25 Aug
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Tamara’s Way Provides Access to Care

Tamara’s Way is a foundation established in memory of Tamara Hardwick. Tamara was diagnosed at the age of 66, in Houston. She requested that when she passed her family honor her by making sure women had access to preventive care and treatment. Sharon Barfield, Tamara’s best friend for 48 years; Sharon’s daughter Tiffany and husband Gary; along with two of Tamara’s grandchildren and her daughter-in-law Nikki who provided much of Tamara’s caregiving in the two years she fought breast cancer, presented the first check to The Rose — $5000 – in April 2014. For more information, email dctiffanys@yahoo.com.

HOUSTON — Tamara Hardwick’s memorial was held at L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, LA.  As usual, Tamara got her way. When it came to recognizing the end of a life well-lived, she wanted a celebration – not a funeral.

And Tamara’s Way continues.  Donations and memorials are still being collected almost a year after the 66-year-old died of breast cancer. The 501c3 established in her memory and with her mandate to make sure women would have access to the preventive care she denied herself has already ensured that her wishes are coming true with a $5000 gift to The Rose.  Plans are to make a gift to the nonprofit breast health organization each year on August 26, Tamara’s birthday.

A mother, grandmother, shopper, community advocate, and lover of chance and pulling together just the right look to go with each of her roles, Tamara Hardwick was known primarily as a giver. If she knew of a need, she would fill it. When her two sons Joby and Jareb entered school, she soon became a member of the Pearland School Board and helped bring the first high school to the area. As an “adopted aunt,” she made sure t-shirts were made, recitals were attended, and praise was given. As a friend, she provided laughter and love at any time of the day or night. And as a caregiver, she put others needs before her own.

Unfortunately, that last trait meant her breast cancer wasn’t discovered until it had reached stage four. Though she knew annual mammograms were important, she put them off. Not until the cancer was actually breaking through her skin, did she seek help. And, even then, after two years of treatment trials ravaging her body and leaving her with open wounds and broken teeth (the one complaint she had as she so loved to look good when going out), one of Tamara’s last acts was ensuring that other women would have access to the care that she had denied herself.

Tamara’s Way – so named because Tamara was known for getting “her way” in most instances – is a fund established after Tamara’s death last October. Founder Tiffany Barfield, formerly of Pasadena and now Director of Special Projects at Autism Speaks in New York, had known her “Aunt Tamara,” as her mom’s best friend and her own source of strength and optimism that had nurtured her through childhood, youth and a career that has taken her from a role in The White House to now nonprofits.

Tiffany helped set up the fund’s account almost immediately after the death of Tamara. They had discussed the gifts that would be made in her honor and Tamara was emphatic that mammograms be provided for those who could not afford them. Tiffany’s mother Sharon, friends with Tamara since their days at Gulf Oil in the 1960s, is a patient at The Rose and knew of its mission to provide for the uninsured.

“For years, Tamara didn’t have health insurance,” said Sharon of her best friend’s practice of putting off an annual mammogram. “I told her she probably wouldn’t have to pay that much, but she always put herself on the back burner and took care of everyone else. She paid for it with her life…. In the end, she must have known because she was the one who told Tiffany, I want it to go to The Rose, to help other people get mammograms. Maybe with this we can help save someone else.”

Devoted to fun fashions,  jewelry, and creating just the “right look” before going out, Tamara as the mother of two sons,  enjoyed lavishing her “adopted daughter” with bows and customized t-shirts when Tiffany was a child. When she visited Tiffany at The White House (Tiffany had a staff role in the Bush administration) she eagerly volunteered for the July the 4th preparations donning her red, white and blue attire and giving a ready welcome to visitors as she gave out ice cream treats on the South Lawn.

Sharon knew that she and Tamara would be fast friends back in 1966 when they both worked in Gulf’s credit card department. “When I got on the elevator, she said, ‘I know I’m going to like you, you have as big of hair as I do,’” explained Sharon of Tamara’s infectious joy that saw them through marriages; children; Sharon’s special needs daughter Trina’s many health scares, hospitalization and death at 21; Tamara’s divorce; numerous trips to spend a little money on penny slots; and … shopping.

“She was my shopping cart buddy,” Sharon explained with a laugh. “We liked to shop where they have the grocery carts – Ross, Walmart, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx. You couldn’t compete to see who could get best bargain with her – she won every time. She was like a bargain magnet.”

“I have a lot of friends, but I lost the best friend of my life,” said Sharon. “Tamara was a dear, sweet loving friend who loved people – friends, family, my daughter — unconditionally.”

The Barfield and the Hardwick families along with other friends hope to honor that unconditional generosity with annual gifts to The Rose.

“My inheritance from Aunt Tamara is that I don’t back down. I’m sassy,” said Tiffany. “I’m good to people no matter where they are in their life … just like her. And that’s why I’m so pleased to be partnering with The Rose, because of what they do in the community. They know the importance of early access to care and prevention.  And through Tamara’s Way, we want to provide people who are less fortunate with access to care.”

When the initial donation was made to The Rose’s CEO Dorothy Gibbons, stories the family shared with her took her immediately back to the days of founding the nonprofit. She remembered the many women who she had witnessed who waited because of financial or family demands to get a mammogram. And she lamented that a life force “fueled by joy” as Tamara was described would have been lost so soon.

“We still see many women today who put off and find themselves just like Tamara, facing a devastating prognosis,” said Gibbons, who has spent almost 30 years at the helm of the breast health organization that has served nearly a half a million women. “A screening mammogram so often gives annual peace of mind, but it’s also a way to catch this heinous disease early enough to treat it and … give that woman her life back. I mourn with the Hardwicks and Barfields and all those who knew Tamara. And I celebrate that her generosity of spirit will be honored with each mammogram we give because of Tamara’s Way.”

Tamara’s Wayis a foundation established in memory of Tamara Hardwick. Tamara was diagnosed at the age of 66, in Houston. She requested that when she passed her family honor her by making sure women had access to preventive care and treatment. Sharon Barfield, Tamara’s best friend for 48 years; Sharon’s daughter Tiffany and husband Gary; along with two of Tamara’s grandchildren and her daughter-in-law Nikki who provided much of Tamara’s caregiving in the two years she fought breast cancer, presented the first check to The Rose — $5000 – in April 2014. For more information, email dctiffanys@yahoo.com.

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