Slaughter named Hermosa Chamber’s Woman of the Year
by Ryan McDonald
Sixteen-year-old Adrienne Slaughter was on stage in front of the members of the Atlanta Rotary Club. Before her was an audience of more than 500 people that included the CEOs of Coca-Cola and CNN. She was there telling the story of how she overcame a cancer diagnosis that forced the amputation of her leg at 14.
“I had my little index cards, but I didn’t look at them, because I was telling a story about myself: about being a tournament tennis player, about being ranked in the state of Georgia, about being among the best in the South and being predicted to turn pro. And then all of a sudden my knee hurts and two weeks later I’m having surgery and amputation,” Slaughter said in an interview.
Years later, Slaughter, a longtime Hermosa resident who recently moved to Redondo Beach, is this year’s recipient of the Woman of the Year Award from the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau, which she will accept at a ceremony Tuesday night. She is getting that award in part because of her ability to overcome adversity and to inspire others, some of the same reasons that put her on that stage in Atlanta years ago.
It was the first of hundreds of public speaking engagements she would go on to give, and she is still booked to give inspirational addresses to schools, foundations, and companies. But another aspect of that day continues to guide her path through life, and may be the part of Slaughter’s personality that people around Hermosa most associate her with her: relentless positivity. Part way through her remarks in Atlanta, she noticed a man in the second row with tears in his eyes. Instead of getting lost in the power of her own words, Slaughter resolved to use the adversity she faced to show those around her the power of optimism.
“Tell a true story, but keep everything bright. Put a punch line in here and there. I always joke, ‘I only have to shave one leg.’ You can bring in a positive, even with cancer. All we have to do is look. Even on our worst days, there is a sun behind those clouds,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter grew up the youngest of five daughters. Her family was close-knit and instilled in her from a young age the importance of hard work and giving back. She moved to Hermosa from the south in 1991 after spending a long weekend visiting a friend who was living on Hermosa Avenue. She fell in love with the community. After returning home, she interviewed for a position out west with Delta Airlines, where she was already working, and found herself heading west.
Her energy and attitude allowed her to tap into Hermosa’s civic spirit. She joined the Woman’s Club of Hermosa Beach, which helped her establish Adrienne’s Search for Children’s Cancer Cure, an annual event, now in its 13th year, that raises money for a different charity each year.
Rick Koenig was one of those impressed by Slaughter’s drive. Koenig, the president emeritus of the Hermosa Beach Historical Society, traces his roots in the town for generations, and was drawn to Slaughter by the way she was understood the spirit of the community. He asked her to attend a meeting of the Hermosa Kiwanis Club, then nominated her for membership. She would later go on to serve as the club’s president.
“She takes what some people might think of as a disability and turns it into a shining ray of hope for so many,” Koenig said.
Note: A previous version of this story provided an incorrect city of residence for Slaughter.