|News Paper Articles
Eight-year-old Schuyler Peterson had one last wish
before she died: to give toys to children in need.
More than nine years later, 15-year-old Tabitha Staehr's
efforts to honor her best friend's request have amounted
to about 500 toys for Lincoln children.
Tabitha started the Schuyler Peterson Toy Drive when
she was 11 years old with the help of her mother, Tina,
and her pageant sister. The drive marked the beginning
of her commitment to volunteer work, which has included
hundreds of hours spent aiding the Joshua Collingsworth
Memorial Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America,
Boxes of Love and others. Her service earned her a free
trip to Seattle in March for Free the Children's We Day.
Tabitha, who completed her freshman year at Lincoln
Southwest High School in May, can still remember the
friend who inspired her charitable efforts. Schuyler
Peterson was a brown-haired, blue-eyed girl one year
Tabitha's senior. The two met in 2002 at the daycare
Tina Staehr runs out of her home.
Tabitha said Schuyler refused to take her last breath until
she'd been reassured that her father, a widower, would
be OK without her.
"She always cared about other people before herself,"
Tabitha said. "(Her death) was sad. I don't think I really
The major efforts to fulfill Schuyler's wish came when
Tabitha was 11 years old and her cheerleading squad
mate convinced her to get involved in community service
pageants. Seeing the opportunity to honor Schuyler,
Tabitha started the toy drive – but its first year was
unsuccessful, with a low turnout and few toys collected.
So the next year, she and her mother ran advertisements
in the newspaper and at Schuyler's dance school. Since
then, participation has picked up and Tabitha has
collected toys at birthday parties for Schuyler and at
Soon, Tabitha wants to make the organization a certified
501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and this summer she
plans to hold a dance competition to raise more money.
In the meantime, Tabitha has volunteered predominantly
with the Joshua Collingsworth Foundation and Boxes of
Love. For the former, she's spent time passing out
coloring books and pamphlets on water safety at safety
fairs around Lincoln. She recently got an award for her
service – a necklace with a heart-shaped pendant with a
J in the middle.
Her work for Boxes of Love, an organization her pageant
sister started to aid victims of the 2011 tornado in Joplin,
Mo., included collecting toiletries and toys to give to
children affected by the tornado.
Tabitha keeps busy with community service activities, like
doing crafts with children at People's City Mission and
holding a Trike-A-Thon with her pageant sister to raise
money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She
has clocked in at more than 110 hours of community
service since April 2012.
Tabitha's mom, Tina, said community service comes
naturally for the 15-year-old. Tina Staehr raised her
daughter to give. Every Christmas, Tabitha and her
brother had to give away toys to needy children before
they received any gifts for themselves.
"She's always been very giving," Tina Staehr said. "I think
that's why it was pretty easy for her to start volunteering."
Tabitha's service has had its perks. She has won two
presidential awards for her volunteer hours, and she won
one of 50 free tickets to We Day that Amway Independent
Business Owners offered to children of its employees. We
Day is a performance and speaking event to celebrate
volunteer action among youth. The event drew 15,000
attendants to Seattle, featuring performances by Jennifer
Hudson, Martin Sheen and Magic Johnson, and speeches
from anti-bullying advocates.
Tabitha's favorite part was the surprise performer:
"I like 'Thrift Shop,'" Tabitha said with a laugh. "The place
got three times louder than it was before."
But free trips and awards aren't why Tabitha volunteers.
Her reason is simple.
"Because it makes me feel good," she said. "I like seeing
everybody's faces when you help them out. They're so
thankful. Like the children – they just have the brightest
smiles on their faces when they hold the toys."
Her favorite moment from volunteering happened when
she was handing out toys collected from her drive to
children at People's City Mission, and one little girl chose
a teddy bear three times her size. When it was time to
snap a photo, the girl sat in the bear's lap.
"I realized that it's really important," Tabitha said. "They
really appreciate all the stuff you give to them."
Miss Lincoln Jr. Sweetheart
Tabitha is the 17 year old daughter of Tina and Craig
Staehr. She is attending Southwest High school in
Lincoln, Ne. Tabitha enjoys dance and singing and she
spends her spare time in the theater world. She has
appeared on stage in Suessical the Musical, Beauty and
the Beast, Annie and Wicked and is currently in the
Lincoln Southwest Showchoir for 2014. In 2008 she
started her own foundation in memory of her best friend
Schuyler Peterson. The Schuyler Peterson Toy Drive has
been able to donate over 500 toys to low income children
in Lincoln, Ne. Tabitha has given back to her community
since she was 11 years old and has worked with the
Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, Boys and
Girls club, Special Olympics and Forever Angels, just to
name a few of her favorite foundations. Tabitha is your
reigning Junior Miss Nebraska Princess of America 2014
and Scholastic Miss America Royal Teen 2014.
earns free trip to Seattle
May 01, 2013
Tabitha Staehr was 7 years old when she lost her
best friend, Schuyler Peterson, to cancer.
