“Shine bright like Sophia”: The 9-year-old cancer warrior gave back to others in battle

SANBORN, NY (WIVB) – There’s still a month to go bright gold, an evening to honor and support children with cancer. Proceeds go to four local charities that help struggling children, including a charity called Sophia the Fierce Incorporated.

Sophia’s story

“Sophia loved sunflowers,” said Kristina Benintende, Sophia’s mother. “You were a big part of our journey.”

The sunflower is bright, vigorous and a symbol of hope. And recently, on a Thursday evening, cancer patients and their families posed for free photos at the Sunflowers of Sanborn. They came together in honor of Sophia Benintende.

“Sophia was very caring, very generous and always thinking of other people,” her mother said.

In July 2021, Sophia was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that primarily affects children and adolescents. She started treatment, but from day one she refused to think about herself.

“We made many trips to Roswell. On her way home from Roswell, she noticed a man under a bridge.”

After seeing this man repeatedly, Sophia asked her mother to take her to the store to buy him a sleeping bag, pillow and blankets. She went through her father’s closet and collected some clothes for him as well. They even bought snacks together.

“And she made him a card,” Kristina said. “And the card said, ‘I hope that makes you smile.'”

Sophia then parked everything under the bridge.

“The next day we drove by again and she said, ‘Mom, he took it!’ He has it!'”

Less than a year after her diagnosis, in April last year, Sophia received the amazing news that she was in remission. So she decided to increase her help. She had the idea of ​​starting Sophia the Fierce Incorporated, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping others like her.

“Sophia loved having lemonade stands … that was her thing,” Kristina said. “And she made quite a bit of money.”

Sophia the Fierce Incorporated launched her large, bespoke lemonade stand and raised money through sales of the drink.

The nonprofit organization helps in three ways: recreation, relief, and research.

Respite: Sophia loved camping and seeing the Bills. A third of the profits therefore helped other children battling cancer with camping trips and sent them to games.

“As trivial as that may sound, it was huge for her,” said Jillmarie Giardina, Sophia’s aunt. “Going to the games while she was in treatment gave her something to look forward to each week and it was so much more than just watching football for her.”

Relief: Sophia wanted to help families in difficulty financially, so another third goes to financial aid.

“You never know what’s going to happen on any given day, and these families need help,” Giardina said. “It’s financially devastating for them.”

Finally, the last third of the charity’s proceeds go towards finding a cure for Ewing’s sarcoma.

Last summer Sophia increased the production of her lemonade and even sold biscuits. And in September, at the Shine Gold event, Sophia presented a check for $7,000 to help other kids with cancer.

“She was so happy to do that, just give something back,” her mother said.

But a day before she handed over the check, she found the cancer had come back.

And in May 2023, after fighting to the end, she passed away.

“Sophia never gave up the urge to fight,” said Kristina. “She didn’t want to stop fighting. Up until her last week, she said to my husband, “I’m not done yet.” I’ll get better this year. “Next year I won’t get any better, this year I’ll get better.” I’ll say that 100 times… With awareness comes funding, with funding comes research, and with research comes healing. And I think everyone should shine as brightly as Sophia does.”

Sophia’s family has granted their wish to continue the charity Sophia the Fierce Inc. They are currently raising money to build or buy a cabin so families can spend time together in the forest.

And on September 27th, you can help them achieve that goal by participating bright gold. The event includes food, drink and a huge fireworks display. It’s happening at Orchard Park Country Club. Tickets cost $75.

If you would like to donate directly to Sophia the Fierce Incorporated, Click here.

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Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning presenter who returned to Buffalo in 2018. You can find more of her work here and Follow her on Twitter.

Tom Vazquez

Tom Vazquez is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Tom Vazquez joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Tom Vazquez by emailing tomvazquez@ustimetoday.com.

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