Her parents abandoned her and cancer once tried to pin her to the mat, yet Tina Skaggs has remained a fighter who is soft-spoken yet strong in body and spirit.
The 50-year-old Greenwood resident's life experiences have forged a strong desire in her to always help and encourage children. That ongoing drive to better herself and help better others very well could have stemmed from her own adoption. When she was 4, Tina and her siblings were taken out for ice cream by their father. What initially felt like a normal family outing took an unexpected metaphorical turn on the way home.
"My dad announced, 'Well girls, I love you, but you're not going to see me after this,'" Tina said.
When she was 5, Tina pulled back a curtain to peer out of a window, only to see her mother climb into a car and drive out of her life. Three lonely days later, representatives from Social Services were called to help Tina and her seven siblings, who would be placed into the care of Tina's grandmother on a farm in Booneville.
"She became our forever hero," Tina said of her late grandmother, Mary Ellen Harding. "She had two commercial chicken houses, gardens, orchards, livestock and ponds, and she taught us to work hard. She was a strong lady and did the best she could for us."
Tina and her sister, Traci, would be adopted by Danny Scharbor.
"We gained a sister, Holly, and a mom, Connie, too at that time," Tina said.
"It took decades to realize that adoption didn't mean you hadn't been lovable; in reality, it meant our birth parents were just incapable — selfish — of loving us," she added. "I work with a lot of kiddos and my childhood has helped me know just how to help certain children. For that, I am grateful, and adopted or not, every child wants to matter to the adults around them."
Overcoming her parents abandonment was not the only obstacle to overcome in her young life.
Following her 19th birthday, Tina became severely ill. Medical officials wrongly guessed it was flu before erroneously thinking her symptoms were caused by pregnancy. She later was diagnosed with neuroblastoma with a teratoma core.
"After a tumor the size of a grapefruit was removed, I was scheduled for 20 rounds of chemotherapy in Little Rock over a four-month period," she said. "I started my senior year of college without a stitch of hair."
A wig and a scarf became what Tina called her "glam look" that fall season. Following a second surgery from scar tissue, she was declared cancer-free.
"A cherished memory of Danny Scharbor is when I woke up after one of my cancer surgeries scared and in pain ... (he) sat quietly by my bed all night without ever saying a word," Tina said.
Those early life lessons are a significant driving forces behind her motivation to help area children.
As executive director for Preschool Extraordinaire, a nonprofit child-care center in Greenwood that serves about 120 area children, Tina has made it a priority to help educate and inspire children each day.
Tina and her husband of 32 years, Kelvin, did all of the planning and a large portion of the building of Preschool Extraordinaire themselves. She even wired the intercom system for the preschool. The school follows a faith-based curriculum and currently has four classes of 4-year-old children, three classes of 3-year-old children and one class for 2-year-olds.
"We have themed classrooms and school themes each week," said Tina, who graduated from Greenwood High School in 1986 and Arkansas Tech University in 1989. "Our goal is to make these children leaders in kindergarten.
"And we are completely self-sufficient," she added of Preschool Extraordinaire. "We could apply for more grants and help, but then we would have to abandon the Christian aspect of our nonprofit. I just can't do that."
During a recent tour of Preschool Extraordinaire, Tina was greeted and hugged by many of the young children who attend the facility.
"Miss Tina! You and my mom are friends!" shouted one young girl before she wrapped her tiny arms around Tina's right leg.
A couple seconds after seeing Tina enter his classroom, a young boy stood up and walked over to her. He showed Tina the baby doll he was carrying before burying his head and shoulders into Tina's pant legs for a hug.
"Yes, this one is a hugger," Tina said while grinning. "Our mission is to focus on the children. The children are the priority."
Tina also finds time to utilize her large, home-based commercial kitchen, baking cakes, pies and cookies for the Dari, a diner in Greenwood. The avid fan of Christian singer-songwriter Matthew West and author-speaker Max Lucado also caters weddings and large parties, and at one time, she hosted an after-school mentoring program for girls ages 11-16.
"The girls loved having a place to just talk," said Tina, who is a member of the Greenwood Education Foundation and attends Harvest Time in Fort Smith. "We cooked and we talked about what was important to them."
Tina then paused for a few seconds.
"I might possibly start that mentoring program up again," she said. "That is for sure a possibility."
The story of how Tina met her husband seemingly always brings a smile to both of their faces. Their three-year courtship began inches away from the Greenwood High School basketball court.
"I had a friend, whose name shall remain anonymous, who was sitting by Tina, and I was sitting on the other side of my friend," Kelvin said.
Tina initially thought the boy sitting next to her was interested in her, until he surprised her by saying, "I'm going to go sit with other friends instead." Seconds after the boy vacated the seat, Kelvin scooted over and began a lengthy, friendly conversation with Tina.
"It was pretty quick, yes," Kelvin said of his chemistry with Tina. "I saw those beautiful blue eyes and that was it. She had me."
Tina married Kelvin in 1987 and eventually would see the arrival of their son, Morgan, and two daughters, Savannah and Bethany. Tina and Kelvin remain focused on their own children, just like the children at Preschool Extraordinaire.
"This is how you work to build strong children," she said. "Your strengths become their strengths.
"There are haters out there but you have to ignore them," Tina added. "You just have to stay positive and surround yourself with positive people."
When asked if her busy work schedule ever interferes with her sleep schedule, Tina laughed and closed her eyes.
"No," she said while still smiling. "Whenever I'm tired, I'll just take a nap, and then I get up and I work some more."