Tabaitha Steward is a mother first before anything else, and right now she’s waging a battle that every mother fears: cancer. Her daughter, Hailey, who is 10 years old, has been fighting leukemia since she was 5. At the same time, her mother is fighting for change through Hailey Hugs, a nonprofit created by the Steward family.
Name: Tabaitha Steward
About 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year, and for every child there is a grieving mother. But you saw Hailey’s diagnosis as an opportunity to fight for change. Why? I think I’ve always had the attitude to take something bad and try to do something good. It was Hailey’s and my way of handling what we were going through. But Hailey and all the kids I know and have met have given me more of a reason. I truly love these kids and their families!
Why form a nonprofit? You can do things to help without a nonprofit, but there’s some out there that say they’re helping kids but aren’t! So making a nonprofit was my way of saying I’m in it for the long haul, and I mean business when it comes to kids with cancer. But most importantly I did this for Hailey —she’s the backbone to Hailey Hugs! She’s the reason!
What is the biggest thing that needs to change about pediatric cancer treatments? Funding! Children’s diseases seem to come last for a reason, and I don’t understand why! We need more funding to go specifically to childhood cancer research hospitals for childhood cancer only! People donate to help the families and to find a cure and we need to make sure that’s exactly what (the money goes to).
How has the Bethel community helped support Hailey and your family? Our town has been amazing and I’m grateful, blessed, and so very lucky to be from Bethel, Maine. There is no place in the world I’d rather be than here. I love every person in my town and the people close to us who’ve become a part of our journey. They see Hailey and know in their heart they need to be more like her.
The latest goal set by Hailey Hugs is to have the state of Maine go orange in September — orange is the color associated with leukemia — to raise awareness for childhood cancer, and you want to help accomplish this by possibly running for office? They say if you can’t see results in your missions, then you need to find a way to make that change by doing something different! So if running gives us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of all kids battling and their families, then I’m going to at least try. With all we are going through as a family, getting the word out and making more people aware of childhood cancer will hopefully help get more funding for cures. That has become my goal, besides the families.
Why is it so important for people to know your story? Hailey’s story is Hailey’s journey of life with cancer. Her story is the same story as other children fighting cancer! Cancer is horrible — it takes everything from you and all those who love you! If nothing else, we pray that our story will help other families and people who think childhood cancer is rare, because it’s not.
Tabaitha Steward and her daughter, Hailey, when they met Tom Brady.