Battling teenage cancer
483. Lara Stevens
An occupational therapist from Cardiff has personally raised over £85,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Lara Stevens was presented with her award by the Prime Minister at a reception for St David’s Day held at 10 Downing Street. Lara Stevens (née Cowpe), 28, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was seven years old, spending the subsequent two years undergoing treatment. Fast forward to when she was 16, Lara was inspired by her own circumstances, as well as a representative from Teenage Cancer Trust, to support the charity.
She began by fundraising with the support of her local church in Dinas Powys, raising £300 through a church disco. She wanted people to realise that being a teenager is one of the hardest times of your life, even without cancer, so it was important to her that she could support those affected by the disease.
Lara started the fundraising group Teen Spirit in 2012 and in their first year managed to raise an enormous £20,000, growing to £44,000 after two years earning them the prestigious Wales Volunteer of the Year Award. Starting with just six people, the group has grown and now consists of 12 young people that Lara has inspired through her fundraising work.
She spearheads one of the group’s biggest fundraisers each year: the October Masquerade Ball. She has organised four balls so far and their last one in 2014 attracted over 350 people and raised £16,500 in one night.
Lara was nominated for a St David’s Award in 2014 and became a finalist, which led to her being invited to a drinks reception for the NATO summit in Cardiff- where she met both Prince Charles and Barack Obama. She was also nominated to be an Olympic torchbearer in 2012.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Lara is an inspirational fundraiser for Teenage Cancer Trust. As well as raising a fantastic amount of money herself, she has set up “Teen Spirit” through which other young people are also volunteering to raise tens of thousands of pounds. Her tireless work is making a difference in the lives of many young people fighting cancer and I am delighted to recognise Lara as the UK’s 483rd Point of Light.”
“I do what I do to help others, I never expect to get this kind of recognition. I couldn’t do what I do without the members of Teen Spirit and those who support us: friends, family, local businesses. I am honoured to have been chosen as a Point of Light and I hope it inspires others to volunteer. Anything, no matter how small, can make a difference to somebody.”
Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Wales, said:
“Lara’s own story is quite simply inspirational. As a teenager suffering from cancer, she had the immense courage to turn that experience into something that continues to benefit other teens. Lara has gone on to become an accomplished fundraiser and her group Teen Spirit is a beacon for young people affected by cancer. There could be no worthier winner on St David’s Day and Wales is proud of her.”