‘Our world changed’: Rae of Sunshine founder shares mission to foster mental health

Michael J. Collins, Editor-in-Chief

Taylora Schlosser’s daughter, Taylor Rae Nolan, would have been 23-years-old on April 28. Taylor took her life in 2019 while attending the University of Kentucky.

Taylor and her brother, Nolan. (Courtesy of Taylora Schlosser) (Instagram: raeofsunshineky)

Students gathered in Downing Student Union auditorium on April 27 for a keynote speech by Schlosser, part of the Student Government Association’s Mental Health Awareness week.

Taylora recalled fond memories of Taylor: raising her and her three brothers, being elected to as a Family and Consumer Sciences officer at 16 and meeting Mitch McConnell, attending UK and joining the Chi Omega sorority.

In 2019, Taylor was double majoring in Integrated Strategic Communications and Digital Media and Design. 

On the night of Jan. 8, 2019, Taylor sent her mother a text that simply said “I love you.” It would be the last text she would receive from her. 

That night, a sheriff deputy and coroner knocked on their door to tell them the news. Taylor had taken her own life. It seemed to make no sense.

Taylor gave little indication of the depth of her struggle in the weeks leading to her suicide. Things seemed to be okay — she had a good internship with iHeartRadio, went on a rock climbing trip with her boyfriend and received a promotion at her job.

Taylor and her boyfriend, Noah, admire her dog, Rosie, during Christmas of 2018. (Courtesy of Taylora Schlosser) (Instagram: raeofsunshineky)

Not long after, Schlosser relived her daughter’s life with her sorority sisters at Chi Omega. It was a chance to show others — many facing similar difficulties as Taylor — that “even when it’s cloudy, the sun is still hovering right above.”

“When you’re dealing with loss or grief, it’s okay to not be okay,” Schlosser said. “Get the help that you need. But I also want to say that it’s okay to be happy.”

Many people attended Taylor’s funeral to share their memories of her, from her bright, constant smile to the small acts of kindness she dolled out without second thought.

“Even though she was only here for 19 years, it’s not about the time you have on this earth, it’s what you do while on this earth,” Schlosser said. “While she was only here 19 years, I do think that she’s created a legacy.”

Schlosser went on to found Rae of Sunshine, a non-profit foundation with the goal of destigmatizing mental health and increasing accessibility to mental health resources.

Since 2019, the organization has spoken to over 25,000 people across thousands of miles. They’ve donated a total of $30,000 in scholarships since 2019. The proceeds from their merchandise sales — t-shirts, pens, bracelets with a suicide hotline number — go to help future mental health professionals.

Some of the merchandise sold by Rae of Sunshine. All proceeds go to funding scholarships for aspiring mental health professionals. More merchandise can be found on their website, RaeofSunshineKY.org. (Michael J. Collins)

“You all know that mental health is needed,” Schlosser said. “You’re overcommitted, you’re stressed out about finals week, you know somebody needs to hear this story. You all have the power to take this story and spread it to all your friends.”

SGA’s next Mental Health event will be “Coffee and Kindness,” a tabling event in Centennial Mall from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on April 28 to raise awareness for Rae of Sunshine.

Editor-in-Chief Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MJCollinsNews.