Sophia started this journey when she was a sophomore at Westmont Hilltop Junior Senior High School in Johnstown, PA. before COVID, in 2019.
One of nearly 400,000 people diagnosed with Leukemia in the United States, Sophia knew the risks of living and being treated while immune-compromised.
In February 2018, she was diagnosed with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (BALL) – a fast-growing type of blood cancer, in which too many immature white blood cells are found in the bone marrow and blood. Then in December 2020, she was diagnosed with Mylodysplastic Syndrome in which she underwent a stem cell transplant in March of 2021. Early on in her diagnosis, she endured many long days that were often filled with doctor appointments and chemotherapy treatments. Since the beginning, she decided remain optimistic during her treatments with blood cancer, and advocated for those dealing with similar circumstances.
Sophia passed away on August 31, 2021 due to complications from her cancer at the age of 17.
Sophia believed that when a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, their whole life is put on hold.
The cancer process from treatment, to reassessing priorities, to handling all the daunting information thrown at them, is overwhelming. When a child loses their hair, can't run anymore, or play as they used to, their life seems bleak. Miracle Masks is dedicated to bringing a flicker of joy into the hospital, pushing out the isolation, sadness, and anxiety. She believed that the masks provides a way to remove barriers, from one that signifies "I'm sick," to instead, "I'm living life."
Her idea was conceived after completing her Silver Award in eighth grade, the second of three awards needed to reach the highest level in Girl Scouting. After receiving a reusable, cloth flower mask from her Aunt Rosalind during her treatments she wore it proudly around the hospital. She had many compliments from kids asking where she got it, and that spawned the idea on what to do for her Godl Award.
"I thought how great it would be if every kid could have a specially designed mask to wear like me!"
Sophia set out to find friends and family members to help her design a few templates that closly mimiced the disposable masks already in the hospital that would be easy for a new sewist to a seasoned one to sew quickly. The co-Leader, Toby Holland, from her troop, 40309, a seamstress, really helped nailed two patterns!
After a few trials, the two were able to find a good pattern that was easy to work with. She also worked with a Graphic Artist Stephy Makdad, who helped her design the pattern in an easy to use PDF, which she also helped her to design a hand card to pass out to sewing groups interested in helping.
Sophia's mentor, Dorris Caldwell advised her every step of the way--she has her own non-profit, Ryan's Case for Smiles, in which she makes pillow cases for kids with life-threatening conditions. Isn't she Amazing?
And of course, Sophia's Mom Mom, Mary Tuinstra, a sewer, worked with Sophia on strengthening her sewing skills.
"Thank you all for learning about me and helping me with my project!"
A Big Thank you!
Thank you to the following people who have helped Sophia on her Girl Scout Gold Award project! Maybe you can support them too!
Girl Scout Gold Award Project Advisor
Girl Scout Gold Award Mentor