A senior at Palmer Trinity School, Sara Abbassi has already gone through more in her life than most teens. When she was three years old, her father was diagnosed with Stage Four breast cancer. He passed away from the illness when she was 10.
“Since it’s very rare, when they found out he passed away, people made comments to me,” she says. “When I was in the sixth grade, my mom and I entered the Race for the Cure, but the pamphlet they handed out only breast cancer information relating to women. We called and talked to them for about two hours. The next year’s pamphlet included a section for men.”
Abbassi says it is becoming more common for men to develop breast cancer, which is why they wanted to get the section about men included in the brochure.
Because of her early experience with cancer, Abbassi has been involved with the Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation since she was in the sixth grade.
“I raised about $1,000 in sixth grade and in seventh grade the school helped me raise money,” she says.
Last school year, they organized the Dig Pink Volleyball game in the Palmer Trinity gym against Gulliver. They sold tickets to the game and snacks
“With that money, plus the donations, we raised a total of $4,000,” she says.
Abbassi says they have another volleyball game scheduled and they hope to raise twice as much because it will be against archrival Westminster.
Because of the experience of losing a father at a young age, she volunteers her time at the Children’s Bereavement Center.
“When I lost my father at the age of 10, my mom enrolled me and brother in the Bereavement Center at Ransom” Abbassi says. “We learned that death was a common thing and that we weren’t the only kids to suffer through the experience. We talked with the kids and that really helped me. I went there for a year and my brother started working as a volunteer when he was 16. I told myself that I would also volunteer when I was 16. Now, I go there every Monday.”
Abbassi says when she goes to the Center she can’t help but recall her early days there.
“I remember my first day, my first meeting,” she says. “I was crying and I wouldn’t talk to anyone because I was so scared. I went there a few months after it happened and I really couldn’t express that much.” But she says it wasn’t long before she began to see that other kids were experiencing feelings just like hers, but they were starting to let go. Today she takes pleasure in seeing the children smile and laugh during the Center’s therapy sessions.
While Abbassi spends much of her time on cancer-related community service, she did take time out last February to go on the Palmer Trinity-sponsored mission trip to Nicaragua. “It was honestly one of the best things I’ve done,” she says.
“It was life changing; you really learn to appreciate what you have.” Abbassi went with a group with 16 students and two chaperones. In one week, the group built a house and interacted with children in the neighborhood.
“On the last day, we visited a place that was kind of like an orphanage, with one house for the guys and one for the girls,” she says. “We played with them and talked to them. There was another day that we went to the local dump and talked to the kids there about the importance of dental hygiene.”
When she graduates, Abbassi plans to go on to college to become an oncologist. She is considering applying to American University, Northeastern, Florida State University and the University of Florida.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld