The Woman’s Day Awards

Kate Carter, Founder and Executive Director of LifeChronicles, Santa Barbara, CA
Nominated by: Linda Schwartz, board member

by Dana Gottesman

“Every day I see men and women in defining moments of their lives. They are in a time crunch,” says Kate Carter, 55, founder of the Santa Barbara, California, nonprofit organization, LifeChronicles. With a video camera and a team of volunteers, Kate’s life’s work keeps memories alive, as she produces films filled with touching recollections and parting messages. Often, her film subjects are terminally ill.

There’s a saying that every time someone dies, something, somewhere is born. It was 1998, and Kate was at a back-to-school night for one of her three children. Terry, her best friend, took her aside and said her breast cancer had advanced and she only had a short time to live. “I kept thinking, what can I do?” said Kate. “I felt her children were so young that they may not remember her.” Kate decided to produce a video memoir of Terry for her family and friends, but her sickness progressed too quickly and she never had the chance.

Since her friend’s passing, Kate has produced almost 400 videos and has visited over 20 states to film for LifeChronicles. Her subjects range from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease patients at the early stages of their disease, to women who are giving up their babies for adoption and want to explain why, to military service members who’d like video reminders of themselves to give to their children. “It is often really empowering for those being taped,” says Kate. “Sometimes the participants just blossom in front of the screen. They feel they’ve been given one last thing they can do to benefit their families.” Today, Terry’s youngest daughter is a member of the LifeChronicles team.

LifeChronicles partners with volunteers from high schools, colleges and the community to produce and tape films. The videos are free to those being taped, although donations are accepted. Kate hopes to implement programs at universities and hospitals to better serve families facing degenerative and terminal diseases. Currently, she is an adjunct advisor to the neuroscience department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, because of her therapeutic work with Alzheimer’s patients. Often her film subject’s personal stories stay fresh at the forefront of her mind. “A man with progressive Alzheimer’s told me what he wants for his wife is for her to be able to hear him say ‘I love you’ when he can’t anymore,” Kate recalls. “What it means to these families means everything to me.”

For more information, visit the Women’s Day website.

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