messaging and marketing efforts are needed to keep the organization top-of-mind.

Short and Long-Term Goals: Since the Kindred Hearts Program became fully active in March 2022, Taylor’s Gift Foundation has served 40 families (55 individuals). However, the number of families reaching out for support continues to increase weekly.  By the end of 2022, the goal is to assist a total of 100 families.

The cost to implement the program is $2000 per-family, to provide them a year of free grief support through the Kindred Hearts Program. In 2023, Taylor’s Gift Foundation strives to serve 200 families. The long-term goal is to provide 1000 families with the Kindred Hearts Program over the next 5 years.

Website: https://www.taylorsgift.org

About the author

Mindia Whittier