Sarah Lomax surrounded by hats. Photo by Collin Richie.
Tragedy spurs action to help educate others
Lauren Savoy Olinde passed away from Stage IV melanoma on Jan. 21, 2012. She was 27 years old, a newlywed, and a recent graduate of the School of Pharmacy at UL Monroe. Her path was promising, her life too short.
But this loss has generated a counterattack on skin cancer: the Lauren Savoy Olinde Foundation. “I think of Lauren in everything I do,” says Sarah Lomax, who co-founded the LSO Foundation with her sister, Emily Lomax Gonsoulin, and now serves as its director. “Lauren was my constant, my best friend.”
Since Olinde’s death, Lomax has worked tirelessly to spread awareness about melanoma. She has hosted a 5K, organized a fundraising event, and made critical connections with others in the field. She has found solace in the cause. “People need to know that moles can become skin cancer, and you can go through this at age 25,” says Lomax. “Lauren was fair-skinned and very careful about sun exposure. She was always the first to sit under the umbrella at the beach.” The message is especially important in Louisiana, a state that has high UV intensity levels and a population that spends a lot of time outdoors.
The foundation was officially formed two days before Olinde passed away. “I let her know that we were moving forward to plan the 5K,” says Lomax, smiling. “That was a great moment.” The foundation held its inaugural Hat Run in April 2013, and it was a stunning success. Told to expect 300 people to participate the first year, Lomax had to cut registration off at 650. She followed the race with a Top Hat Soiree in November 2013. The foundation raised more than $100,000 its first year. The funds went toward multiple projects: purchasing hats for area lifeguards, constructing a sun canopy over BREC’s Perkins Road Community Playground, and launching sun safety education campaigns.
“Lauren was the best-educated skin cancer patient you could find. That’s why the foundation is so fitting—it’s all about awareness,” says Lomax. “I hate that we have Lauren’s story, but we have it for a reason. It’s a problem that I can help solve.”
For more information on the foundation, see lsofoundation.org.