Award ceremony for generous teen took place in unusual setting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is one of life’s hardest questions to answer.  Many ask that about Sophie Greenwalt, who’s in a hospital here fighting her latest challenge: cancer.

Sophie is a straight-A 8th grader at Reeds Spring Middle School.  She is a tireless leader for community causes in which she believes.  She has an ongoing campaign called “Helping Hats” that has raised more than $20,000 for dozens of those causes.

Sophie is one of 100 teenagers recently honored for incredible community involvement by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, but she couldn't go to Washington, D.C. on Sunday with the other honorees from across the country.  She has been in Children's Mercy Hospital here for the past month for leukemia treatment.  The other day, she also had open heart surgery.

Doctors say Sophie’s prognosis for recovery is good, and there's an 80 percent chance she won't get leukemia again.

After learning of Sophie's ordeal, the owners of a charter jet flew a KY3 News crew and Sophie's award to Kansas City to deliver it in person.  At 14,000 feet in the air, people twice reminded us that Sophie raised money for World War 2 veterans from the Ozarks to visit their memorial in Washington, D.C., on Ozarks Honor Flight trips.

At the hospital, Sophie’s teacher, Andrea Chavez, did the honors.  Sophie, who has done so much for many whom she'll never meet, was quietly overwhelmed.

Her doctor dropped by with a bit of good news about her health.  There also has been more good news from home.  Sophie's classmates followed her example and quickly raised $40,000  to help with her hospital bills so she could keep the $1,000 prize that came with her award.

“I grew up in Reeds Springs and have never seen anything like it, with the community coming together for her,” said Chavez.

Sophie's stay at Children's Hospital will be extended.  She keeps the door to her room open so she can wave a hand of encouragement to other young patients from her bed.  It’s her way of teaching compassion, despite her condition, in her own quiet way.

“I think what will come from this is she will help others even more, and be even stronger than she was before,” said Nettie Greenwalt, Sophie’s mother.

Editor’s note: This 325 mph trip to Kansas City was possible because of the services donated by OzAir Air Charters and Mark Burgess Aircraft.