Aunt's encouragement never forgotten

Swin Cash hopes to use her charity, Cash for Kids, to follow in her aunt's footsteps. Courtesy of Swin Cash

My aunt Sharon Cash was one of my biggest inspirations and an example I had growing up of someone completely selfless. She was also the first person I lost in my life who was close to me. Even now as I write, tears come to my eyes because I wish she were still with us. She died of breast cancer in 2000. My aunt was the kind of woman who cared not only for her own children, but all the other kids in the neighborhood.

Growing up, my friends and I wanted to play softball. Well, instead of us all splitting up, my aunt formed a team so we all could play together on one team -- The Phillys. She was a single mom of three but she was running home from work to make our softball games with the rest of our family. It didn't matter what it was, Aunt Sharon was always supporting the kids in our neighborhood. She would go to games, fix meals for people who needed them or just be a role model by being there.

I remember coming home from college and seeing my aunt looking fragile and swollen with a neck brace and crutches. She looked like someone I didn't recognize. My heart was breaking on the inside but I kept smiling because I didn't want her to be upset. (I would later break down with my mom in the bathroom).

My aunt asked me about school and was concerned about how my adjustment was going. I'll never forget sharing with her how it was tough being so far away from family during this time. And some of my friends saying how I'd changed. And she told me "You can always come back here, but you have to keep going forward. Don't worry about people and jealousy. You keep doing what's right." Then she said, "I'm so proud of you." To hear those words meant so much because of who she was and what she stood for to me. She was the kind of role model every child should be exposed to.

She always stood up for kids. I know in my heart that she is one of the main reasons, along with my own mother, why I started my charity, Cash for Kids. My aunt was a fighter, she always wanted what was best for other kids, not just her own. I’m just trying to use Cash for Kids to follow in her footsteps. So maybe I can be someone else’s Aunt Sharon.

Although I lost my aunt to cancer, she is now my guardian angel in the sky. I just hope she's still proud of me.