Phoebe Foundation Announces 2021 Lights of Love Tree Lighters

Staff Report

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

This holiday season, the Phoebe Foundation will honor local cancer patients and their families with its annual Lights of Love tree lighting ceremony. Sam and Kara Shugart, of Albany, have been named the honorary tree lighters for this year’s ceremony, which will take place virtually on Thursday, December 2 at 7 p.m.

As one of the founders of Cancer Ties, a local cancer support non-profit, Sam Shugart was already familiar with Phoebe’s outstanding cancer team when he was diagnosed in 2017 with stage 4 Tonsillar cancer. “I had a mass on my neck. I went to a doctor. They tested, tested, tested, tested and said, ‘It’s absolutely not cancer,’” But, they were wrong.

After his cancer diagnosis was confirmed, Sam says he could’ve probably gone to any oncology department in the country, but he chose Phoebe Cancer Center, right here in his hometown. “I vetted and vetted and researched and here’s the deal: at Phoebe Putney, if you’ve got cancer, you’re in the right building. We have an awesome cancer center,” he said.  

Just a few months, before Sam’s diagnosis he met Kara, who had recently returned to Albany. “I told her, ‘I don’t blame you if you walk.’ And, of course, she did the exact polar opposite and was an incredible caregiver,” Sam recalled.  

Sam and Kara planned to get married in early 2020 but COVID pandemic derailed those plans and then Kara was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall. Sam, of course, knew just what to do and within days, Kara began an intense treatment regimen that included chemotherapy, cold-cap therapy and a double mastectomy. 

While both Sam and Kara feel blessed to have strong ties to area medical experts, they both agree that at the end of the day, the level of care they received from Phoebe’s cancer team is something the group provides to any patient. “As far as having everybody’s phone numbers, I felt like the doctors gave them out to any and everybody,” Kara said. “They genuinely care about people.” 

Finally married, Sam and Kara are both on the road to recovery and honored to be this year’s Phoebe Foundation Lights of Love tree lighters. “This provides yet another opportunity to give back and help others,” added Sam.  

The other honorary tree lighters are Alex Riccardi-Turner, of Americus, at Phoebe Sumter and Carole Marchant, of Sylvester, at Phoebe Worth. Their stories of hope, along with Sam and Kara’s, can be found by visiting

Started in 1983 by the Junior Woman’s Club of Albany, Lights of Love has since raised more than $1 million for cancer services and patients at Phoebe Cancer Center. This year’s donations will benefit the Light House, a place of respite and comfort for cancer patients throughout southwest Georgia as they prepare for and undergo treatment.

The Lights of Love trees are special for their symbolic white lights in memory and honor of individuals. For each light purchased for a suggested $25 donation, a card is sent to those honored or to family members. To donate, call (229) 312-GIVE or visit

The public is invited to watch the Lights of Love ceremony on December 2 at 7 p.m. on the Phoebe Foundation’s Facebook page (@phoebefoundation). For more information, contact Phoebe Foundation at 229-312-4483.