By Noelle Neader | Photos by Kelsea Schafer & Contributed
Now as a junior at Hoover High School in the business academy, Sara Hancock seeks to bring awareness to breast cancer research and honor her mother, who she lost to the disease in 2019, by bringing people together in the community.
“My day-to-day life is very busy,” Sara remarks with a soft chuckle.
Beyond heading her nonprofit organization, Sara is a photographer, a chapter officer, District 1 Vice President with DECA and serves as historian for the “Teens Need Teens” organization, which is dedicated to helping students lead a drug, alcohol and tobacco-free lifestyle.
The life that she leads is defined by her heart and dedication to the community that she calls home, starting with the creation of To The Fullest Foundation.
To The Fullest Foundation was born through a Facebook fundraiser that Sara put together in October 2020. “I was just messing around when I created the fundraiser,” Sara recalls. “But by the end of the month, I had raised $5,000.”
After understanding the depth of the platform she had, Sara unlocked the necessary potential to start something greater than herself. Her second fundraiser was also created on Facebook but was accompanied by an in-person event at Whole Scoop to raise awareness and curate connections in the community.
Ten thousand dollars was raised in January 2021, and Sara knew that something special was brewing.
“Promoting and running a nonprofit came naturally to me,” Sara admits. “I think it made me realize what I wanted my life to look like and gave purpose to everything that I do.”
At the center of it all, she knew that she wanted her mother’s legacy to serve as the foundation for the organization’s impact.
“The name of the organization is based on the way that my mom lived her life, ‘to the fullest,’” Sara explains. “I like to say that I am a lot like her in the way that she always went after something new and did everything that she possibly could to the fullest of her ability. Every opportunity that she got, she took.”
Sara expresses that the older she gets, the harder it is to remember the details of her mother’s life. By naming her organization this way, she focuses on the most prominent feature that she wants to remember about her mother: that she lived her life to the fullest.
“After I lost my mom, I needed a reason to just live in general,” Sara shares. “Finding that purpose was difficult because I questioned what I could do with my life. I struggled with the idea of why my mother was gone, but I was still here. To someone going through similar emotions, don’t give up. There is hope for everyone, whether that be starting your own nonprofit or doing anything that you can find happiness in. The healing process is so different for everyone. You will have good days and bad days, but you cannot let the bad days define you.”
Before, she had lost a vision of what her life could be. Now, as a 16 year old creating a community through breast cancer awareness, she knows that life is what you make it.
Sara says hope exists within every individual. By fostering an atmosphere of togetherness, To The Fullest Foundation is able to not only connect those who share a sense of grief, but also spread vital knowledge about breast cancer to young people.
“Even though my mother went through breast cancer three separate times, I am still constantly learning something new,” Sara admits. She believes that the more knowledge an individual has, the more power they possess as well.
“My team and I are changing and saving people’s lives by sharing what we are learning about the signs of breast cancer. The main goal that I want people to take away is that they need to be aware, and there is always more to know.”
Through various events that the organization attends or hosts, individuals can speak to members of the team and gain information on signs of breast cancer and find a safe space to thrive in a community.
Though Sara finds great reward in shaping the lives of others through her nonprofit, her journey did not begin as a simple endeavor.
At just 15 years old, she was tasked with sorting out the legality of a new organization. “I had no idea what I was doing going into this,” Sara says. “So, I was looking things up and hoping for the best. For example, we just finished filing for 501(c)(3) certification, which means that we would be an official tax-exempted nonprofit. It is a difficult certification to receive, but it has been a great learning experience for me.”
With the help of Mary Nobles Hancock, Matt Hinshaw and Wood Herren, To The Fullest Foundation became an active nonprofit! To The Fullest Foundation’s co-founder and vice president, Radhika Pant, is a good friend of Sara’s and is also the backbone of this organization
“I owe so much to Radhika,” Sara explains. “She exemplifies what it means to have passion for an organization. Radhika has been my rock since day one, and I truly could not have done this without her. She is my better half, and she is the hardest worker that I know. Radhika is known to never step down from a challenge, and she is an invaluable asset to the team.”
The biggest success in the eyes of Sara and her team comes through creating relationships with others and forming communal links that extend beneath the surface level.
“Seeing all of the people that are meeting others who care about breast cancer awareness as much as I do has been empowering,” she recounts. “My favorite part of going to events is when people come up and tell us their stories. Whether their family member has breast cancer, they lost a loved one or they have had it, we love to connect and hear their story. The original intention of this foundation was to touch someone else and show others that they are not going through this alone.”
To The Fullest Foundation provides the tools for individuals everywhere to learn about breast cancer, starting with the community that has been founded and fostered in Hoover, Alabama.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer for early detection is crucial, as well as being a part of something greater than oneself. By joining To The Fullest Foundation, one can accomplish these and more–all they have to say is, “yes.”
To remain up to date on events that To The Fullest Foundation will be hosting or attending, one can visit their various social media platforms via Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the organization’s website, tothefullestfoundation.org, for updates.
Signs of Breast Cancer
“Some of the biggest signs are lumps on your breast,” Sara says. “These are incredibly easy to check for. Women should begin checking, starting at a young age. The sooner that you catch it, the easier it will be to treat it. Additionally, swollen lymph nodes, rashes and other abnormalities on the breast and chest regions can be signs and should be paid attention to regularly.”
Join the Community
“Some of our events are led by us, such as hosting a basket drive in September where we made baskets with blankets, magazines, candies and chapstick for people going through chemo, radiation and treatment,” Sarah explains. “For the most part, we join in on events that other organizations put together. In October, we went to the Cahaba Brewing Company with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama and set up a table to talk to people about who we are and why breast cancer awareness is important.”
The foundation also hosted a spirit night at Sunshine Nutrition and set up at the Hoover vs. Chelsea football game at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
“This football game was a pink-out game, supporting breast cancer awareness,” Sara says. “So, we [had] a table out front, talking to every person that we encountered and handing out flyers and bracelets.”
Members also attended the “Pink Up the Pace Walk” in Birmingham on Oct. 23. This is a race that exists to raise money to help fund imaging services that detect breast cancer.
Whenever an opportunity arises, Sara and the rest of To The Fullest Foundation will always support efforts to prevent, detect and treat breast cancer. More importantly, they remain steadfast in their faith that coming together makes people stronger, happier and overall, one step closer to living “to the fullest” of their abilities.