YORK COUNTY, S.C. - Nearly 18 years ago, former Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth hired a hit man to kill his pregnant Charlotte girlfriend, Cherica Adams.
As Cherica lapsed into a coma, her son, Chancellor Lee Adams, was deprived of oxygen. He was delivered by emergency cesarean section and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Since then, Saundra Adams has been devoted to helping her grandson work hard to overcome his challenges.
Adams received a special and emotional honor Wednesday in York County.
Saundra Adams was given an award in her daughter’s name for helping other victims of domestic violence.
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For the past two years, Saundra Adams has tirelessly visited battered women and their abusers, sharing her story to help others.
“What I want to make sure is that her life and her death meant something; that it was not in vain,” Saundra Adams said.
Carruth is still serving his 19-year prison sentence, with an expected release in 2018.
Adams thought she was showing up at a meeting to discuss domestic violence programs.
She didn't know she was the highlight of the program.
"I'm excited to do this, and I'll try to do it without crying,” Adams said.
Adams’ pregnant daughter, Cherica Adams, was killed in 1999 after Rae Carruth, a former Carolina Panthers wide receiver, hired a hit man to shoot her.
She died a month later after giving birth to Chancellor Lee.
"What I want to make sure is that her life and her death meant something; that it was not in vain,” Adams said.
Adams turned her hurting heart into helping hands, tirelessly visiting battered women and their abusers.
She often visits prisons and rehab facilities with Chancellor.
The boy she calls her "smile minister" has cerebral palsy as a result of the shooting.
"The message is one of forgiveness and that we don't mourn what we have lost but we celebrate what we have left,” Adams said.
Adams started sharing her story of hope and forgiveness in York County two years ago.
The county brought her in to help with a new domestic violence program.
The state is now expanding the program to 10 other counties because so many hurting people have listened to Adams’ story and changed their own.
"It offers me encouragement. I don't ever intend to slow down. This is my destiny,” Adams said.
On days when deep, scarring pain washes over her, all she has to do is look at her daughter's name carved into the award to remind herself why this matters," Adams said.
"This is making a difference in someone's life, so it gives me hope to keep pushing on as well,” Adams said.
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