A life lived in selfless devotion to the happiness of those around her—that’s the theme of what you hear time and time again from friends and family as they remember Lara Adams, who passed away from breast cancer in 2016 at the age of 47.
“Lara had a personality and a face that just really stood out,” Robin Watson remembers of the time that Lara sought treatment for her cancer in the office of Dr. William Skinner where Robin works as an oncology RN.
“She was upbeat, she would come into the office and have all the patients in the waiting room talking to each other.”
“She was always thinking about other peoples’ needs above her own.”
“She was really just an amazing person.”
Lara’s husband, Sam, knows that his wife was someone that people admired.
“She is the person that everybody would want to be,” he says.
“If you’re striving to be, at least in my eyes, the perfect person, that’s her.”
“She’s a great role model, a great mother–she’s somebody that you always look up to.”
For someone like Lara, a cancer battle was hardly something that would be enough to dampen her one-of-a-kind spirit. And alas, it was not.
“One of the things that, through her five years with cancer, she was probably the most positive person that you’d ever meet. You’d have never known she was sick,” Sam remembers.
Sam recalls his wife as a beacon of hope and positivity for fellow cancer patients.
“I met someone a year after Lara had passed away from Vanderbilt Hospital and she talked about how much Lara helped her stay positive just by talking to her once in a doctor’s office,” he says.
“A lot people who were her friends who now have the same illness look to the way that she was as far as her positivity.”
Nearing three years after Lara lost her battle with cancer, she is much more than simply an ideal of how to wage a war with zeal, she is the living spirit that guides Lara’s Celebration, a non-profit organization dedicated to the needs of those suffering from cancer.
It was, in fact, Lara’s own words that planted the seed that would eventually become the organization that bears her name.
Robin Watson, who serves now as a Lara’s Celebration board member, remembers the phone call that changed everything.
“When she got to the end of her journey, Lara called me just a few days before she passed away and said that she really didn’t want any of the donations in her name to go to flowers or something like that, she said she would like to have some sort of celebration of life for people who were going through chemotherapy,” she recalls.
It was an idea, that those stuck in the trenches of a cancer battle might benefit from a way to celebrate the lives they were fighting so hard for, that stuck with Robin and the other members of the staff of Dr. Skinner’s office.
In 2016, the inaugural Lara’s Celebration took place with cancer patients from across the region joining together to have dinner, dance and remember the times before chemotherapy treatments, oncology appointments and pain medications.
“That once a year that we can get together and help other patients by giving them a night out where they have no stress, no worries where they can relax and try to be as normal as possible, that’s good,” Sam says of the celebrations, which are in their third year now.
Trina Laster didn’t know about Lara’s Celebration when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2018 and started chemotherapy in Dr. Skinner’s office the next month. But, when she was given a ticket to the 2018 Celebration, she realized quickly the difference between the organization and others.
“One thing about Lara’s Celebration that really caught my heart was that it is for patients that are currently going through cancer,” she remembers.
“They have all these benefits for survivors, which is great, but what I do really admire about this Celebration is that you see everyone who is currently going through.”
“It’s amazing to see that and to come out and have a night full of laughs and good food.”
While the annual Celebration remains the backbone of the organization, the generosity of the community’s support for it means that very quickly the support began to outweigh the costs, leaving board members with surplus funds and the question, “What would Lara want us to do with them?”
Fortunately, the Board of Directors for Lara’s Celebration is filled with those who knew Lara the best, including her husband, her brother, her close family friend Tori Schroeder and Robin, who all combined to form a network of support for Lara during her life and cancer battle.
They drew their answer from one of Lara’s personality traits that they loved the most—the desire to help others.
So, that’s what board members do. If a cancer patient is struggling with affording necessary medications, Lara’s Celebration gladly steps in and provides the funds. For those who have to travel long distances for appointments, the organization gives hotel stays, gas cards and restaurant gift cards to ease the financial burden. Groceries, cancer treatment supplies and even a replacement appliance…the organization tries to provide for as many needs as possible for those who need to remain focused on their health.
In 2019, the organization will kick off yet another branch of Lara’s Celebration—an annual $1,000 scholarship given to two area students whose lives have been impacted by cancer.
Sam knows that his wife, who was an educator herself, would be a proponent of furthering education for young people.
“That would really be important to her that we do these scholarships,” he says.
In all, Sam believes that Lara is smiling down on all of the organization’s actions.
“It means everything to us that we can do this for her,” he says.
“She was just that kind of person.”
“She would love the fact that we were doing this, but the fact that her name was on it would kill her because it was never about her, it was about others.”
Lara’s Celebration relies upon donations to fund their annual Celebration event and all of the outreach to cancer patients that they do throughout the year. Donations can be mailed to:
PO Box 9311
Paducah KY 42002
If you know of a cancer patient that would benefit from Lara’s Celebration, you can reach out to the organization via their Facebook page.