Suburban girl, inspired by brother, designs face mask and brings hope and help to others

Chicago's Very Own

HUNTLEY, Ill. After winning a national contest to design face masks benefiting the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and witnessing her brother battle brain cancer, 10-year-old elementary school student Sophia Erickson said she wanted to share her message of hope and help with other families.

“Hope is such a big thing in the world. Everybody needs hope, even if they don’t notice or feel happiness or hope, everybody can use hope,” Sophiasaid.

Her message inspired her colorful design that won her the most votes last fall in a national face mask campaign.

“I was actually surprised when I heard that I got first place because I kept on checking like every five minutes,” she said.

The national campaign was the first of its kind, partnering with Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and sending 50 percent of local proceeds to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

More than 30 contest entries were submitted and Sophia received the most votes.

The design has special meaning for Sophia and her family. In 2011, her younger brother Matthew was born with a tumor and had his first brain surgery at just four days old.

“We found out it was a grade 4 brain tumor and that no other child in this country had survived past 5 months old being born with this type of cancer,” Sophia’s mother Sue Erickson said.

Today, Matthew is thriving, having endured at least a dozen surgeries, always with his siblings by his side.

“Not only has it been Matthew’s journey, but Sophia is only a year older than him and Nolan was 5 when he was born, so most of their lives has been in and out of the hospital,” Sophia’s father Ben Erickson said.

Sophia said witnessing Matthew’s success first-hand was the biggest inspiration for her mask design.

“If Matthew wasn’t the way he is right now or if he wasn’t as happy or energetic, I would never have thought of this design,” Sophia said.

Sophia said she is proud of her design and of her brother Matthew, and shares a message of hope in a difficult time.

“If you are having a hard time, with anything, just think about the people that love you and who appreciate you for anything you do,” Sophia said.

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