Reminder Assistant Editor
WEST SPRINGFIELD Sandra Kosko was unable to speak about her niece, Laura Sypek without weeping.
The loss of her 11-year-old niece over one year ago from Neuroblastoma a form of pediatric cancer she fought since age two affects her greatly to this day.
According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, over 600 children in the United States are diagnosed annually with this cancer of the nervous system; the cause is unknown; treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplants.
Kosko said because of the disease Sypek was a grown-up in a child's body, wise beyond her years and committed to raising funds for research, treatments and finding a cure.
"I could write a book about all of her great qualities," she said. "She taught us a lot about life and perseverance. She had so much life to live."
To continue her niece's fundraising efforts on Oct. 14, 2006, the day Sypek would have celebrated her 12th birthday, Kosko organized the first Soupy for Loopy Fundraiser at B'Shara's Eatery. This year the event will take place at the venue on Oct. 13 from 11 a.m. 8 p.m.
"Anything we can do to help raise funds for pediatric cancer research is very important to me and my family," Mark Sypek, Laura's father said. "It can effect any family at anytime and you never expect it to happen [to your family] and one day you get knocked out by it. We don't want other families to go through what we've gone through. It's important they find a cure."
"Loopy" was Sypek's nickname, Kosko explained, and while in treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Sypek would request that her mother make her tomato and elbow macaroni soup. Sypek began to call it "Soupy for Loopy," she added.
Last year's event allowed family, friends and members of the community to gather at the restaurant and buy a bowl of Sypek's "Loopy Soup" with all proceeds donated to the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation.
At last year's event B'Shara's sold 70 gallons of the soup and raised almost $4,000, Paul B'Shara, co-owner of B'Shara's Eatery and friend of Mark Sypek, said. He added that on an average day the restaurant will serve six gallons of soup.
For this year's event Kosko took the fundraising efforts one step further and established the Soupy for Loopy Foundation. All proceeds from the 2007 Soupy for Loopy Fundraiser will go to the Soup for Loopy Foundation.
"This is our organization so we want to work directly with doctors and focus on treatments and clinical trials that look promising for Neuroblastoma," Kosko said.
She added that while organizations like the American Cancer Society are able to provide funding for research for Neuroblastoma they must also provide funding for the numerous other forms of cancer. She said, even though every little bit helps, it is still not enough, which is why all of the funds raised through the Soupy for Loopy Foundation will go exclusively to Neuroblastoma research.
"[Laura] received excellent care from some of the best facilities in the country so she could enjoy being a child but it was not enough to save her life," Kosko said. "That's why we're trying to help, so kids can live longer."
Kosko said she would like to raise $10,000 at this year's event.
She said this day is not just about the fundraising efforts but also a day for those to gather and remember her niece.
"She was a joy and we miss her dearly," Kosko said.
She added that the event does help her to heal from the loss of Laura and she hopes it will help others do to the same.
"I'm hoping that if it saves one child the event will be worth it," B'Shara said. "But it's not going to change what happened to Laura."
For more information about the Soupy for Loopy Foundation go to www.soupyforloopy.org.