In 1992 at ten years old Tara Lawrence lost her grandfather to prostate cancer. She was devastated. Tara began volunteering at her local American Cancer Society to honor her grandfather. Tara met children battling cancer who said they hated losing their hair and looking different. Tara understood their anguish so she started writing letters to local companies asking for hats. Hats came pouring in. The local news learned of Tara and wrote an article which brought in even more hats.
In 1996 Tara’s letter writing campaign blossomed and Tara formed a 501 C 3 non-profit, Hats Off For Cancer. Tara developed her first website and reached the international community. Hats came in from all over the world. While babysitting, Tara earned the money to ship the donations to the hospitals and camps that she is still partnered with today. She reached out to children all over the world to let them know that people care and understand what the simple gift of a hat means. Tara looked into the eyes of children fighting cancer and did something to help.
As one of the original hat charity organizations, Tara has motivated many others to start their own programs. After appearing on Montel Williams, a Texas viewer was so stirred she held a drive collecting over 1100 hats. Christina Fulton, actress/designer, held a Hollywood red carpet event to benefit HOC. The impact of HOC has been phenomenal. Mayor Rudy Giuliani of NYC determined that Hats Off For Cancer was such a wonderful program that he proclaimed a special “Hats Off For Cancer Day” in NYC in 1999. Mayor Ed Rendell followed suit and did the same for the City of Philadelphia.
Hats Off For Cancer has collected and donated more than 990,000 new hats to children in five different continents. Schools, churches, celebrities, companies, sports teams, politicians, girl scout troops and boy scout troops, and even the FBI held hat drives.
Tara is now a 29 year old woman who has spent the majority of her life helping children with cancer. She has never taken a salary from HOC nor has anyone else associated with her program. She continues to fund HOC with her own money and donations received.
“Over the last sixteen years I have had the opportunity to meet many children battling cancer. I have sat in hospital rooms with these children and held their hands while they received their chemotherapy, sat with parents who had stories that filled my heart with love and hope, and sat with parents who were told there was no hope at all. Each child has his or her own special story, and a special spot 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. ” Tara Lawrence