Lavar Jacobs spreads message of awareness with Not Just October
by Devon Anderson
When people think of “breast cancer awareness,” the first thing they tend to think of is the month of October. It is, after all, the month that seemingly everyone focuses their efforts on breast cancer walks, memorials, fundraisers and the like ,as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Akron’s own Lavar Jacobs has set out to challenge that mentality, and he spearheads his nonprofit, Not Just October, to get the message out that breast cancer awareness is a cause worthy of attention all year long.
Lavar started Not Just October after losing his own mother, Kim Jacobs, to the disease in 2009. As he was only twenty-three at the time of her diagnosis, Lavar expresses regret now at age thirty-one at not being there for her fully or understanding what the disease was doing to her. He wasn’t as involved as he now believes he should have been; he found himself driven to do better for other women to honor his mother’s battle.
Lavar had the idea to start a nonprofit for a while after she passed, but it wasn’t until a few years later that he felt he was fully ready to focus his entrepreneurial spirit in the direction of Not Just October. As a bus driver in the city, Jacobs had a lot of time to think about his goals and what he really wanted to do with a nonprofit whose mission it is to spread breast cancer awareness to those who may not think of it as regularly as they ought.
Watching his mom go through everything she did, he could see things that needed to be done that weren’t taken care of. And he wanted to change that.
“I wanted to create a culture of breast cancer awareness,” says Lavar. “I really push the message onto women to do their self-tests and mammograms. I have a slogan: More Self-Tests, Less Selfies.” He believes more women need to get their mammograms before age 40, as the disease doesn’t wait until age 40 to strike. He wants women to know their options before it’s too late.
Not Just October provides unique services for women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Lavar can arrange to have a person’s grass cut or house cleaned. He also has connected women who have completed treatment and are going back to work with life coaches, a sort of mentorship program to help the women ease back into the transitions of life and provide them someone to talk to who can give them tools for success. Lavar will even pay for hair and makeup services for women who are going through treatment, or even after treatment ends, to help them feel more like themselves for an event or for a little self-care.
Lavar receives funding for Not Just October through donations as well as from his own pocket.
“I’ll spend my last if it means helping someone who needs it,” he says.
Lavar can be found on social media, out in the community, at special events, wherever he needs to be to spread the message and mission of Not Just October.
“I talk to people in the grocery store, wherever I go,” he says. “I am always open and friendly because you never know who you are talking to.”
Two billboards will be up in Akron from October 2-9 that showcase Lavar with two women affected by breast cancer in Not Just October’s new camo-inspired t-shirts.
“We are declaring war on breast cancer, so this year we will be featuring our camo and military-inspired t-shirts and hoodies,” he says.
In fact, this October, Lavar is leading a troop of 150-200 people to the American Cancer Society Making Strides walk, decked out in camo and other military-inspired gear.
“Everyone wears pink or black or white at these events,” says Lavar. “I want to stand out, as we always do, and show them that Not Just October is here and ready to help them.”
Lavar works as hard as he does with Not Just October for one reason: his mom.
“She is why I do all of this,” he says. “I’m going to make sure her mark is left.”
She passed away at age 49, and he feels she had so much living left to do. Within the next five years, he hopes to have the Kim Jacobs Breast Cancer Resource Center, which will house an on-site doctor for minor consultations, a psychologist for therapy sessions alongside massages and a support group, along the same lines of the good work done at Stewart’s Caring Place.
“I won’t stop until my mom has a park, a street, a building, something,” says Lavar. “I want to be a full-time philanthropist. No one can take this away from me. At the end of the day, if zero people donate to Not Just October, I’ll still do this out of pocket. There is no stopping this. I’m too far in now.”
To get more involved or donate, please contact Lavar Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org or find Not Just October on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @NotJustOctober.
[All photos courtesy of Lavar Jacobs.]