Cara G. Becker, a Towson University student and entrepreneur whose spirit of volunteering began in her childhood, died Monday of leukemia at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The Towson resident was 21.
"In her young life, Cara Becker touched so many people, in such special ways, which is why 2,000 of them came to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation [on] New Year's Day to listen to Cara's favorite songs, to see her infectious smile and beautiful face on the video," said Richard Sher, the Baltimore broadcaster and longtime family friend.
Cara Gwen Becker, the daughter of a businessman and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Owings Mills, where she attended Garrison Forest School.
While Ms. Becker was a lower school student, she learned that she was dyslexic, which "explained the tremendous frustration and anxiety she had with school," her father, Eric D. Becker, founder and senior managing partner at Sterling Partners of Baltimore, said in a eulogy he gave Tuesday at funeral services for his daughter.
"This became Cara's first real challenge; reading and book learning were nearly impossible. Even with tutors, the work took three times longer to complete," said Mr. Becker. "You will see that this became a thread throughout her life, taking on difficult challenges, voluntarily or unvoluntarily, and overcoming them."
Mr. Becker, who lives in Pikesville with his wife, Jill, explained that because Cara was challenged, this instilled in her a deep empathy for people who also faced challenges, and that accounted for her voluntarism at an early age.
"She and her friend Mandy would get on their bicycles in the neighborhood and against my wishes would literally stop traffic to collect money for different causes," he said. "On the day after 9/11, they collected money for the Red Cross."
"Cara could always relate to the underdog," Mr. Becker said in an interview Wednesday.
While resting in her room after a routine outpatient tonsillectomy in 2008, Ms. Becker developed hyponatremia, a common electrolyte abnormality, which led to brain trauma, whose effects took her about a year to recover from, family members said.
Grateful for the Hopkins doctors at the Kimmel Cancer Center who had treated her and the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Department ambulance crew who had transported her there, Ms. Becker held fundraisers.
"She wanted to do something and raised money for Hopkins and for the ambulance crew. She convinced the manager at Best Buy [to donate] a flat-screen TV and sat at a folding table in front of Trader Joe's in the Festival at Woodholme and at Green Spring Station selling tickets," her father said.
"The proceeds went to the fire department, and the TV was delivered to the winner by a firetruck," he said, while she personally delivered her donation to Michael C. Hibler, senior associate director for development at the Kimmel Cancer Center.
After graduating in 2009 from Oldfields School, Ms. Becker worked as a sales associate at Princeton Sports while attending Stevenson University. She later transferred to Towson University, where she was studying marketing and communications.
While living in The Palisades of Towson, she met a fellow student, Adam H. Klein, a senior psychology major at Towson who lived on the same floor.
"Cara was beautifully complicated, and that's what made Cara Cara," said Mr. Klein, who said they had dated for the past two years.
"We liked cooking together and taking long walks through Towson," he said, and it was after one of those walks that Ms. Becker made sandwiches for the homeless they had encountered.
"She knew the different areas where they were, and she had no problem going up to them and asking if they wanted a sandwich. She wasn't afraid of them and they were so grateful," he said. "She always worked hard at helping others."
Last spring, Ms. Becker began volunteering at the Living Classrooms Foundation in fundraising and was honored at the organization's fall gala as a rising star. Last summer, she worked at the new Four Seasons Hotel downtown as its inaugural pool girl.
Also during the summer, Ms. Becker approached her parents with the idea of creating a Cheez-It-like cracker that was gluten-free. She was attending meetings in late August with them in Chicago regarding its development when she was suddenly stricken.
After being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, Ms. Becker withdrew from Towson University.
Ms. Becker entered the Kimmel Cancer Center at Hopkins, where she faced about 70 days of chemotherapy. "She had completed her chemotherapy a week ago Sunday, and then got ill later that week and passed away in her sleep," her father said.
An outdoorswoman, Ms. Becker enjoyed snowboarding, going to the beach, and even had gone sky diving. She liked playing with her puppy Happy.
Her brother, Greg Becker, who moved back home to Pikesville to help care for his sister, is continuing his sister's dream of developing Cara's Cheesebombs, which he said is still in the research and development phase.
"Cara was very energetic and always wanted to be involved. She was always rushing from one thing to the next," he said.
Ms. Becker also liked writing poetry and in a poem dedicated to her closest friend, Lauren Brown, had written what it felt like to be ill in recent years.
"I know you're scared I'm leaving but don't be, because no matter what happens we will always be looking up at the same stars and moon," she wrote.
In addition to her parents, Ms. Becker is survived by another brother, Jake Becker, also of Pikesville; her paternal grandparents, Gordon Becker of Towson and Rita Becker of Baltimore; her maternal grandparents, Dr. Larry and Alma Becker of Pikesville; and many cousins.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun