Steve Ewen: Vancouver MLB artist Lauren Taylor paints grateful picture

Baseball art has been very, very good to Lauren Taylor.

The 33-year-old Vancouver woman’s intricate designs on birchwood panels of batting champions, rocket-armed mound men and other stars of the diamond have landed her licensed artist status from Major League Baseball. Recent Taylor creations feature the likes of Gary Carter, Tony Gwynn and the San Diego Padres’ current core group led by Fernando Tatis Jr.

Taylor has also won over her peers. When word got out that she could use help with medical expenses regarding mouth and jaw issues, various artists and memorabilia collectors donated items that were put up for auction to raise funds for her.

Family, friends and fans have also given to a GoFundMe page, and, combined, there’s been over $25,000 brought in for her. The hashtag #4LaurensNoggin has even gotten some traction on social media along the way.

And this all has been done, of course, in the midst of a global pandemic.

“I’ve never met most of these people,” explained Taylor, who has had six oral surgeries this summer. “Some of them I only know through Twitter. Hopefully this is a reminder to people that there’s good out there. There’s a lot of good out there.

“The link that I have with these people is sports. I can keep going back to that — sports has always lifted me up in the worst times.”

How Taylor got to this juncture is messy. She is accomplished in slo-pitch, so much so that she was once sponsored by Louisville Slugger. In April 2016, she was playing third base in a coed game when she took a line drive to the face. She went to Langley Memorial to get checked out. She says the doctor she saw in the emergency room sent her home later that same night without any sort of treatment plan outside of applying ice and taking painkillers. There were no suggested followup referrals either.

Taylor has had medical issues since and feels like she’s been forced to chase the game, so to speak, from that night. She’s gone as far as tracking down U.S. doctors for advice.

Taylor had a tooth fall out of her mouth in February. That prompted this batch of surgeries.

She has filed a complaint with Fraser Health’s Patient Care Quality Office. Fraser Health won’t comment on an individual case, a spokesperson explained, citing patient confidentiality.

Taylor stresses that night isn’t her focus here and now. She wants people to know that she’s thankful. She maintains she’s thrilled with the GoFundMe and auction totals but she also isn’t looking for any more donations. She wants that made clear and that fits her modus operandi. She’s willing to have those honest conversations. She’s been wonderfully open about battling depression and anxiety, and about how much sport and art have helped her with that.

She explained in a story on these pages last summer: “There are two parts. One part is that I want athletes to think of me when they want a piece of art. The other part is that I want to be an advocate for mental health. I find that the bigger platform I get the more I’m able to speak about it and influence people. I’ll get messages from people saying they’re grateful about me being honest about struggling, about panic or anxiety or depression, and those mean more to me than any of the big meetings.”

Nicole de Boer is a friend of Taylor’s who spearheaded the GoFundMe and says Taylor “fought it with every fibre of her being.” They toyed with other ideas, like a raffle, but there were too many rules to go that route.

“She has so many different circles of people who love and respect her,” explained de Boer. “She’s a good person and good people attract good people. It’s human nature.”

Sam Payne, another friend of Taylor’s, added: “Lauren does so much for other people. Anyone who knows her at all knows that and knows that Lauren will pay it forward.”

That’s the goal, Taylor says. And here’s part of that: She wants to publicly thank her buddies, Sarah Rusk and Shawn Brazeau, for getting her to and from surgeries and making sure that her dogs were taken care of when the need arose.

Things aren’t ideal for her right now. She’s still focusing on what she has, rather than what she doesn’t. It’s a sentiment we could all probably use with how complex our lives have become.

“I had a hard time accepting the help at first. I prefer to be the giver rather than the taker,” she explained. “I realize now that it’s given me such a boost. I’ve never felt more compelled to pay it forward. It’s given me a whole new motivation.”

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