Sofia’s Hope sweeps through Columbus

What if I told you that one girl can change the world?

In early March of 1999, Sofia Blanco was born in Miami, Florida. Sofia grew like a normal toddler, becoming a very bright girl for her age and getting ready to attend pre-school. However, around 2003 after Sofia turned four years old, she had a sharp pain in her stomach. Later that week, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the lymphatic system, at the age of just four years old. The Blanco’s lives would be changed forever.

“It was really difficult as her mother to see her go through that,” said Marta Blanco, “and I just hoped she would be healthy again.” Finally after a year, their prayers were answered. Sofia was cancer-free.

Sofia, then five years old, was able to live out the coming years healthily and happily. She attended St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic school until third grade, then transferred to St. Louis Covenant to complete elementary and middle school. Unfortunately, she found herself fighting health problems yet again in the seventh grade. This time, however, cancer was not to blame: it was the chemotherapy drugs that had helped her fight it.

Sofia began feeling weaker, encountering serious heart issues. In early April, Sofia’s heart stopped pumping. She couldn’t breathe. She was rushed to the hospital and put in the E.R immediately and on April 3, 2012, Sofia died– she was 13 years old.

The Blancos and their community were shaken and devastated. In a period of heartache and anguish, Sofia’s mother took her sorrow and directed it in a positive direction. Marta would unite the community together and create Sofia’s Hope—a non-profit organization with one sole purpose: to help children with cancer. Marta’s goal is to help those families suffering from her same experience.

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Children apart of Sofia’s Hope’s Equestrian program

“I started Sofia’s Hope. . . with the mission of educating people about pediatric cancer and teaching the dangers that chemotherapy drugs possess to children that have suffered from cancer,” said Blanco. In addition to raising money for cancer patients and raising awareness for pediatric cancer, Sofia’s Hope also runs several recreational activities to bring joy to sick children.

“I feel like I’m doing something and giving Sofia’s death a purpose,” said Blanco about Sofia’s Hope. Sofia’s Hope initiated several programs at local hospitals to help these children maintain a joyful and positive mentality, despite the seriousness of the situation they are facing. These activities, many of which were started in memory of Sofia, include horseback riding and arts and crafts– favorites of Sofia’s.

Over the span of just two years, Sofia’s Hope has already made a significant impact. But the organization isn’t done yet; with the experience accumulated throughout the past two years and an ever-determined mindset, Blanco hopes to take the organization to the next level. She hopes that in the future, everyone will become aware that there are pediatric cancer patients dying on a daily basis. She’s also put in place different goals that she hopes the organization can achieve very soon.

“I’ve been working mostly with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to try and further progress Sofia’s Hope by offering a college scholarship to cancer survivors from the hospital. I’m also giving Nicklaus Children’s Hospital a $15,000 research grant, which will allow them to test kids to see which ones are more susceptible to heart-damage from the chemo they receive,” said Blanco. Marta Blanco is doing everything in her power, so the legacy of her fallen daughter lives on.

While Sofia Blanco may have passed, she has played a significant role in the fight against pediatric cancer posthumously. Through Sofia’s Hope she lives on. And through Sofia’s Hope, however gradual the process may be, she continues to change the world.

To find out more about Sofia’s Hope, you can visit her website here

Jake Gonzalez-Mir and Jorge Raad assisted in the making of this story

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