Severe illness led to charity helping childhood pancreatitis sufferers
BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A mother and daughter from Texas A&M University will be honored this fall in Washington, D.C., by the global Points of Light organization for their national impact in fighting pediatric pancreatitis.
Points of Light, founded by former President George H.W. Bush, announced Tuesday that Rebecca Taylor, 20, an engineering undergraduate, and her mother, Christyn Taylor ’98, will be honored at its fifth annual awards celebration on Oct. 26 near the White House.
The award is for their charity Rebecca’s Wish, which fights the debilitating disease Rebecca has suffered with since the age of 7.
The other honorees for various public service initiatives are former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Beach Boys co-founder Mike Love and his wife and business partner, Jacquelyne Love; and Robert F. Smith, founder of Vista Equity Partners and a leading African-American philanthropist.
“Our honorees this year model what a life of service looks like, from turning challenges into triumphs, using their voice and becoming leaders who uplift others,” said Diane Quest, Points of Light interim president and CEO. The honorees “are a bright light in this world. We hope their stories inspire others to take action that positively impacts their community.”
Christyn, president of Rebecca’s Wish, said she and her daughter feel privileged by the recognition.
“On behalf of children suffering with pancreatitis around the world, Rebecca’s Wish is honored to receive the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award,” Christyn said. “This recognition acknowledges that great purpose can evolve from great adversity.”
Rebecca has lost her pancreas and several other internal organs during years of life-saving procedures. She spent over 1,300 days in hospitals and lost months at a time of high school and college.
Make-A-Wish offered Rebecca a wish to go anywhere, meet anyone or see anything. Instead, she asked to start a 501(c)3 nonprofit to support children with pediatric pancreatitis.
Rebecca’s Wish has raised over $3 million, helped train pediatricians and started programs to support countless children around the United States.
Despite no formal medical training, Christyn has become a sought-after medical advisor and advocate, speaking at hospitals and medical schools. She is on the Executive Board of Directors for the National Pancreas Foundation and the Friend’s Board of the Ronald McDonald House.
Rebecca is completing her spring semester in College Station as part of her plan to keep helping medically fragile children, despite her own frequent returns to hospitals for treatment.
She is on track to finish her undergraduate degree early. She intends to earn a master’s degree in biochemistry at Harvard University and return to Texas A&M for a master’s degree in engineering and a doctorate at the School of Engineering Medicine in Houston.
Her goal is to become a medical researcher to improve pancreatic treatments and find a cure.
“I may not be the healthiest person…but I do know that I have a purpose,” she told a crowd of well-wishers last year. “I pray that all of my suffering can one day be turned into the smile on another child’s face as they realize that they’re out of pain.”
Rebecca’s Wish was featured last fall on the third season of Around Texas with Chancellor John Sharp. The TV show can be viewed at https://sharparoundtexas.com/rebeccas-wish/
Christyn lives in San Antonio with her husband, Brian Taylor ’95, and two sons, Nicholas and Alexander. Her parents are widely known philanthropists in College Station: Becky Russell and B. Don Russell ’70, a Texas A&M distinguished professor of electrical and chemical engineering.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama are honorary co-chairs of the annual Points of Light celebration, which honors the legacy of the 41st president and “individuals who have demonstrated the transformative power of service to drive significant and sustained impact through their everyday actions.”
About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.
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