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Executive Diversion

VP seeks adventure outside of Tampa nonprofit

In learning how "the first step is the scariest," National Pediatric Cancer Foundation executive Casey Taylor pushes herself to handle bigger and tougher steps.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 5:00 a.m. January 11, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Tampa nonprofit executive Casey Taylor went skydiving in Hawaii in November.
Tampa nonprofit executive Casey Taylor went skydiving in Hawaii in November.
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Casey Taylor. Vice president of development for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, based in Tampa. Taylor has been with the organization for about a year, after a decade of working in a host of other fields. An attorney, Taylor worked for a law firm in Orlando early in her career. She later worked in insurance, with BKS Partners in Tampa. “I was going to go into environmental law,” she says. “I was gonna be the next Erin Brockovich.”

In between insurance and law, Taylor found her passion in nonprofits, working with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, the Florida Aquarium, the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula and the International Primate Protection League, first based in South Carolina and later back in Tampa.


Adventure seeking. In the past decade — when she was in her 30s — Taylor has swam with sand tiger sharks, rappelled down the side of the Hilton Tampa Downtown (twice) and, most recently, went skydiving in Hawaii. That last adventure, in November, was to celebrate her 40th birthday. For that Taylor jumped out of the plane at 14,000 feet, falling at 120 mph.

Casey Taylor's string of adventure journeys included rappelling down the side of the Hilton Tampa Downtown for charity — twice.
Courtesy image

Find your why: Taylor says there was no epiphany moment for her, just a feeling she “wanted to do things that are really exciting. I want to do these things while I’m still alive, even though I’m really a scaredy cat.”

With teeth: In 2015, when she worked for the Florida Aquarium, Taylor was part of a small group that went into the tank with sand tiger sharks. These are creatures, Taylor says she was told, that are more like lovable “labradors of the ocean” than chomping-at-the-bits sharks. The scarier part, says Taylor, was the pitch-black darkness at some points of the dive. “I just kept telling myself ‘deep breath, deep breath,’” she says. The nerves were worth it. “It was really amazing to be that close,” to the sharks, she says. “It was stunning. I will never forget it.”

Brick by brick: Up next for Taylor was rappelling the Hilton, part of a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. “The first step,” Taylor says, “was the scariest. The moment that you look over the edge your body at first won’t let you go.” With the help of a training group dubbed Over the Edge, Taylor found her footing — and inner peace. “It was pretty amazing. You don’t hear anything when you’re up there, and there’s a moment of peace amid the ‘Holy crap. I’m scaling the side of a building. I’m really doing this.’”

This is 40: Earlier this year, during a trip to Hawaii for her 40th birthday, Taylor raised the stakes of her adventure journeys by skydiving. “If I’m going to jump out of a plane,” she thought, “I might as well do it when I’m looking at something beautiful on the way down.” She was joined on the trip by her brother, sister-in-law and a family friend.

Cold feet: The original plan was for all four to go skydiving. But her brother and their friend — another man, Taylor readily offers — “chickened out.” Taylor and her brother’s wife, Alexis Taylor, remained steadfast, even signing up for a 7:30 a.m. time slot. “We didn’t want to have a lot of time to talk ourselves out of it,” Taylor says. 

Engines roar: Once in the air, Taylor says she was mostly calm. One early surprise? When the door of the plane first opened for the jump, there was a blast of cold air. “I wasn’t ready for that,” she says. Then came the jump, which she did in tandem with a trained guide. Her first memory: “My insides flipping around like a ball.” A close second memory? The noise from the airplane was so loud, Taylor says, she barely realized she “was in the clouds.”

Casey Taylor says if she were to go skydiving again it would have to be someplace beautiful, like Hawaii.
Courtesy image

Repeat performance: Once Taylor got her bearings, she loved it. “It was an incredible experience,” she says. “I would do it again and again, as long as I was somewhere beautiful like Hawaii.” Taylor, while floating in the air, said to her guide: “‘This is your office. This is what you do everyday.’ And he said, ‘Yup.’”

Not predictable: Taylor’s next big trip is planned for the fall, to the Caribbean. She’s not sure what adventure she will embark on there, or even before then, saying “I’m up for anything.” Taylor chuckles when asked if her family worries for her or encourages her to take up a more tame pastime. “My parents,” she says, “have learned to “expect the unexpected with me.”



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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