Steamboat community fundraising for first-grader diagnosed with cancer |

Steamboat community fundraising for first-grader diagnosed with cancer

Strawberry Park Elementary first-grader Sofia Scherff was diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney cancer in March. While Sofia continues chemotherapy

— When Nati and Eric Scherff’s daughter Sofia began complaining of stomach pain in March, the couple thought she must have had a stomach bug.

But when 7-year-old Sofia came into their bedroom one Sunday to show them a hard lump in her stomach, they took her straight to the emergency room at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

There, doctors performed an ultrasound and then sent the family directly to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver.

“They told us we needed to drive straight to the Children’s Hospital in Denver that night,” Eric Scherff said. “They didn’t give us a whole lot of detail, but said there was a tumor there.”

During a whirlwind week in Denver, the family learned the baseball-sized tumor was actually on Sofia’s kidney, and it was malignant. Two days after arriving in Denver, Sofia underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumor, and it was discovered that cancer cells had also spread to the young girl’s lymph nodes.

Sofia was diagnosed with stage three kidney cancer and underwent radiation therapy and began chemotherapy before returning home to Steamboat Springs, where she is finishing first grade at Strawberry Park Elementary.

While undergoing radiation treatment, Sofia sat alone in a room while doctors used machines to control and kill the cancer cells.

Doctors played Disney songs for Sofia while she endured the treatments, Scherff said.

Now back home, Sofia is undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments at YVMC through December, a process that leaves Sofia worn out, but never without a good attitude, her parents said.

After learning about Sofia’s illness, friends and classmates at Strawberry Park began holding small fundraisers to help the family with medical bills. Donations were also collected during a dinner fundraiser May 21 at Cugino’s.

In an effort to make donating easier for parents and other adults who might want to contribute, Sofia’s art teacher, Erin Kreis, set up a GoFundMe page for the family.

As of Sunday, donations of nearly $8,000 had poured in from friends and strangers alike.

Kreis said she was happy to set up the page for Sofia, who seems in good spirits despite her diagnosis.

“She just exudes strength, and she always has a smile on her face,” Kreis said.

Sofia’s first grade teacher Alexandra Bigras-Masse commended Sofia’s character and the community’s generosity.

“Sofia is a hard working, passionate and caring student. She is always helping out her peers, whether it’s with schoolwork or ensuring that they feel included,” Bigras-Masse said. “I am so happy that the Steamboat community is teaming together to return the favor and give her a helping hand as she bravely fights cancer.”

Former Steamboat Springs residents, the Scherffs said they returned to the community to raise their children, Sofia and a 3-year-old daughter.

“I am just really grateful for all the help,” Scherff said. “I did not expect anything like this, in terms of the fundraising page, and it’s just a huge help. There’s a lot going on with us right now and emotionally it adds up over time. It just really helps to know that there is support there.”

Nati Scherff-Zamora said Sofia is aware the community is helping her as she battles cancer.

“People that we know, and people that we don’t even know, they’re very generous and they’re helping a lot. It’s a very expensive treatment and we have to do it. There’s no other way,” Scherff-Zamora said.

Sofia’s GoFundMe Page can be found at

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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