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Calabasas resident brings smiles with Hats Off for Cancer; Host a Tea Party or Hat Drive and help!

Posted By Karen Young On August 31, 2010 @ 12:32 am In Activities,Family,Featured,My Daily Find,spotlight | No Comments


Tara Lawrence was only ten years old when she lost her grandfather to prostate cancer. The loss hit her hard and the young dynamo with a philanthropic heart turned her sadness into action by volunteering with the American Cancer Society to help other families cope with the same devastation she witnessed in her own.

Host a tea party or a hat drive to help collect more hats. Above: Mad Hatter Kids

“I knew I had to do something to make cancer patients happier,” says the 28 year old. “Along the way I met children who had cancer and they all told me how much they hated losing their hair. I knew I could pair my love of volunteering with my hope of making childhood cancer patients feel loved.”

As a teen she founded Hats Off for Cancer, a non-profit that procures new hats from individuals and organizations and distributes them to cancer patients all over the globe. To date, the Calabasas resident has amassed over 750,000 hats – and hopes to inch closer to the milestone million hat mark with the 4th annual nationwide Hats Off for Cancer Mad Hatter Day Hat Drive this October.

In 1996 Tara began her quest with a small letter and telephone campaign to local businesses, public offices, celebrities, schools and civic organizations. Oprah, Britney Spears, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Kardashian and the Rascal Flatts have all answered the call for caps.

The teen’s tireless effort to distribute these hats to hospitals, camps, individuals and organizations that support childhood cancer patients landed her on the Today Show, Montel Williams Show, Rosie O’Donnell Show and in the pages of national magazines. With each appearance, more and more hats would come her way. And she and brother Dennis, the hat drive coordinator, have seen to it that the hats get in the hands – and on the heads – of the kids who need them most. All over the world.

Tara Lawrence has collected over 750,000 hats and hopes to reach one million by October 6.

Kelsey Fagnou, a resident of Canada, was only four years old when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Her mother Laura says treatments can be “very hard” on the little girl and “she was very excited when she was able to pick out a new hat from a big box of them. Other kids at the clinic had on new hats as well. The Hats Off program is wonderful and it has made kids smile in our corner of the world.”

Jill Caterham, Play Specialist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, says the recipients were “overwhelmed by Tara’s generosity. Especially the teenagers.”

Jean Wong from Camp Goodtimes in British Columbia was also overwhelmed by the generous amount of hats shipped to their Vancouver offices. “When our campers pop on their hats,” she says, “they stand a little taller, their smiles become bigger and the twinkle in their eyes becomes brighter.”

Actor Eric Christian Olsen (The Back-Up Plan, Brothers and Sisters, NCIS L.A., Community) visits hospitals on behalf of Hats Off for Cancer to personally hand out hats, visit with patients and sign autographs. “He’s a loved and respected addition to our Hats Off family” says Tara. For Olson, it’s an apparent labor of love “It’s one of the few great charities where we can all have a direct and tangible effect on the lives of others,” he says. “In the simplistic yet profound way we can give the gift of hope in a journey that sometimes breaks us, but with the outcome that afterward we are stronger in the broken places. I feel so lucky to be part of this.”

The Hats Off for Cancer website (hatsofforcancer.org) is the portal to donate a monetary gift or hat, plan a hat drive with a school church, office or club, download a pattern to knit a cap or request a hat for a cancer patient.

Tara Lawrence

Beyond the million hat mark, Tara says she plans to fund a summer camp for children and their siblings whose lives have been touched by cancer. She also hopes to establish a scholarship fund and spearhead a book for teachers to read to their class when a student is diagnosed with cancer.

“Over the past sixteen years I’ve met many, many children with cancer,” she says. “I have sat in hospital rooms with the children and held their hands while they received chemotherapy. I sat with parents who had stories that filled my heart with love and hope. I sat with parents who were told there was no hope at all. Each child has his or her own special story and a special place in my heart. After each visit I walk away with a promise to myself and the children that I will never stop doing what I do until every battle has been won for each child fighting cancer.”

Hats Off for Cancer Mad Hatter Hat Drive Day is October 6th. To find out how you can host a party to collect new hats for children with cancer, contact hatdrivecoordinator@hatsoffforcancer.org.

Judith A. Proffer is Vice-Chair of entertainment/media company Meteor 17, where she oversees creative development for film, television & literary projects and charitable initiatives. Co-founder and former Executive Editor of Sun Community Newspapers, she was publisher of LA Weekly and OC Weekly and is currently writing “How to Love Your Dog: A Timeless Compendium of Information and Inspiration” for her Huqua Press.

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