Tarah Warren brings encouragement and essential items to people with cancer.
In fall 2012, at age 29, Tarah Warren was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Her doctor told her that even with surgery and aggressive chemotherapy, she might not live. “My life stopped for a moment,” she said.
While undergoing chemotherapy, she noticed the patients around her. “I had so much support — so many friends and family visiting,” she said. “But I saw people who were there alone. I felt that God was asking me what I was going to do about it.”
Warren began making care packs filled with practical items that she found helpful during her treatment. “I put things in the packs that I needed every day: protein bars, tissues, a pen and notebook for meetings with doctors and warm socks. Comforting and useful things.” She also added a handwritten note encouraging the recipient to keep fighting.
Her idea soon attracted volunteers. Care pack parties took place at churches throughout the community. Volunteers donated items, wrote notes, put the packs together and handed them out in treatment centers across Oklahoma.
Warren created Tenaciously Teal as a nonprofit in summer 2014, around one year after learning her cancer was in remission. Supported by private donations and corporate sponsorships over the last nine years, the organization has continued to grow.
“We’re named ‘Teal’ because that’s the color for ovarian cancer support and awareness, just as pink is the color for breast cancer awareness,” Warren said. “But we don’t only support those who are fighting ovarian cancer; we send care packs to all cancer fighters.” Today, the organization’s care packs are carefully put together with women, men and children in mind. “We also make care packs for the parents of children who have cancer. They need support, too.”
Gas and meal cards are also available to those needing additional assistance. Warren said, “When I was in treatment, I noticed that many people couldn’t work when undergoing chemo. Some had to drive long distances and were under financial hardship. It was difficult for them to get to the hospital. Gas cards became a part of the care packs for people who needed help in this area.”
The organization recently moved to a new location on Wilshire Boulevard, where a large map of the United States hangs in the foyer. Small pins mark the locations where a Tenaciously Teal care pack has been sent. The map is spiked with pins across the country, but Warren remarks that they are quite behind on updating the map’s pins and laughs. “We really need to get an international map,” she said. “We’ve even sent a care pack to Australia.” She explained that they will send a care pack to anyone with cancer anywhere, and she hopes people will visit the website to learn more. “We also provide ‘Brave Shaves’ — helping women to shave their hair when undergoing chemo — as well as Empowerment (photo) Shoots. We’re here to show people that they are not alone.”
Since Tenaciously Teal began, it has given out 40,000 care packs. “I can’t put a number on how many volunteers we have,” Warren said, “but the number is in the thousands. The group that makes bags in Oregon, people who sort supplies, who make port pillows, the school kids who make cards, the elderly volunteers who fold socks and tie together tea sacks … it takes a lot of hands and feet to do what we do.”