HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Live fearless was one of Hannah Bates’s life mottos and she did just that every day of her 21 short years on Earth. To honor her memory, her zest for life and her giving spirit, her family and friends are giving back with the establishment of the Hannah Bates Memorial Scholarship fund through the Wallace State Community College Future Foundation.
Hannah passed away in February in a tragic ATV accident and her mother, Sonya McSwain Bates, said she knew almost immediately she wanted do something to honor her daughter’s memory. She was always there to help people,” Bates said. “She had such a huge heart.”
She had a huge personality. “The room lit up when she walked in it,” said her father, Lionel Bates. She also had strong faith and perseverance to overcome any obstacle she faced. At 12 years old, Hannah was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease ulcerative colitis, which caused her great pain and could be disruptive to her daily life when she experienced flare-ups. “She had to take a handful of medicine every day and she would have flare-ups about once a year,” Bates said, adding the medication caused her to lose her hair. “She never let it slow her down. She never missed a day of work. She never missed school because of it. She had a positive outlook.”
About seven months before she passed away she experienced her worst flare-up, which put her in the hospital for eight days. When she recovered, she got a tattoo that said “Strength takes guts.”
“She was always so strong,” her mother said. “She always lived life to the fullest. She said, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever live to be an old person, so I’m going to live and enjoy everything I possibly can.’”
She loved to fish, hunt, ride horses and ATVs. Jayclyn Nail met Hannah in the fifth grade. When Hannah found out that Nail had horses and was a barrel racer, she asked to ride her horses. The gelding Nail gave her to ride wouldn’t go very fast for her at first, until Hannah asked Nail to teach her to barrel race. “She got out there and she was running around the barrels and having a ball,” Nail said. “It was the first day she’d gotten him to run with her, and the next thing I know, she was running wide open and saying ‘Race me!’”
Fishing and horse riding both are among the first fundraisers they plan to host to raise money for the scholarship fund. The 2018 Hannah Bates Memorial Bass Fishing Tournament is planned for Saturday, Aug. 4 at Smith Lake Park. Registration will start at 5 a.m., launch at 5:30 a.m., and weigh-in at noon. Registration is $75 per boat, with a maximum of two team members per boat. Prizes include $500 for first place, $100 for second place and $50 for third place. Participants can register at www.wsccalumni.org/hannahbatesfish2018 or call 256.339.4950 or 256.595.5507.
A trail ride is in the works for the fall, with the date and location to be determined.
“We certainly appreciate the fact that you’re willing to do this as Hannah’s legacy,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics. “It’s a sad reason to do it, more than sad, but we’re certainly honored that you’d choose to do this on Hannah’s behalf.”
At the time of her death, Hannah was one semester away from finishing her associate degree in Business Management. Wallace State presented her family with Hannah’s diploma. She had previously earned her associate in science degree through Wallace State’s Fast Track program and had started the Nursing program.
“She always wanted to be a nurse since she was a child,” Sonya Bates said. “She volunteered at the hospital every summer.” After one semester in the program, she decided that nursing wasn’t for her and switched to the Business Management program.
For those reasons, a Hannah Bates Memorial Scholarship will be offered each year to students in the Fast Track, Business Management or Nursing program at Wallace State. The recipient will be based on financial need and an essay about how they’ve overcome adversity and obstacles in their life. The first $500 scholarship will be awarded for the upcoming Fall 2018 semester.
For information about the scholarship or to make donations to the fund, visit www.wsccalumni.org/hannahbates or call 256.352.8144. Donations to the Hannah Bates Memorial Scholarship may also be mailed the Future Foundation at PO Box 568, Hanceville, AL 35077.