Family Pays Tribute to Sophie by Funding Research
It’s been nearly two years since Mark and Missy Meinhardt heard the tragic news. Their 18-month-old daughter Sophia Grace (Sophie) had a rare and aggressive brain tumor, and nothing could be done to save her.
“We were shocked and devastated by the news,” Missy says. “Sophie was an energetic, free-spirited child, always on the move and determined to keep up with her three older sisters.”
Sophie became ill while on a family vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina, in August 2006. Her parents took her to a local emergency room two different times, but weren’t confident in either diagnosis. “I just had a gut feeling something was seriously wrong,” Missy says.
After taking Sophie to a third doctor, they learned their daughter had a brain tumor. She was admitted to the local hospital for tests.
“As we came into the room for the test results, the doctor had his head in his hands. We knew it was bad,” Missy remembers. The doctor encouraged the family to return home to Cincinnati Children’s for care.
Sophie had a cancerous brain tumor known as Atypical Teratoid / Rhabdoid Tumor or ATRT. These tumors can be surgically removed, but they begin to grow back immediately. Survival is rare, typically less than 10 percent, for children with large tumors or ATRT that has spread throughout the brain.
Beautiful, strong little Sophie defied the odds by not showing symptoms of her fast growing tumor until the very end. Within a matter of days of learning of Sophie’s condition, the Meinhardts had lost their little girl forever.
“We couldn’t save Sophie, but in order to heal we needed to help other children like her,” Mark says. “The only way to end this disease is by supporting research to find better treatments and a cure.”
The entire Meinhardt family and some friends organized a fundraising run / walk to support brain tumor research at Cincinnati Children’s. It was a natural choice since Mark and his daughters Olivia, 15, and Madeline, 14, are avid runners. And Sophie loved to ride in the double jogging stroller with her sister Mia, 4, as their daddy ran.
The first annual Sophie’s Angel Run was held October 14, 2007, at St. Jude Parish in Bridgetown. The event attracted 1,500 participants and raised more than $40,000 for cancer research at Cincinnati Children’s.
“The event is our way to honor Sophie, our little angel up in heaven. We’re blessed that the community has been so supportive of us,” Mark said.
“Sophie’s Angel Run is an event about love and hope,” says John P. Perentesis, MD, FAAP, director of the oncology program at Cincinnati Children’s. “We will honor Sophie’s memory by moving forward with research to better understand the cause of these tumors and develop better treatments.”
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