BUFFALO, N.Y. — Since she was brought into this world 15 years ago, Reagan Cutler has gravitated towards the very thing reflecting her personality.
"I like rainbows," Cutler said.
"Reagan has always had a happy-go-lucky, rainbow personality since she was little. Always had a smile on her face," said Kara Ball, Reagan's mom.
But that smile was dimmed for the first time last summer, just before Cutler was getting ready to start her freshman year at Sacred Heart.
"I woke up and threw up. Then I was talking nonsense so we went to the ER," Cutler said.
Doctors discovered a benign tumor next to her brain stem, in an area controlling basic functions including balance, speech, breathing, heart rate, and vision.
"When they said that to me, that was the end of life as we knew it. Our life now is pre-Reagan's-diagnosis and post-Reagan's-diagnosis," Ball said.
Cutler has been an avid dancer for more than a decade and had to stop because of the tumor.
She went through chemo to shrink it and by November, had surgery to remove the tumor, which has caused double vision.
During her first year of high school, Cutler spent more time in a hospital bed than a classroom.
"When I was inpatient, I would receive gifts and care packages from people," Cutler said.
Over the winter, she decided to pay it forward with her own non-profit called 'Reagan's Rainbows of Hope,' creating gift bags, bringing kindness and a little distraction to other kids in dark times at the hospital.
"I like knowing that these kids can get the same kind of generosity I did," Cutler said.
Cutler has created about 60 comfort bags and counting all with her own money and from some donations.
"Those are long days in the hospital. It's a lot of nothing. It's a lot of sitting and waiting and she was given gifts and it helped pass the time," Ball said.
Doctors consider Cutler in stable condition right now, so she goes for checkups every three months.
There's no way to tell which kids will have to soon weather their own storm.
"It makes me feel good to know they get a little bit of joy from this," Cutler said.
But with storms, also comes a rainbow.
Her non-profit is still awaiting 501c3 approval and then she will be able to hold more fundraisers.
In the meantime, she does have an Amazon wish list if you'd like to help her out.