Q&A With April HALO Effect Honoree Teagan Stedman
Hey, TeenNick do-gooders, do you feel that? The mighty force of Helping And Leading Others? The HALO Effect continues to spread as we congratulate our HALO Effect honoree for the month of the April!
Meet Teagan Stedman, a high school freshman who brings together the power of music and service to make a serious difference in the lives of kids battling cancer. He's the founder of Shred Kids' Cancer, a non-profit organization whose mission is not only to help raise awareness and support for pediatric cancer, but also use music to hold events that are meaningful and uplifting for kids bravely fighting this terrible disease.
Congratulations on your HALO Effect award! How did you come up with the idea for your organization, Shred Kids' Cancer?
A friend in my school carpool had an older brother who was battling cancer. I wanted to do more than ask, "How's Alex doing?" So I looked into ways I could help other organizations that supported kids with cancer. I found that they had a lot of rules and restrictions about letting kids help, so I thought I should do something myself and thought that other kids would also want to help out.
I knew my friend liked music and was also feeling isolated being out of school for so long, so I thought a concert with a bunch of bands would lift his spirits. I knew other kids bands could help, so I asked them, got the Roxy in Hollywood to agree to be the venue, got Guitar Center to be a sponsor and help us get items for our auction and as well as help with other costs. Then, to attract a crowd, I got Guitar Center to ask some celebrity musicians and Shredfest was born.
The event was a great success. Other kids said they had friends that needed support, so we had another Shredfest the following year and raised a lot of money for pediatric cancer research to benefit more than just one person. Then I realized it was time to make Shredfest an official charity, and I founded Shred Kids Cancer as a corporation and it eventually became a 501c3 public charity [which means that SKC is an official tax-exempt non-profit organization].
What do you think is particularly special about bringing together music and service?
Music has the ability to change people's moods and lift their spirits—especially live music. People can get lost in it. It also has a way of bringing people together to share a common bond. It is almost like another language that we all speak. Music works well with service, as it is a gift, in a way, that allows people to share a common mood and move them to either dance, sing or help each other. Also, whether it be through lyrics or tone, music helps get messages to sink in with people.
When did you start playing guitar? What is your favorite song to play?
I started playing when I was seven years-old. My favorite song to play is my original music with my band Clockwork City—I love improvising and jamming with other musicians on stage.
What is one of your most memorable moments from a recent Shredfest?
It was this last one, Shredfest 6, when Kaitlin's (our "Shredhead" aka someone who is currently battling cancer) mom said, "Shredfest 6 was as good as any 'Make A Wish'! Not only are you raising much needed funding and awareness, you are truly making Kaitlin feel like a princess who is loved by a huge community that you have brought together."
Who are some of your favorite guitarists?
I really admire Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've had to face while growing your organization?
We realized in order to grow we needed to diversify and get different groups interested in helping out. Trying to diversify so that we can spread awareness to all types of people has been a challenge. We have several events, including Shredfest, our annual music event which attracts a lot of musicians, we have had a lot of success with our Rock The Runevents (5K/10K and 1K kids run) that attract those who are into healthy lifestyles, and we have our Be Bold, Be Bald event (in which participants wear a bald cap for a day to raise awareness for what someone going through chemo has to deal with), and we are an official charity partner with the LA Marathon, attracting those super endurance athletes or those wanting to do a bigger challenge than the 10K. We are looking into other areas and always keep music as a priority woven into each event.
Another challenge for us is trying to spread throughout the nation. We are working to have kids start Shred Kids' Cancer clubs in their schools and hope to have clubs and/or chapters in other areas and regions.
You have already accomplished so much at such a young age. Do you have any advice for other kids who might want to start an organization like yours?
Think big but start small. Enlist a lot of people to help out. If your project is a success then, build on it and never give up on your goals.