When he arrived at Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati more than 20 years ago, no one could have predicted that Taylor’s experience there would put him on a path to becoming an accomplished operatic singer—but that is exactly what happened.
Linda and Robert adopted Taylor from a Philippine orphanage at ten months of age. Two months earlier, a power surge at the orphanage started a fire that caused second and third degree burns on his scalp, arms and legs. They brought him home to Sevierville, Tennessee and visited a Knoxville pediatric hospital for care. The hospital made Taylor compression garments to reduce scarring.
Linda’s father was a Shriner and “Road Runner”, a volunteer who transports children and their families to the nearest Shriners Hospital. He had made many trips to the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital and had seen the excellence of its family-centered care for children with burns. “He kept saying that we should take Taylor to Cincinnati Shriners, but I said ‘we have insurance,’” Linda recalls.
After a few months, though, they were not satisfied with Taylor’s progress and made the trip to Cincinnati. The difference was dramatic. “This whole team came into our room and examined him,” she said, remembering that one of their first comments was that the compression garments did not fit properly and were inside out. “We didn’t know; we thought we were doing everything right.”
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Taylor made multiple trips to Cincinnati for different treatments– surgical grafts to his leg, or a z-plasty to release contracting scars. During one visit, his doctor suggested that Taylor pursue something athletic to help stretch the scars that would tighten as he grew—perhaps gymnastics or dancing, he said.
Being from Sevierville—the land of Gatlinburg and Dollywood, Taylor chose dance. “I started with ballet, tap and jazz,” he says. He became so adept that his first summer job was performing in the musical theater shows at Dollywood. He soon realized that although his dancing skills got him on stage, he much preferred singing. This realization—along with his beautiful voice, led him to Chicago’s Roosevelt University College of Performing Arts where he now majors in Opera Studies.
The spotlight of the stage has not dimmed Taylor’s humility, however. He remembers his experience at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, where he says his and so many lives changed for the better. “Generosity matters; care matters,” he says. “I remember so many kindnesses [at the hospital], from a friendly face at the front desk to waking from surgery with a Harry Potter blanket. Those experiences helped shape who I am today.” His mother Linda is similarly grateful for Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. “All our needs were met in one place,” she says. “I tell people—we didn’t go there because it’s free, we went because the care was superior.”