When you’re fighting cancer, there can be days where it seems like a losing battle.
It’s on those days that women of the Red Slipper Warrior Project can look at a special pair of red sequined slippers and matching bag to remind them that they are warriors who will win the day.
At least, that’s what Tim Tinnin is striving for with every woman and girl who becomes a Red Slipper Warrior.
Tinnin is well-known to many in the Jefferson City area. After a long career with the Missouri Highway Patrol, he created the annual street party known as Angiepalooza, in honor of his late wife who died in 2012 of colon cancer. The event, typically held in fall in years unaffected by a global pandemic, became a celebration of the lives lost to cancer, those fighting cancer and those who have won their own battles.
“The root of (the Red Slipper Warrior Project) comes from Angiepalooza,” Tinnin said.
The proceeds from the events would be used for items in area medical facilities where people receive cancer treatments. It was through his continued work with women fighting cancer that Tinnin said he realized there was not much to address the emotional and mental health of these patients, outside of whatever personal support system they had.
“One of the universal things we found when working with women fighting cancer is that self-image really plummets,” Tinnin said, noting that whether it’s right or wrong, women are more defined by their looks than men. “When cancer takes that, for some it’s really devastating.”
And that’s when Tinnin started the Red Slipper Warrior Project.
It wasn’t quick to roll out or be established as a 501(c)3, but Tinnin was quick to provide support to any area woman or girl fighting cancer. It’s something Tinnin is clearly passionate about; it’s comes across in any conversation about the project or his “warriors.” It’s been nearly four years since Tinnin came up with the initial idea for the project, but he said he wanted to make sure everything was done right, as “this is something you can’t screw up, you’ve got to do it right.”
The idea behind the red sequined slippers goes back to Tinnin’s late wife Angie.
“I used to ask her, ‘what is it about you women and shoes, cause I don’t get it,’” Tinnin recalled. And Angie didn’t hesitate to explain: “Shoes always love you. … I can be just a train wreck. Cute shoes don’t care. Cute shoes always love you.”
So Tinnin made sure to create a beautiful pair of slippers that would be cute, while also being extremely comfortable to help those dealing with neuropathy, a frequent side effect of cancer treatment that can cause pain and numbness in the feet and hands.
The matching bag, however, goes back to Tinnin’s SWAT days, when he was often the first through the doors when forcing entry into a property where anything could be behind that door. In those situations, he said, you have to mentally psych yourself up to win.
“You’ve got to have just a warrior bulletproof mindset when you go into life-and-death situations,” Tinnin said. “There are no options other than I’m winning.”
That mindset is exactly what’s needed when fighting cancer; the parallels are almost exact, Tinnin said. And when he was in SWAT, he always had his go bag ready by the door. That’s what the red bags are supposed to be for his warriors – their own personal go bags, filled with whatever they need to win the day’s fight.
“The only option we have is how we do it, so we go in hot, we go in ready,” Tinnin said. “Warriors win the day.”
For the younger girls fighting cancer, Tinnin recently added another component – “Princess,” a stuffed and lop-eared bunny also wearing red slippers. The idea behind Princess, Tinnin said, is to ensure these children are never alone during extended stays in medical facilities during treatment.
“I’m really excited about that,” Tinnin said.
The overall message from the Red Slipper Warrior Project is ultimately simple, but powerful: You’re a warrior now, but you’re still a beautiful princess, no matter what.
“That is really the core of the mission is to create this bulletproof warrior mentality. … Cancer is something you get, it’s not something you are,” Tinnin said. “We want to remind them that they’re still beautiful.”
Find out more about the Red Slipper Warrior Project on Facebook or visit redslipperwarrior.com. The website also features a form to submit a warrior to be a part of the project and ways to support the project.
Tinnin noted that he is happy to speak to any area groups or organizations interested in hearing more about the project. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I am the most honored guy in the world to get a chance to do this,” Tinnin said.