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Hitting rock bottom changed this woman's life. Now, she's giving back in Tacoma's East Side.

Jennifer Wing
Sheree Cooks on a tral in Tacoma's Swan Creek Park


This story originally aired on June 1, 2019.

Sheree Cooks is a 37-year-old working mom of three. She’s been a leader of parent teacher groups in Tacoma. She gives talks to school administrators about race and equity, and she co-founded the nonprofit Eastside Community Action Network.


Cooks has a deep love for Tacoma’s East Side — a low-income part of town that is on the upswing, but still struggles with crime. Improving the health of people in this neighborhood is part of the mission of her nonprofit. Cooks is hoping to lead three walks in Swan Creek Park this year.


“I’ve always gone on trails outdoors with my kids, and you didn’t see many people out there on the trails, Cooks said. "I wanted to expose more people to these beautiful spaces in our area."


Thirteen years ago, Cooks could not have imagined herself being so active in the community. Cooks says that none of the work she does today would have been possible if she hadn’t hit rock bottom. Her child’s tumor — and, later, her own health problems — changed everything.


In this story, we’ll hear how a serious illness put a young life in jeopardy, and how this experience made Cooks re-evaluate how she was going to live her life moving forward.


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.