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The heart of the Beautifully Flawed Foundation is in the love experienced at retreats for young men and women who have suffered great loss, inspired largely by the life and experience of Bethany Hamilton. Bethany’s story has been told thousands of different ways, but what you might not know is that the story of our ministry today, in many ways, started with a surf accident years before the headlines that you already know of.

Sarah’s Story

Life was hard from the beginning for Sarah Hill. Enduring years of childhood abuse and multiple surgeries, water polo became an avenue of escape for Sarah. 

“I was least vulnerable in the pool,” she says. “When I played, people didn’t have to know my real story.”

Sarah was just shy of starting her collegiate career as an athlete on a full ride scholarship when she hit bottom, slamming into the ocean floor on a summer surf trip to Oceanside, California. At just 17 years old, Sarah was diagnosed with a broken neck and back, but the experience was metaphorical, as it was both her physical body and her spirit that broke. 

This single moment diverted the trajectory of Sarah’s life. Instead of prepping for her first collegiate season, she had surgery. Her physical training became the tedious days of therapy that followed. Her physical independence was stripped as she required a driver just to attend to basic tasks of adulthood. With her sense of self and identity stripped away, she felt that she had nothing left to live for. 

“I had never heard something personal from God in my life,” says Sarah. “I didn’t know what people meant by that. But I cried out that I needed to hear something and that was when I learned about surrender. He told me, ‘I can bring purpose to all of the pain.’ So I stopped asking the question ‘why’ and committed that I would live that promise out.” 

From an aspiring student of physical therapy and sports medicine, she pivoted to Bible college. It was through this change of circumstance that Sarah would eventually move to Kauai, Hawaii on a deep lead from her refreshed faith in God. That is how she was led to meet Bethany. 

The Ripple Effect of Overcoming

It was this story of her injury and her comeback that Sarah would share in van rides, beach excursions, and youth group gatherings. This was the story that Bethany would know deeply about Sarah’s identity that would shape as the caregiver of the children of the North Shore. It was this story that Bethany would remember in the moments following a shark attack, and why Sarah would be the person waiting at the hospital for the ambulance’s arrival after the incident. 

In the days following the headline story, the Kauai community came together to support the Hamilton family in what would later become the Friends of Bethany Foundation. Sarah was a founding board member and lead the inaugural charge of sending care packages to individuals of recent limb loss. But it wasn’t until 2018 that Sarah would take the leading position of the foundation as Executive Director, effectively pulling a wavering ministry out from the rubble and refreshing it into the Beautifully Flawed Foundation as it exists today. 

What started as a project to use overflow cash from Bethany’s medical expenses has become a national ministry headed for international expansion. The Beautifully Flawed Foundation is the collection of stories of people who have overcome challenge, as exemplified by Sarah and Bethany, but it hardly ends there. Sarah’s story became Bethany’s story, which became the story of the young men and women that attend each of our retreats. And now those stories become the stories of the family and peers that surround our retreat attendees, which then blend in with the stories from our Anchored in Love Conference as we campaign to reach a broader audience worldwide. Impact is an exponential network and this foundation endeavors to unite such a community on the principles of biblical faith. 

Truth is, Sarah will be the first to admit that she feels hardly qualified to be the head of an entire organization such as the Beautifully Flawed Foundation. But she is truly an amazing one-woman show: she operates a double-time youth ministry, is on the board of multiple other ministries, manages her own public speaking tours, as well as inspired thousands through her public speaking. The very heart and character of who Sarah is embodies the tenacity of what this ministry is about.

And while she may feel at the end of her rope sometimes, Sarah always returns to the Bible verse through which she encountered her first ever response in prayer:

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Make Incredible Things Happen

Help further our mission and programs that support young people living with limb difference or those who’ve experienced traumatic limb loss by making a tax-deductible donation.