Nicole Javorsky is literally and figuratively turning this world upside down.
The 18-year-old aspiring trapeze artist is the founder and president of Cubs for Coping, an organization that makes and donates handmade teddy bears to young people in hospitals, shelters, and eating disorder clinics.
Nicole’s own personal struggle with an eating disorder (anorexia) and co-occurring mental illness is what inspired her to start the organization. She describes: “I started Cubs for Coping because I felt scared and alone in the hospital. My friends and family sent me stuffed animals, which made me realize that people do care. Not everyone is so lucky … Why [send handmade teddy bears]? Hope changes everything. Knowing that there are people out there who care about you is so important.”
Nicole sews every teddy bear on a sewing machine and leaves a hole in each one for people to stuff them and then decorate them. Her vice president and best friend, Christie Delligatti, along with outreach coordinator Myra Greenberg, cuts out the patterns for each bear. Cubs for Coping has donated 80 handmade teddy bears so far. If you’d like to support Cubs for Coping, check out its next volunteer event and T-shirt campaign.
Passion for her cause drives Nicole in other areas of her life. Back in high school, she founded a club called “Mirror Mission,” which helps youths address their self-esteem and body-image issues. Under Nicole’s leadership, the club made this video for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, held a bake sale for Project Heal, and became a haven for member-led dialogues and support. Today, Nicole is involved with Windows of Opportunity, which helps teens embrace and fully accept their true selves via leadership and empowerment work. She has also led workshops at St. John’s University on bullying, eating disorders, and how to respond to someone who is struggling in a neutral and supportive way.
Nicole currently interns at DoSomething.org, the largest not-for-profit in the country for youths and social change, as their Animal & Environment Campaigns Intern, and takes classes at Baruch College. She completed one semester at Vassar this past fall and next year will be attending Barnard College for her sophomore year. A modern and jazz dance enthusiast, Nicole also volunteers with Dancing Dreams, giving girls with physical and medical challenges the chance to dance.
Nicole is changing the way young people in treatment see themselves, the world, and how they fit into it! She believes that “if you are going through a tough time too, remember that showing vulnerability makes you human, not weak. Save yourself and maybe you'll be able to save someone else."
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To make myself and the world more awesome by doing instead of complaining.
HOW HAS THIS WORK CHANGED YOU?
We often feel that the world is too big and complicated to change. Through taking action, I stopped feeling intimidated and instead started to develop a better understanding of the complex world we live in.
WHAT DO YOU GET FROM GIVING?
I get to engage in a conversation about solutions to the issues we face. I also get people’s trust, which enables me to learn more about others and the problems people deal with. Ultimately I get hope, and I learn about how much good there is in the world.
WHO IS A LIVING HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE?
Malala Yousafzai is my hero. I would ask Malala how the global coverage of her story has affected her as a person. I would think that becoming a global figure and hero can transform one’s self-image and worldview. Seeing how Malala’s perspective has changed would challenge me to analyze my own views.
WHAT EVERYDAY RESOURCES COULD HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR PHILANTHROPIC GOALS?
People. Individuals can help get money, publicity, or any other resource for a philanthropic project. However, philanthropy means nothing without people impacting each other.
WHAT IS A BURNING QUESTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR THIS COMMUNITY?
How do you let yourself, as a leader, trust others to help you advance your project? One of the important things about being a leader is knowing when to step back and let the strengths of your team members shine through.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
"I’m Okay!" would be the title of my book because I have dealt with anorexia, anxiety, and depression. Yet, I have always smiled and said that I’m okay. This helped me succeed despite the challenges I face. Saying I’m okay is a coping mechanism for me to keep hanging in there.
TELL US SOMETHING YOU RARELY SHARE IN PUBLIC?
If I was stuck on a deserted island, I would make sure that I could eat granny smith apples. Just a “little” obsessed.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE CITIZEN PHILANTHROPISTS?
If the “bigness” of the world stops you from taking action, start being fearless. Dare to dream, and then make those dreams reality. The world needs you for it to become less “big” and scary.
WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED, AND WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
What do you value most? Honestly, I value perseverance because the greatest test we can take is bouncing back from defeat. If you want to accomplish your dreams, learn how to accept failure as a challenge to improve. I don’t mean to be cliché, but what doesn’t kill you truly can make you stronger.
• To learn more, visit Cubs for Coping
• This article was originally posted at Talking GOOD, a series of interviews with “citizen philanthropists” who champion causes and lead by example. To nominate someone for a Talking GOOD interview, visit this link.