My good friend Sarah Taylor has had a huge impact on my life. I am honored to introduce you to her, and I hope she inspires you as much as she has me.

Sarah, a longtime member of the PETA family, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer over a year ago. She is a vibrant 49-year-old woman who has always spent her life caring for others and making the world a kinder place for all—and her diagnosis hasn’t changed that.

I met Sarah and her husband, Mark, in 2018 on Holistic Holiday at Sea’s vegan cruise. We wound up at a table together for dinner—along with PETA President Ingrid Newkirk and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine President Neal Barnard—and we became fast friends. Sarah is a magnet with her infectious smile and enthusiastic personality, and she was genuinely eager to hear about my work with PETA.

Years later, not long after getting the news of her cancer, she called Ingrid, because she and Mark wanted to make a significant donation to PETA while she would still be able to see their generous gift help animals. That’s the kind of person Sarah is—always thinking of others first and doing whatever she can to help end animal suffering. Thankfully, she has surpassed her predicted life expectancy and has been able to see how their donation is helping to improve the world for animals.

Because of Sarah and Mark, PETA has been able to send Carly the animatronic cow to schools nationwide. Their gift has also made it possible for PETA to develop informative and positive programs to motivate young people to go vegan. Sarah and Mark are especially interested in PETA’s vegan outreach activities, vegan food giveaways, and other inspiring campaigns to help people embrace vegan living.

Sarah stopped eating all animal products in 2002, after reading Diet for a New America by John Robbins. She wasn’t about to start eating them again when recently, some of her medical team suggested that she eat an extreme version of the keto diet, which is high in animal-based foods and fat. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t take this medical advice, because she was committed to vegan living and had written two books on the subject—Vegan in 30 Days: Get Healthy. Save the World. and Vegetarian to Vegan. Instead of compromising her ethics, she consulted with Dr. Joel Fuhrman to find out what vegan foods she should eat to help her stay healthy, without harming animals.

Sarah isn’t one to sit around and focus on what she cannot change. She’d rather spend her remaining time sharing her spiritual knowledge and motivating people to live more compassionately. She encourages everyone to live in the moment and be grateful for what they have—while doing what they can to help others. Despite what she is going through, Sarah remains calm, grateful, and joyful. Even while navigating her illness and treatments, she has moved many people with videos promoting mindfulness and finding happiness in the little things. Her strength is inspiring, and part of it derives from the fact that her recent career was, by coincidence, working as a therapist to help people cope with cancer.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Sarah and Mark (who is also vegan) at their lovely home in Washington state and to be charmed by their four rescued cats—Bodhi, Charley, Sissy, and Cedric. The compassion and love within their home shine brightly, and I smile when I think of them all together.

Sarah and Mark also have a home and land on Maui, where you can find Leilani Farm Sanctuary, and are sometimes lucky enough to have a chicken walk in through their front door! One of my favorite things to share about Sarah, which so perfectly captures her zest for life, is that during their many travels throughout the world, Sarah has always learned how to say the very important phrase “Can I pet your dog?” in the language of most places that they’ve visited.

Since Sarah is so fond of dogs and has a loving, loyal nature herself, Ingrid named a dog who was rescued from the 2020 Taal volcano eruption in her honor. As soon as PETA Asia’s boat docked on the island, one dog ran from the ash-covered bushes and wagged her tail as she was lifted into a carrier. She was scared, dirty, and underweight but in good spirits. She quickly became a volunteer favorite because of her optimistic, can-do personality. We knew that was “Sarah.”

I’m extremely grateful to have crossed paths with my dear friend Sarah and for what she and Mark have made possible for animals. Her light shines so brightly, and I know that even when she leaves us physically, all the good that she has brought into the world will remain. I look forward to carrying what Sarah has lit within me for the rest of my life, and I have no doubt that she will continue to inspire positive changes for years to come.

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Melissa Karpel is a senior philanthropic specialist who has been helping donors fulfill their philanthropic goals for animals with the PETA Foundation for the last eight years. Previously, she worked with PETA President Ingrid Newkirk as special assistant to the president and as a campaign coordinator, traveling the globe to speak out for animals. Originally from Los Angeles, she now lives in rural Wisconsin with her partner, Brad; her dog, Lulu; and five rescued cats.