When she was 15 years old, nonprofit leadership studies freshman Faustina Richardson, with the help of Elizabeth Stratton, a theater freshman at Southern Illinois University, created a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization to help fellow eighth graders gain community service hours. Little did she know, this organization would become an inspiration for children, teenagers and adults alike.
The nonprofit, Givers of Time, Talents and Treasures (GOT3), was created in August 2015 so teenagers could get their required service hours. In 2016, one of Richardson’s friends, Joshua Allen, died from rhabdomyosarcoma and because of this, she decided to change the purpose of GOT3.
“I wanted to build on the mission,” Richardson said. “Young teens were still able to get service hours, but they earn it by helping with fundraisers that raise awareness and donations for childhood cancer research.”
Richardson adjusted the mission once more in the summer of 2019 so that cancer patients, survivors and loved ones of those with cancer would be able to hold fundraisers and raise awareness for pediatric cancer research.
Part of the reason for that change came from Richardson’s own experience with cancer. In 2005, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the age of five. After roughly two and a half years of chemotherapy, she was cancer-free. Throughout the treatments, Richardson could rely on her family to be there for her.
“It was a roller coaster,” mother and Dallas resident Barbara Richardson said. “There’s lots of side effects from the chemotherapy, so it’s being with her daily, side by side to support her and at the same time, making sure that because it’s such an intense chemotherapy regimen, she has activities that allow her to be a kid. There’s lots of times where patients are going through chemotherapy, their blood counts drop low so they’re more susceptible to infections, so you have to modify.”
Richardson and Stratton met and became friends at the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic School in Dallas in second grade. Since then, they have grown close and even though they do not attend the same school, they work together to find the time to meet.
“After eighth grade, we both went to different schools,” Stratton said. “We lived fairly close but not super close, so that was hard, making time to see each other and to work on the nonprofit. It has gotten better — technology is a big part of how we’re still able to do this and manage this.”
Richardson said she makes sure to balance schoolwork with her role as co-founder.
“This semester, I got really lucky with my class schedule,” Richardson said. “I don’t have any classes on Fridays. I only have three [in-person] classes and two online classes, so I really try and get all of my work done between Monday and Thursday so that I have Friday and the weekend to work on talking with my co-founder and with my mom, the president [of GOT3], on fundraising and what we need to do next.”
Another aspect of the nonprofit is the Treasures, which originally referred to volunteers who attended several fundraising events, but now means a cancer patient, a survivor or a young family member who held a fundraiser event in collaboration with GOT3.
One of the Treasures is Emily, a pediatric cancer survivor who created a fundraiser titled “Chain of Love,” which featured a chain as long as a football field made by Emily, with each link equaling a $1 donation. The chain was hung in the gym of Bishop Dunne Catholic School.
“I was very excited for Emily,” Emily’s mother and Dallas resident Cristina Gandarilla said. “This is something that not a lot of kids go through, and for her to want to do something — that made me so proud and happy. We want our kids to grow up to be great humans, and that’s what she was doing, so that was a proud moment for me. Cancer’s one of those things that you never think will affect you, and then it does and it blindsides you. This is an organization that is doing great things and I think it just takes one person to do one good thing, and then it becomes a domino effect, and that’s what Faustina’s created with GOT3.”
GOT3 has allowed Richardson to grow as a leader and inspire others around her, whether that be children or adults.
“Faustina is so kind,” Stratton said. “You just have a feeling about her when you meet her. She’s amazing, she’s a natural-born leader, and it’s very rare to find someone who’s like that. As someone who’s introverted, she has so much to give.”
GOT3 has raised about $22,000 that was presented in a check ceremony to Children’s Health in Dallas, according to their website. Donations from Amazon Smile result in 0.5 percent of the order sent to GOT3.
Richardson plans to use her degree to immerse herself into the world of nonprofits and plans to become more involved with the Nonprofit Leadership Student Association. She hopes to use GOT3 as a stepping stone to become the director of fundraising under the oncology sector of Children’s Health.
“I would [tell] a child who’s going through cancer to not see it as an obstacle, but to see it as an opportunity to be able to share your story and let people know what you’re going through,” Richardson said. “You don’t realize how many people are supporting you.”
Featured Image: Freshman Faustina Richardson stands with the emblem for her non-profit organization, Givers of Time, Talent, and Treasures, on Jan. 26, 2020. Richardson’s organization holds fundraisers and raises awareness for pediatric cancer research. Image by Ryan Gossett