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“Baylor the Brave”

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This weekend, Hernando County will pause to honor the legacy of a child who created a movement of caring, love and awareness in her unfortunately short six-year time on this earth.

A beautiful sampling of high-quality skin art or tattoos can serve as a tribute, a memento, or a symbol of great significance for the bearer. Now, when one participates in the Baylor the Brave: Tattoo Fundraiser Event, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 24, from 12–5 pm at the Rusted Jade Art Collective, they’ll be supporting a great cause as well as being a part of an effort staged in memory of an extraordinary child.

The inspiration for this event is the life and legacy of Baylor Nichols, a Brooksville child who passed away at age six in 2020 from the effects of a brain stem tumor associated with a form of childhood cancer known as DIPG. While being treated at All Children’s Hospital, she started a toy drive to ensure that other patients would experience the joy and comfort of a treasured toy.

Although Baylor is no longer with us, her legacy lives on throughout Hernando County through inspiring fund-raisers and toy collection drives in her name. And on Sept. 24, the guests in attendance at Baylor the Brave can purchase a cancer ribbon tattoo emblazoned with their choice of color to honor a loved one. Each ribbon tattoo will cost $50, and 100% of proceeds go to the Apple A Day and ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundations. Tips are greatly appreciated and are given directly to the tattoo artist.

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“September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and this is very near and dear to our hearts, as one of our wonderful friends and clients lost their daughter due to a childhood cancer called DIPG,” read a statement prepared by Max and Lenny Grey, owners of the Rusted Jade. “In honor of their daughter, Baylor, every year her family hosts fundraisers to help fund more research to find a cure. We pledge to do all we can to help this wonderful family and many others like them who have experienced the loss of a loved one to cancer.”

Guests can also support this effort by dropping toys into donation bins reserved for Baylor’s toy drive, another key component of this charity event.

In the eyes of Max Grey, co-owner of the Rusted Jade, a tattoo makes for an ideal memorial for the daughter of family friends—those who wear decorative and meaningful skin art in honor of their daughter and various life milestones. “Baylor’s parents, Carly and Donnie Nichols, are friends and customers of ours,” she said. “They are great people, and we knew that we wanted to step forward and would do anything to help the cause.”

Grey claims that by allowing visitors to choose the color of the ribbon adorning their tattoo, they can customize their tribute in memory of a loved one who may have battled breast cancer (a pink ribbon), pancreatic cancer (a purple ribbon), etc.

The entire effort means a great deal to Grey as well. “
And the effort as a whole means a great deal to her as well. “As a friend and a mother, It means so much to me to do this,” she said.

For more information about Baylor the Brave: Tattoo Fundraiser Event, call the Rusted Jade Art Collective at (352) 340-3739.

Also in honor of Baylor Nichols and her legacy, Marker 48 is hosting its Fifth Annual Bay It Forward Toy Drive through Sept. 23. The drive will culminate with a fundraising event at Marker 48 Brewing from 4 to 8 pm on Saturday, Sept. 23. The 2023 fundraiser beneficiaries are the Apple A Day Foundation and the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation; in addition, people are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to the event.

The event will feature a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction, food trucks, live music, off-road vehicles, and brews featuring a Show’n’Shine contest. Team Nichols, JSL (Junior Service League) Brooksville, and 4X4 Offroad Adventures will host this event; performing will be Black Iron Road Band and Girl Jupiter.

“Donnie and Carley were classmates of mine, and Donnie was one of my close friends throughout high school, so just hearing the news of the diagnosis was very heartbreaking, and then watching what Baylor went through trying to fight it was very tough to watch even from the outside, so just having a connection to this wonderful family and knowing what they were facing makes these events that much more important,” said Jeff Demars, Black Iron Road Band. “I can’t even wrap my head around what they all had to go through emotionally and physically. And now they try to carry on with life with such a giant piece of their family missing. These events help raise awareness and may eventually lead to more research and a cure. The Nichols family, top to bottom, are some of the strongest, most wonderful people I have ever met, and I hope through these events someday nobody will have to endure what Baylor, her sisters, her mother, and her father had to live through.”

Demars’ bandmate, Joe Solomon, has a deep personal connection to Baylor and her family.
Well, we [my family] knew Baylor from the day she was born,” said Solomon. “I taught both of her parents, Donnie and Carly, math at Hernando High back when they were students. Baylor’s grandparents have been our neighbors and friends for many, many years.”

Solomon remembers Baylor as “A beautiful child with model-like features. She was always a little firecracker! I have dressed up as Santa Claus for the neighborhood kids for a long time, and she was always the one afraid of the Old Guy until the Christmas before her passing.”

Solomon honors Baylor as a brave young warrior. “She battled her illness with the strength of a warrior, as did her parents, sisters, grandparents, and her entire village,” he said. “She will be remembered for years to come, and it has been an honor to participate in all of the fundraising events over the years. The band we have for this coming weekend, The Black Iron Road, includes two of Baylor’s parents’ high school classmates as well.”

Cindy Halley, taproom manager at Marker 48, says that the Nichols family are good friends and patrons at the eatery.

“Baylor used to come in with her family, and she was such a sweet little girl,” said Halley. “Our event will be a day of love for her.”

“She was Baylor the Brave,” said Joe Solomon.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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