Mighty + Bright creator Sara Olsher is tackling difficult conversations with children through a line of books about coping with change and chaos.
Many of the best ideas come from somebody realizing that a pressing problem needs a solution and having the ability to offer an answer. Sara Olsher’s story is no exception.
Diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2017, Olsher was desperate to find materials that could explain to her six-year-old daughter what was happening. She hunted endlessly for children’s books but was left feeling frustrated after every search.
“[The books] were cute, but none of them did what I wanted,” Olsher recalls. “I wanted to explain what cancer actually is because kids can understand. When we start explaining things in ways that are cutesy or kind of dumbed down — talking down to them — it makes the situation worse.”
Throughout this process, Olsher quickly became exhausted trying to also juggle her full-time marketing job, parenting and treatment. Both she and her daughter were struggling with the changes. Having gone through a draining divorce shortly before her diagnosis, Olsher describes her cancer experience as a wake-up call.
“The divorce was hard,” Olsher says. “But as soon as I got cancer, I was like, ‘People really, really suffer in this life. And people need help.’ I really found that focusing on how to help other people was what was getting me through my treatment.”
On the side, Olsher had a small business, California-based Mighty + Bright, providing magnetic co-parenting calendars to children of divorced parents. She had created the product for her daughter after her own divorce. While Olsher, who also has a background in illustration and psychology, no longer had the capacity for her marketing job during treatment, she did have extra time to focus on Mighty + Bright.
When we start explaining things in ways that are cutesy or kind of dumbed down — talking down to them — it makes the situation worse.Sara Olsher
This newfound free time coupled with her frustration at the lack of adequate materials to explain her cancer diagnosis to her daughter led to Olsher writing and illustrating a children’s book, “What Happens When Someone I Love Has Cancer,” and self-publishing it through Mighty + Bright. Drawing inspiration from her co-parenting calendar, Olsher also created a similar magnetic dry-erase calendar featuring a steel button set describing a guardian’s cancer treatment (such as “doctor,” “tired days,” “good days” and light bonding activities like reading or taking a walk). The set also comes with a psychologist-approved guide for using the chart and talking to children about cancer.
“I realized that I actually found a way to simplify the cancer experience for kids,” Olsher says. “I had taken something that was incredibly chaotic and confusing and was able to simplify it. It was something that I would have purchased for myself had it existed, and it was kind of like a no-brainer that this needs to be something people have.”
She’s since written and illustrated “What Happens When Parents Get Divorced” to accompany the co-parenting calendar and “What Happens When School Starts Again,” a book and calendar set to help children adjust to schooling during the COVID-19 virus. Her latest project, “What Happens When a Kid Has Cancer,” raised nearly $11,000 on Kickstarter in autumn 2020 to print and distribute the set at various children’s hospitals through Mighty + Bright’s nonprofit arm, Resilience Campaign.
Olsher partners with professionals in the field of whatever topic she’s working on, including doctors, counselors and child life specialists. Oftentimes, ideas for her next set come from parents who reach out to her with a need for certain material. All in all, due to her self-production capability and having total creative control, Olsher can turn out a new set in less than two months — making her ultimate goal with Mighty + Bright that much more attainable.
“There’s certain things that are the same, no matter what your current ‘thing’ is,” Olsher says. “I’m building a community around that, where basically parents can come together in a supportive environment. I really want them to feel like they have a place where they can go to help themselves rebuild their lives after something difficult happens […] and find the resources they need so their kids can be OK. And then they can take a breath.”
Find out more about Mighty + Bright and its products at mightyandbright.com. Check out Olsher’s podcast, “Raising Resilience,” for more information on parenting during difficult times. To learn more about Olsher, visit saraolsher.com.