By Terry Miller
Soccer (football) is really catching on in America in a big way … especially women’s soccer. So when we recently heard of a 5-year-old girl being drafted to UCS Women’s Soccer, we did a double take.
At 21-months-old, Monroe Elementary kindergartener Sofia L. was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), the most common type of blood cancer found in children. She went through three years of chemotherapy daily, had another type of chemo weekly, and a third type of chemo monthly.
The chemo worked, but now she is battling numerous side-effects. She has a very weak immune system and gets sick easily. She is just starting to get involved with activities.
However, this determined young lady, Sofia, was recently drafted to the USC Women’s Soccer Team through Team IMPACT, an organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team.
On Sept. 11, Sofia was drafted as a full member of team, attending practice, games, and additional team building activities.
Team IMPACT works with more than 430 universities across the country and just recently announced their 1,000th match!
“Unfortunately, Sofia hasn’t been allowed to play any kind of sports because of immune system complications and chemo. Thanks to the time with USC women’s soccer and Team IMPACT, Sofia has become more appreciative of the sport.”
– Being involved in Team IMPACT and the USC Soccer team:
According to Sophia’s mom, Letty, “Sofia attended an LA Sparks game with the team and she was so happy she couldn’t sleep that night. She couldn’t stop dancing because her friends were with her that day and paid attention to her. It shows that she needed to belong to something.”
She continued, “Sofia is a brave and real hero. She fought like a champion and won! Team IMPACT has given her the chance to experience the beauty of sportsmanship. She feels that she is not alone; she belongs and feels motivated to thrive against the challenges she was left after chemo.”
The bubbly 5-year-old told her mother that the team is truly an inspiration, “My USC woman’s team makes me feel, happy, loved … actually all the emotions, mom. They like me! And want me here forever because they are like sisters to me.”
At a mere 5 years, Sophia and has gone through more than most people decades older.
– How has her treatment been affecting her daily life with school and friends?
“Sofia hasn’t had a chance to be a child because of her weakened immune system. She has a hard time engaging with others as she hasn’t interacted with other kids her age because she has had stay away due to the side effect of her illness.”
“She can’t go on the monkey bars and other playground activities because she can’t keep up and she’s never done those before. She also has to eat a different diet than other kids her age to maintain health.”
With the team spirit of the women at USC, we can only assume that Sophia and her family will “Fight On” and win this battle.