OGDEN -- Friends and family all sat together on a recent Sunday night to plan a huge fundraising event for Lindsay Richards, who has a rare form of cancer that is attacking her liver.
Becky Anderson sat in the middle of the group, giving ideas and judging when their ideas were too big or too small. Anderson isn't a professional fundraiser or event planner. She is a cancer survivor and hopes that soon Richards will be able to join her.
It was three years ago that Anderson got the stunning phone call from her doctor -- she had breast cancer. She sat on her couch, numb from the news, while her two toddler boys played around her. From there, Anderson began a journey that not only changed her life, but those of many more.
Soon after her diagnosis, Anderson's friends and family started to organize a benefit for her. They kept it a secret from her for quite a while, because they knew she wouldn't want to accept the service. When they showed her the website they had created for her fundraising event, her instinct was to say no to the event.
"I am prideful," Anderson said with a smile. "But I thought at that moment, 'Don't let your pride ruin this moment.'"
She quickly told her friends and family that if they wanted to hold the event in her honor, they had to agree to help her with someone else who may be in need as well.
They agreed, and her event was a success. Friends and family members shaved their heads in a show of support. The event also had a children's corner and an auction.
Soon after, she started planning events for other cancer patients. Things started to take off, and she and others decided to put together a nonprofit organization called "Anything for a Friend." That's what her friends called her original event.
Since the first event, Anything for a Friend has held 23 fundraisers, even though the intent was only to do four a year.
"It is heartbreaking to turn people down. I just can't stand it," Anderson said.
One of her biggest reasons for wanting to do the organizing is so people don't have to reinvent the wheel, she said.
She talked about several things for Richards' event, set for Sept. 7 -- such as the kids' corner, fun run, balloon send-off, dinner and many other activities -- and said, "We have done all this, and we know what works."
Anderson remembers well some of those first events when she was bald and sick from cancer treatments, but feeling buoyed by the people around her.
"I love doing these things, because I love to see the innate goodness of human beings," she said.
Anderson's friend Kristi Morris agreed. Tears flowed down Morris' cheeks as Anderson talked about some of the many acts of service she has seen over the past three years that people have done for their loved ones who have cancer.
"There are so many stories," Morris said. Then, with emotion, "But this woman is completely amazing."
She put her arm around Anderson, who talked about some of her personal experiences with her family while she was going through her cancer.
"There are moments when you feel all alone, and then you remember the moments when everyone was around you, showing their love for you," Anderson said. "We are not in pain for pain's sake; there is something more for us to learn, and we can learn incredible things."
Anderson works with a 12-member board to select the Anything for a Friend candidate and then sets up their profile on her website. From there, anyone can donate money, time or items toward an event or just toward that specific person. Anderson and others on her board then help plan and coordinate the event. Anderson often will receive checks for large sums of money for a certain person on her site, or people will offer to donate large items for auctions that are held at each event.
The reality for many of the cancer patients is that the $40,000 or $50,000 that may be raised in the event won't even scratch the surface of the medical bills.
"The thing is that it is a such a breath of fresh air for families that have been hit with something like this," Anderson said. "To see the support of the families and friends, they truly know they are loved."
Anything For a Friend's newest event will be for Richards, a mother of five young children who was diagnosed with angiosarcoma, an extremely rare cancer representing 1/50th of 1 percent of all cancers. Richards, born and raised in Ogden, said she feels loved and blessed to be the recipient of such kindness of family and friends.
Her event will be Sept. 7 at Weber State University, with a fun run at 7:30 a.m. at the Dee Events Center and a dinner, silent auction and drawing beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the WSU Union Building.
"I have seen people I haven't seen or heard from in 10 or 15 years," Richards said of people helping with her event. "I never knew or thought of how amazing people can be."
She smiled and picked up her 2-year-old daughter and kissed her cheek.
"I only hope I can turn it around and pay it forward somehow," she said.
For more information on Richards' event or on Anything for a Friend, visit www.anythingforafriend.com.