Five years later, she started her own organization,
the Schuyler Peterson Toy Drive, to honor her
friend's final wish "that we all keep giving back to
kids who didn't have anything."
The three-year-old toy drive has generated between
400 and 500 toys for children residing at the
People's City Mission. The fourth year of the toy
drive will include a dance competition designed to
raise funds for the cause, said Tabitha, who dances
at Universal Dance Academy and first dance at the
age of 2.
The founder's goal of the toy drive is to achieve (501)
"I first met Schuyler when she came to my mom's
daycare," said Tabitha, now a 15-year-old freshman
at Lincoln Southwest High School. "She was 5 at the
time, and I was 6."
The toy drive was one of several community causes
cited in the selection of Tabitha to attend Free the
Children's first-ever We Day Seattle, a three-day
event March 26-28 which brought together 15,000
young people from across the nation to celebrate the
power of youth to create positive change in their
local and glocal communities.
Attendees at the national gathering got a chance to
see top-line We Day speakers and performers
including Martin Sheen, Magic Johnson, and Jennifer
Tabitha earned one of 50 free tickets to We Day,
offered to children of Amway Independent Business
"It was really fun, hearing the speakers and
performers," said Tabitha, whose community service
efforts also include promoting water safety in
memory of Joshua Collingsworth, a 3-year-old
Lincoln boy who drowned in his own pool in 2008,
and volunteering with Boxes of Love, an organization
Tabitha's Sister, My'Kah, 12, created to help children
and families whose homes were destroyed by
"My'Kah started Boxes of Love after the tornado in
Joplin, Missouri," said Tabitha.
Tabitha's involvement in promoting water safety
started nearly four years ago and involves handing
out coloring books and stickers that heighten the
awareness and importance of water safety.
Party at Joyo to benefit
TABITHA STAEHR, 11, WILL HOST A BIRTHDAY PARTY MAY
9 AT JOYO THEATER IN HONOR OF HER FRIEND,
SCHUYLER PETERSON, WHO DIED FEBRUARY 2005.
May 01, 2009
Tabitha Staehr, 11, will host a birthday party May 9 at Joyo
Theater in honor of her friend, Schuyler Peterson, who died
The movie "Hotel for Dogs" will be shown and cupcakes will be
served, beginning at 1 p.m. at the theater, 6102 Havelock Ave.
Admission will be either a stuffed animal or a toy. Schuyler,
who died at age 8, was featured in two Journal Star stories,
including one where her father fulfilled her dying wish to have
toys from a birthday party donated to children at the city
Staehr is the Miss Nebraska Pre-Teen Ambassador through
the American National Teenage Scholarship Organization.
She will also accept monetary donations for the group's
|My note to Schuyler
Thank you for being my best
friend. I will continue to keep
your memory alive with this
organization. Most importantly I
will honor your wish to give toys
to other children in your name.
your Best friend
Lincoln girl to host bake sale in memory of best friend
September 08, 2014 8:14 am
Tabitha Staehr was seven years old when she lost her
best friend, Schuyler Peterson, to cancer.
Now age 17, Miss Lincoln Jr. Sweetheart 2012 has
remained committed to making a difference in memory of
her friend. With the help of some of her pageant sisters,
she will host a Queens Against Cancer bake sale at the
2015 Scholastic Miss American Royal Teen pageant
today (Sept. 13) to benefit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a
national 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to funding the
development of less toxic, more effective treatments for
children battling cancer.
The bake sale is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Cotner
Community Center, 1540 N. Cotner Blvd.
Staehr took Schuyler’s last wish to heart: give toys to
children in need. Staehr was 11 when she started the
Schuyler Peterson Toy Drive, now a certified non-profit,
marking the beginning of her commitment to volunteer
After spending hours in the kitchen with her mom and
friends to supply the baked goods for the sale, Staehr will
be competing in the annual pageant while additional
volunteers help host Queens Against Cancer.
Queens for Kids’ Cancer and all other events in
September will take advantage of an annual match by
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer’s corporate partner, OXO, which
occurs each fall. Now through Dec. 31, OXO will give up
to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through event
matches, product sales, and other fundraising efforts.
Lincoln Teen Raises Money For Cancer
Posted: Sat 5:36 PM, Sep 13, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb.-- Ten years ago a young Lincoln girl lost
her best friend to cancer. Saturday, she held an event to
bring attention to and raise money for the disease.
Miss Lincoln Junior Sweetheart, Tabitha Staehr, has
joined up with "Cookies for Kids' Cancer" to raise money
for childhood cancer. Saturday at the 2015 Scholastic
Miss America Royal Teen Pageant she held her 'Queens
Against Cancer' bake sale.
She said she hopes to raise more than $200, which
housewares company OXO will match dollar for dollar.
"I want to help donate as much money as I can to help
find a cure for cancer because no one deserves to go
through the process of what cancer does to them and
worrying about if they're going to lose their best friend or
family member," said Staehr.
Tabitha will also hold a toy drive in honor of her friend,
Schuyler Peterson, closer to the holiday.