PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sara Olsher finds it intriguing to understand people’s behavior and how their minds work.
“My background is in psychology but I studied adults,” Olsher told KOIN 6 News. “Kids are a whole different thing.”
Even with her knowledge, she found herself with room to discover much more when it came to helping her daughter, Charlie, understand and deal with Sara’s divorce.
“She was having a lot of anxiety and I didn’t know what to do in order to help her,” Sara said. So, she tried therapy for Charlie, who was 2 at the time.
“My ex-husband was like, ‘What in the world is this going to do for a 2-year-old ?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I honestly don’t know, but I am at the end of my rope. I don’t know how to help her.'”
That process sparked an idea on how to help other families.
Sara saw her child’s therapist use a construction paper calendar with stickers to explain to Charlie when they would see each other.
“(The therapist) was, like, ‘Usually you see me this day, but you’re not going to see me this day. Instead, you’re going to see me this day,'” Sara said. “And I’m watching the therapist explain this to my 2-year-old and I thought, why am I not doing this to show her when she’s going to see her dad next?”
Sara took the idea a step further when she got home. She took a sheet pan and made magnets with pictures of all of them on it.
“And it was like night and day with her anxiety when I showed her what to expect each day.”
The solution was so simple she decided not to keep it to herself.
“I thought to myself, nobody else is doing this. No one’s talking about this. Nobody has any idea this is a thing,” she said. And so I started. I just put together kind of, I guess I laminated some pieces of paper initially and just, you know, put it online and from there I started just making the calendars better.”
That was the beginning of Mighty and Bright, labeled as “tools that place emotional and mental wellness at the center of life.”
Her daughter hasn’t forgotten how her mom’s original calendar helped her.
“I remember it really helped me because I was able to see when I was going to go see my dad because I would see him every other weekend,” Charlie said. “That kind of helped me know, like, when I was going to stay home and then go to my dad’s house.”
Charlie thinks her mom is a Remarkable Woman for making a small idea into the launching pad for products that are changing lives.
“I’m proud of her. She did something big for everybody else and I also just, like, hope that they can, you know, get through it,” Charlie said. “It makes me really proud of her ’cause she’s doing a lot and she has gotten here through, like, nothing because she created everything out of, like, nothing.”
Just a few years into growing Mighty and Bright, Sara hit another turning point. She was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“At that time, I was thinking only about co-parenting and how I really wanted to help kids of divorce. But when I was diagnosed with cancer, I realized, like, the depth of human suffering is so much deeper than I ever realized.”
Then she had to figure out how to explain the news to Charlie.
“So many of us, myself included, when we’re going through something like divorce or cancer, we feel really guilty about what we feel like we’ve done that is now hurting our children. But someone said to me this: You are not doing this to your kid. Cancer is doing this to all of you.”
Amid the chaos of cancer, Sara once again saw a solution not just for her child but something that could help others in similar situations.
This time it was in the form of a book: “What Happens When Someone I Love has Cancer.”
“I remember she went in the car and she was crying and she said that she had cancer and I was really scared,” Charlie said. “Then she wrote that book and it kind of, like, everything really helped. I remember, like, everything she told me had a lot of trust in her so I wasn’t as scared.”
That book is now used in children’s hospitals — and so are the other books Sara was asked to write.
“Now I have 9 books explaining different things to kids. And I realized in that experience that there are so many different things that kids need explained to them.”
Her work continues to grow, whether it is partnering with the Mayo Clinic on a book about grief or connecting with another mom on TikTok on ways to help adults with ADHD use the Mighty and Bright tools to take on daily tasks that are otherwise a challenge.
“We think that kids are resilient and we think that they can cope with this stuff,” Sara said, “but the truth is, all of these things that happen in childhood have a snowball effect.”
She also created a program born from the pandemic called Raising Resilience. She worked with experts and specialists to create a subscription plan focused on teaching mental health skills to kids.
There is also a charity called the Resilience Campaign. A portion of each sale for Mighty and Bright goes to her charity, which donates books to children’s hospitals.
The impact is noticeable in Charlie, who explained what other kids should understand about divorce.
“You’ll probably be mad at them because you wish they were together, but, like, just know, like, they did it for a reason. It would probably be harder if they were still under the same roof than it is now and they’re trying to help you and they’re trying to make living a lot easier,” Charlie said. “Just, like, let yourself be mad and let yourself be sad and soon it’ll, like, you know, start getting better.”
One of the Mighty and Bright mottos is: “We believe hard times are an opportunity.” That can also describe Sara Olsher.
“Just taking something that is pretty rotten and turning it into something that helps other people — it’s what has made my life have meaning,” Sara told KOIN 6 News.
Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.
In March, we’ll highlight four local women who will be considered for Nexstar’s nationwide 2023 Woman of the Year Award. One local winner will be selected to earn a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Los Angeles.