It was a magical moment on the field on Tuesday afternoon, when the Bellarmine Bells and the Serra Padres lined up on the field to honor Sofia Rodriguez, the 3-year-old daughter of Bellarmine Head Baseball Coach Mike Rodriguez.
Sofia was diagnosed with leukemia on November 10, less than two months after the birth of her younger brother, Michael.
“Sofia is extremely playful,” Mike Rodriguez said. “She has an amazing spirit. Pediatric cancers need more support; they only get 4 percent of funding.”
Serra Head Baseball Coach Craig Gianinno wants Rodriguez and his wife, Gina, to know that they have a lot of community support and prayers from the Padres.
“Looking at Sofia’s page is hopefully an avenue for people to increase awareness of pediatric cancers,” Gianinno said. “It becomes a reality when more people are aware of the cause or can relate to someone battling the disease.”
Sofia’s target completion date for her treatment is March of 2018. On Tuesday, the Padres presented Rodriguez with a colorful gift bag for Sofia, as well as a sign that read “Sofia strong.” A “Sofia strong” donation box circulated in the stands, which raised several hundred dollars.
Serra Head Soccer Coach Jeff Panos, his wife, Polly, and twins, Ellie and Timmy, attended the ceremony to show their support. Ellie was diagnosed with the exact same cancer and was treated at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, just like Sofia. Ellie, now 6 and in remission, threw out the first pitch.
"Within the pediatric cancer world, those of us who have been through a life-changing diagnosis with our own children - who have barely learned to walk and talk let alone fight a deadly disease - feel very connected to any new parents who join our ranks. You want nothing more than to start walking this path beside them. Hearing about Sofia Rodriguez and knowing Mike was a fellow educator and coach within our greater WCAL family, it immediately took me back four years ago when my wife, Polly, and I were surrounded for months by prayers of support and helping hands from friends, colleagues and parents who hav been through this whom we didn't even know until they reached out to say hello. With Ellie now being off treatment and, by the grace of God, cancer free for the past 2.5 years, it's our turn to pay it forward with infinite hope and support for Sofia.
“Moments like this bring true perspective and remind us that it’s bigger than a game,” Gianinno added. “We had an opportunity today to do something for a family that’s going through a challenging time. At the end of the day, the WCAL is a big family and we will all continue to support Mike and his family.”
For more information about Sofia Rodriguez or to contribute to her fund, visit posthope.org/team-sofia.