News Paper Articles

    June 24, 2013 12:38 pm  •  BY JACY MARMADUKE

    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
    believed it."

    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
    other events.

    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.

    Southwest freshman's
    community involvement
    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)
    c(3) status.

    "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

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
February 2005.

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
scholarship fund.
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.
Love always,
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.