Most Impactful Fundraiser
The warrior in us all
Tim Tinnin knows what it means to be in the fight of your life. As a retiree of the Missouri Highway Patrol, Tinnin spent 32 years helping others, including a long stint on the SWAT team, going into stressful and dangerous situations. Some of his most harrowing experiences taught him the greatest lessons.
“I was the entry guy and the first one through the door, which is daunting,” Tinnin notes. “You have to create this warrior mentality. I’m going in hot, and I’m going to win. There are no options. I’ve got to win.”
This survival instinct has served Tinnin well, especially when he faced one of the toughest personal upheavals of his life — losing his wife, Angie, to colon cancer in 2012. Walking with Angie through her cancer journey taught Tinnin a lot, especially how much support and love is needed when you’re fighting cancer.
“Angie would say, ‘I’ve lost my hair, I feel lousy, I look lousy, I don’t even feel like a girl. I just feel like a patient, like all anyone ever sees is cancer,'” Tinnin remembers.
Many other women going through cancer treatment experience these feelings as well. An idea came to Tinnin after remembering a conversation he had with Angie, long before she got sick, about her love and obsession with shoes.
“Angie would say, ‘My hair could be a mess, I could have a big zit in the middle of my forehead, and I could look like a train wreck. You know what? Cute shoes don’t care. They always love you. So if I don’t feel good about myself, I get some cute shoes,'” he says. “It dawned on me: You know what else shoes don’t care about? They don’t care if your hair has fallen out due to chemo, you’ve had a mastectomy, or you’re dealing with an ileostomy. Cute shoes don’t care. Cute shoes always love you.”
Tinnin turned the sorrow of losing his wife into a mission to help other women and girls with cancer still feel beautiful by giving them a symbol of hope — ruby red slippers. He started a nonprofit, The Red Slipper Warrior Project, to give a special gift bag, free of charge, with ruby red slippers for women; the nonprofit also gives out a bunny (named Hope) and a children’s book about Hope for young girls.
“At the end of the day, it’s just you and your thoughts when going through cancer,” he says. “Distractions don’t work. You need that warrior mentality. These items are meant to be a symbol of empowerment. It says, ‘You’re still beautiful, you’re just in a fight right now.’”
Tinnin has been spearheading the Red Slipper Warrior Project for four years now, sending slippers all over Missouri and to eight different states. Family members and friends recommend women or girls going through cancer to get the go-bag, and Tinnin sends an inspirational introductory video to encourage them in this fight before their package is shipped. He wants them to embrace a warrior mentality when fighting cancer.
“There are a lot of parallels between cancer and a SWAT team because in both, you’re going through a hot door,” Tinnin says. “Cancer’s job is to kill you. You have to create a warrior mentality as well. You have to find your win each day. Our hashtag is #warriorswintheday.”
While initial funding for this project came through Angiepolooza, a street-party event Tinnin created in memory of his wife, he continues to work long days to drum up additional funds to provide these slippers, bags, and bunnies for all the requests coming in. Last February, Tinnin held the first ever Valentine’s show at Capital Bluffs to raise funds for the project, which included a formal dinner and 1950s crooner music highlighting talented local voices.
“Every dollar we make goes right back into buying more slippers to send,” Tinnin explains. “There are 800,000 women a year in the U.S. that are diagnosed with cancer, so that’s a lot of zeros in this to reach them all.”
Tinnin stays inspired by the stories he hears daily from women and girls fighting for their lives. He still tears up when he thinks about Addi, a 6-year-old who got her red slippers and wouldn’t ever take them off because they made her smile. When she lost her battle with cancer, she was buried in those same happy slippers.
“If all we ever did was make one life better and made her feel like a warrior, it was worth it. We do this over and over again. Cancer doesn’t define you. I want each of them to be warriors and to be better fighters.”
Keep up the fight. Warriors really do win the day.