Student Rally for a Good Cause

By Melanie Perez

Sofia Nocetti, a three-year-old from Valparaiso, Chile, has suffered from cataracts since she was born.  Last year, her family took her for what was supposed to be a routine eye exam.

Now, she is fighting for her life, suffering from a common cancer that plagues young children known as retinoblastoma – cancer of the retina in the eye.

Sofia Nocetti has sporadic (non-hereditary) retinoblastoma, which is not present at birth and develops in one eye.  As with any other cancer, retinoblastoma is the result of cells (in this case, eye cells known as retinoblasts) that continue to divide and grow out of control, according to

Sofia Nocetti’s right eye was removed soon after her diagnosis and since then she has undergone chemotherapy, which has contributed to liver and heart problems.

One FDU student, Carla Granda, reached out to her professor in hopes of finding an organization to help fundraise for Sofia Nocetti’s medical expenses. Granda is a close friend of Constanza Valenzuela, an FDU alumnus and Sofia Nocetti’s cousin – although Sofia Nocetti refers to her as an aunt – and said she felt compelled to help.

“She’s a good friend of mine, and Sofia’s story made an impact,” said Granda, a sophomore at FDU’s Metropolitan Campus. “I have kids myself, so I felt her story needed to go viral.”

“I commented to Carla about the situation and she contacted Dr. McClary out of the kindness of her heart, and both of them have been nothing other than extremely helpful with this,” Sofia Nocetti’s cousin said.

Granda first reached out to Dr. Marion McClary, associate professor of biological sciences, co-director of the School of Natural Sciences and the faculty advisor of the Pre-Optometry club, because of her professional relationship with him. She hoped that she could find space to hold a fundraiser for Sophia.

“I asked Dr. McClary because I am always in contact with him and I know he is a good hearted person,” Grande said.

“I knew he would direct me to the right person or lead me the right path. I originally just wanted to know if we could use a space to do a fundraiser but he forwarded my email to Daniel and it worked out perfectly.”

Daniel Gomez is a senior and president of the Pre-Optometry Club at FDU’s Metro campus. He agreed to help with Sofia Nocetti’s cause by creating a GoFundMe account in her name (available at  Gomez also reached out to The Equinox to spread awareness of their fundraising efforts.

“We want to collect as much as possible, but we have set a goal of collecting $10,000, which is about a year’s worth of expenses,” Gomez said.

Jean Pierre Nocetti and Marcela Covarrubias, Sofia’s Nocetti’s parents, have to travel to two separate hospitals in order to address all of their daughter’s needs – one of which is two hours away from their home in Valparaiso, Chile.  The family’s travel expenses, hospital bills, medications and chemotherapy infections cost around $4,000 every six months.

Her parents have been fundraising in Valparaiso since her diagnoses, selling food and asking for donations.

Gomez said that doctors have also been urging the family to get a prosthetic eye for Sofia Nocetti to give her a sense of normalcy, but the eye costs about $800.

“I chose to help pay for her treatment because this will give her a better chance to fight against cancer,” Gomez said.  “She is just three years old. Sofia deserves a shot at life and I’m willing to do anything to help her fight.”