Maple Hill student, Sophie Tzunum, wins the hearts of an entire community

Madison Pape, Staff Reporter

This is Sophie Tzunum. She is a six year old first grader who goes to Maple Hill School in Naugatuck, Connecticut. On January 28, 2020 she was diagnosed with Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and she and her family are fighting it with everything they have.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Sophie’s diagnosis, the only visitor allowed to be with her during treatments is her mother. She has completed a little over a year of treatment but still has another year to endure. Sophie’s seven year old sister, Scarlett, beat leukemia just three years ago. 

According The Patch, the Pediatric Cancer Awareness Organization at Southern Connecticut State held a fundraising gala to benefit Sophie and her family on April 30, 2021. They have named her as ‘Child of the year.’ according to the organization’s president, Olivia Zembruski. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Sophie and her family by Carla Illas, a family friend. They have raised over $6,200 and hopes to raise $10,000 for her and her family.

“As a mom, I can’t imagine going through this with a child, let alone with two… My heart breaks for my friend May and their whole family and I don’t know how else to help them other than to continue to pray and try to lighten the (financial) load for this family with anything you can give. With any hospital stay comes a lot of expense and time away from work, so please, any little bit helps. If you don’t personally have the ability to help financially, please share this,” Illas posted.

Mrs. Ashley Kastelein, an English teacher at Naugatuck High School, recently spoke with The Greyhound News and has provided more information on Sophie’s battle. Mrs. Kastelein has headed efforts to further fundraise at NHS and within the community.

“Unfortunately this is not the family’s first experience with this type of cancer as her older sister is in remission. I do not know her personally; however, I hope I have the chance to meet her as she must be an amazing light with how the community is rallying behind her,” Kastelein told The Greyhound News

“Naugatuck High School became involved with supporting her and her family through Mrs. Brennan.  Mrs. Brennan, who is an English teacher who has been teaching remotely this year, mentioned to me that she would love to start fundraising here at the school in support and asked if I would be the point person in the building.“

The various equity clubs at NHS have been selling ribbons and pins. All proceeds from these sales will go directly to the family.

“Students and staff all across the building have been coming together to help; however, the social justice groups (Black Student Union, Diversify, Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and Young Feminists) are selling orange ribbons for $1 and buttons for $2 to help with the fundraising, “ Kastelein told us.

Sophie has begun aggressive treatment to fight her cancer.

Let’s continue to pray and keep Sophie strong!