“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
The mission of our organization began with a simple yet powerful message, and a playground. When our Founder and Creator, Reaghan Velasquez, was eleven years old in the fifth grade. As Reaghan was approaching her school playground, a fellow faculty member came forward and acknowledged the obvious, existing challenge that Reaghan was facing - accessibility. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise but the effort and recognition by the surrounding body and faculty, was just the push needed to evolve a hidden passion for Reaghan. While peers were enjoying recess, Reaghan and her teacher decided to write a letter to their school principal in hopes of adding an accessible ramp leading to you area that would be an obstacle course through the mud, rocks and hill-like terrain. Within two days of writing to the school’s principal, a once none existing accessible asphalt sidewalk and ramp leading towards the playground, was now existing. As commonly known, fifth graders move on to become middle school students therefore this alteration would not benefit Reaghan for future years, however, it would benefit future students as there was a young girl who used a wheelchair for mobility, who was a number of years younger. Perhaps one thing led to another, perhaps some magic was sparked because the following year at our local Middle School, our message went even further as 60 braided yellow wristbands were handed out to peers and faculty of the school in honor of a designated day in October in hopes to raise awareness for Spina Bifida, encourage inclusion and promote the conversation surrounding those with differences. After a few short days of promoting such a powerful and meaningful movement that would interact with all students and teachers, the school had, how we like to say it, “Yellow Out”. The root of our organization is within schools and our community, but there was more to how we choose to raise awareness, and that is with the incredibly advanced world of technology and screen printing. The summer of sixth grade year for Reaghan incorporated a sit down discussion with peers and friends who essentially has made The Yellow Out Campaign greater and most influential as ever. During this time, a logo and our tagline was established, we were now known as The Yellow Out Campaign, "TYOC", and our message became a mission. We began working with our long-time supporter and screen printing business, Mikey Designs & Silk Screen to produce what would ultimately become our annual Yellow Out Day merchandise. Because of such hard work and development of The Yellow Out Campaign, as Reaghan was a seventh grader, the first official Yellow Out Day was hosted on World Spina Bifida Day, October 25th.
Since the very beginning, we knew our foundation was to do our absolute best in not only raising awareness for Spina Bifida through the help of our annual Campaign but to also acknowledge the fact that those with differences and so-called limitations, such as Spina Bifida, can be as understood, intelligent, relatable and productive as anyone else we cross paths with throughout our journey. This root that our organization works off of on what was only a yearly basis prior to 2017; has led our organization into many significant directions. Throughout the years, we have focused on not only Spina Bifida awareness but illnesses, conditions and missions of those that are familiar or not discussed much throughout our entire society. In previous years, the color of our Yellow Out Day shirts have represented everything from Ant-Bullying and Food Allergies awareness to our sister organization and partner, Miss Amazing, Inc. We have also represented Breast Cancer and Adults with Disabilities awareness, but these concepts we ignite aside from Spina Bifida, share the same awareness month as the neurological condition, October.
There's been alterations and elements in the past year that have shifted for TYOC. In 2017 our organization became official, as a national 501(c)3 not for profit, which has allowed for us to expand and grow with our Supporters right beside us the whole way! After a lot of time and thought, we realized there was more to us than we ever imaged, we just had to dig deep within. Once again, one thing led to another and it was discussed that not only would our efforts go towards expanding our brand of Spina Bifida awareness and give to our sister organizations in their work and research of the condition, but take us back to the start of something that has become a magical, inclusive space. By late 2017, TYOC is no longer just an annual event and demonstrating efforts of community outreach and work because our foundation is focused on creating a world of awareness, unity and acceptance for all; which is why in April of 2018, we hosted our first annual Bubbles for Community fundraiser in Houston. Of course, our primary focus is Spina Bifida but we plan to bring awareness in the forefront of schools and by building inclusive playgrounds wherever needed and necessary, thus will allow for our future generations to be knowledgeable of those with Spina Bifida as well as being exposed and transparent to those with challenges. The Yellow Out Campaign plans to not only celebrate proudly every October 25th for Yellow Out Day but we are aiming to lead by example and be trailblazers, spreading awareness and treating people, like people.
So, we cannot wait to see you all in your yellow, sharing facts about Spina Bifida with your own following on social media outlets but also getting a glimpse of your great courage to speak out and stand up for a topic that is near and dear to your heart; on Yellow Out Day and everyday! Be sure to post your pictures and use our official hashtags! We thank you for your continuous support, and we hope to see you at an upcoming event of ours!
Reaghan Velasquez is currently a Junior in mainstream High School, however she is not a student that teachers get mixed up with in regards to face and appearance with other students because she faces a more physical and seen difference compared to her peers. This difference has been one that Reaghan's faced for as long as she could ever crawl, which is most likely why she has grown to be understanding of the boundaries she sets for herself from time to time but also why she's been accepting to her certain way of life and not "suffering" from her condition of Spina Bifida. Advocacy work has always been a natural aspect to Reaghan's life, whether it's showcasing her work and start-up of The Yellow Out Campaign or simply acknowledging the perspective of those with Spina Bifida and differences in a group discussion. As Reaghan has been involved with the industry of organization's focused on disabilities such as Texas Adaptive Aquatics and Miss Amazing, Inc. Not only is Reaghan the Founder and Creator of TYOC but she is also the 2016-2017 National Miss Amazing Jr. Teen Queen, the first ever Texas representative to hold a National title for the incredible brand of powerful women and girls with differing abilities. Reaghan is also known as a 'Superstar', as she was awarded in March of 2018 for her community work throughout the city of Houston; by Night of Superstars. Recently, she has also had the opportunity to learn how to take her organization to growth and productivity as she had the opportunity to fill a seat with the City of Houston and Councilman Michael Kubosh; in order to gain information on infrastructure and sources within Houston that would be useful whenever The Yellow Out Campaign begins our first ever inclusive playground project. There's been great things done throughout the journey of Reaghan but she strives to promote the power of "Be Yourself, Love Yourself, Express Yourself, Empower Yourself!". The hope is that you will join in on the fun and raise awareness for the most common neurological birth defect within the United States, and for all with special needs.
Reaghan would also like to say a BIG thank you to her incredible team at TYOC, our organization would not have come this far in the past year if it weren't for this fun group of leaders and dedicated individuals who have shown her so much love, life and belief in all her crazy plans and dreams to expand our not for profit organization. They are the backbone to all our events and community work, and we could not do it without their feedback, time, effort but most importantly, their encouragement.