Interview: Taylor Waters, 2012 HALO Award Winner
I spoke with Taylor Waters, who volunteers with the Red Cross to help people prepare for -- and recover from -- disasters. Learn more about Taylor, and see her reaction to meeting Josh Duhamel, in this video:
Can you talk about the very first steps you took when you decided to get involved with the Red Cross?
In January of 2010, my grandmother's house burned down. I saw the assistance that the Red Cross gave her, and I really wanted to help people through the Red Cross, because they were such an amazing comfort for her. Not only did they help her out financially, she was able to get clothes and that kind of thing. They were also like a rock, not only for her, but for my family, because we were all in so much shock and we wanted to be there for her. They were able to provide amazing support during a personal disaster for her. A lot of times you see disasters on the news, but house fires are just as devastating.
Does the Red Cross encourage young people to volunteer?
As an organization, they definitely encourage youth involvement, and there's TONS of youth involved in the Red Cross. My age wasn't an issue, and they had open arms to welcome to me.
What kinds of stuff have you done with them?
Right after my grandmother's house burned down in February, I raised over $30,000 for disaster services. That was just having different fundraisers: holding a concert, having a spaghetti lunch and dinner, making bracelets, selling cookies... things like that. A bunch of things that went on throughout the month of February.
That's really cool. What have you found challenging about your volunteer work?
Yes. I think one of the most challenging things that I've done with the Red Cross was work on the tornado in my hometown, because it really was devastating to see all the things that you see all the time, just flattened. That was really, really hard for me. It was so amazing and so rewarding to give people a little peace of hope after that happened, but it was really hard, emotionally.
Out of all the time you've spent working with the Red Cross, are there any moments that really stand out?
Gosh, there's so many. After the tornado, there was this family that we were working with, and their house was literally gone. There were steps going up to where their house should've been, but there was no house there. And this little boy... he was like 5 years old, and he and his dad hid under a mattress, and pretty much them and the mattress were the only things that were left. So he was scared and he was upset, and we were working with the family, and I found a stuffed duck that was underneath some rubble in the road. It ended up being his duck, and it was amazing to give that to him. It was like I'd just handed him hope in the form of a stuffed duck. He had something familiar, and he knew that he could make it to tomorrow. To be that person, in such a hard time, for such a small child was amazing.
I am totally crying over the stuffed duck. That is so wonderful.
I'm tearing up explaining it to you.
I feel like the HALO awards probably inspire so many young people to get involved for the first time. What advice would you give someone -- another teenager -- who maybe wants to get started, but doesn't know how?
I think a lot of teens want to get involved, but 1. They don't know how, and 2. They don't think they can. You can make a difference and change the world. I know it sounds so cliché, but I really feel that if you want to do something, you can. For the Red Cross -- and other organizations, too -- all you have to do is call. The worst thing anyone can ever tell you is "No." And when you work with the community like that, you don't realize it at the time, but you're changing yourself, too. There are so many great opportunities that can come out of it, and you grow as a person. It's really a great thing. When you're working with the Red Cross, people are amazing. They're so supportive, and so nice, like a family unit. You may walk in and have your reservations, but they'll make you feel so at home and so comfortable. In one sentence: You can make a difference, and all it takes is a phone call.
That's so true. Can you tell me a bit about your HALO hit?
It was crazy. I had no idea whatsoever. Usually, I'm pretty good at telling when people want to surprise me. I'm usually that person that ruins the surprise because they figure it out. But I had no idea. So I was holding a Red Cross interest meeting at my university, and we were having a scavenger hunt... [SEE THE REST TONIGHT AT 8PM on NICK@NITE!]
What was it like meeting Josh Duhamel?
He is amazing! He does amazing work for the Red Cross, and he's a real person. [Watch what happened when Josh and Taylor met, tonight at 8pm on Nick@Nite!]
What is one thing you'd like everyone who reads this interview to do?
Get involved! Find something that you really enjoy, and get involved with it.
Are you on Twitter?
I am: @_astoldbyTaylor
I hope you'll live-tweet the show with us! It'll be like we're all watching together. I'm so excited that I got to talk to you.
One last thing I'd like to add if that's okay is that I'm really thankful for this entire opportunity. It's been a really great opportunity for myself, for the Red Cross, for my hometown, and everybody has been so nice and so supportive. I'm really really really really thankful.
Well, I'm thankful you exist! Thanks for talking to me.
Thank you! Have a great day.
For more about how Taylor Waters Helps And Leads Others, don't miss the TeenNick HALO Awards tonight at 8pm on Nick@Nite!