Guitar Hero or Superhero?

Children have the uncanny ability to see through a set of eyes adults no longer have access to. The whimsical, anything-is-possible set of eyes that, paired with the right brain and proper support, can turn dreams into reality.

Fifteen year old Teagan Stedman spent his summer taking the “Biology of Cancer” course at Brown University. TEDx Teen named him the “next big thing” after presenting his research project for improved cancer drug delivery to the conference in May. He has hopes of becoming a scientist and dreams of a future where cancer is as treatable as a headache.

The teens desire to help others came at a time where he felt completely helpless: his friend was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when Stedman was 8 years old. There seemingly isn’t much an adolescent can do to help their sick friends outside of elaborately decorated get-well posters.

But the adolescent mind has the ability to reach great heights, and in 2009, Stedman became the founder and CEO of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping kids support pediatric cancer research, raise awareness, and create a peer community.

That’s much, much more than a get-well-soon card.

Shred Kids’ Cancer was founded by a kid, is made up of kids, and is solely dedicated to helping kids. And since it’s inception six years ago, the nonprofit has raised over $300,000 to support pediatric cancer research and their beloved “Shredheads.”

Eleven year old cancer-survivor Kaitlin Lehman is a ShredHead, which is the nickname given to someone Shred Kids’ Cancer rallies behind and supports throughout his or her battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a rare form of musculoskeletal cancer, and soon after fell in love with John Green’s novel-turned-film The Fault in our Stars, a story of two teen lovers who also happen to have cancer.

Shred Kids’ Cancer was able to surprise Lehman with an experience she’ll never forget: a walk down the red carpet at the premier of The Fault in our Stars with it’s leading actor and actress Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley.

At first, the organization simply held an annual event called Shredfest. Spotlighting young musicians, this battle of the bands event attracted celebrity judges and generated a bunch of positive press for Stedman’s organization. A chance meeting between Stedman and Guns ‘N Roses guitar legend “Slash” in a mall lead the rockstar to sign on as a guest performer, battling young artists to raise money for pediatric cancer research.


The organization has evolved to now include a slew of youth-centric activities and events to attract kids of all kinds including bone marrow drives and 5K/10K Kids Fun Runs. Additionally, Stedman headed an awareness campaign called “Be Bold, Be Bald” which encourages kids to wear a bald cap for a day to show solidarity for their peers with cancer. It’s incredible what kids are capable of.

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