Nearly 20 years ago Joe Durnin and fellow community members banded together to offer support when a neighbor’s young son was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. What began as a grassroots effort to help one family weather the storm evolved into an organization that would ultimately assist more than sixty others as they struggled with the illness of a child. What Joe didn’t know back then was that one of those families would be his.

Christina Pinto was eight weeks into her second pregnancy when doctors thought she was miscarrying. Fortunately, her baby had other plans. Still, the sailing wasn’t smooth when at twelve weeks some standard testing came back indicating Down Syndrome. Again, a false alarm. So when doctors told her at 16 weeks the child she was carrying didn’t have all the necessary chambers of her heart, Christina didn’t initially comprehend the severity of the diagnosis. She’d been through this before and everything turned out okay. Reality sunk in when a genetic counselor basically told her there was little chance her child, a girl, would have any quality of life and recommended termination.

“We’ve come this far together,” thought Christina. “I’m not giving up on her.”

A trip to a fetal cardiologist that same day offered a glimmer of hope. Christina and her husband Paul grabbed onto it and never looked back.

Sophia was born with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, Pulmonary Atresia w/intact ventricular septum, Tricuspid Atresia, and Right ventricular dependent coronary circulation with coronary artery stenosis and severe sinusoidal connections – scary words which required even scarier treatment. She underwent the first of three scheduled surgeries at just one week old. Although preliminary testing indicated her condition was more serious than doctors originally thought making the surgery even riskier, Sophia made it through with flying colors. Her second surgery was scheduled at 4-1/2 months and again problems surfaced a few days prior that jeopardized the potential success of the procedure. Sophia beat the odds once more.

From an early age Christina Pinto remembers attending The Danny Fund fundraisers, meeting Danny Fund families, and volunteering wherever help was needed – being involved was simply part of being Joe Durnin’s daughter. But when Joe mentioned The Danny Fund after Sophia’s initial diagnoses, Christina was hesitant to reach out given his involvement with the organization. Was that even allowed? The objective of The Danny Fund is to help as many families as possible – and Joe’s family was no exception.

Sophia was adopted into The Danny Fund as soon as she was born and Christina now experienced first-hand the generosity and support of the organization her dad and his fellow community members had created all those years ago. From taking care of co-pays, providing money for groceries and even gift cards for both Sophia and her older sister at Christmas, to simply saying hello and checking in when they were out and about in town, having The Danny Fund in their corner made a difficult time just a little more bearable.

Now a not-so-terrible two-year-old, Sophia continues to thrive even though she deals daily with medications, doctor appointments, and tests. She often struggles to catch her breath even from minimal activity but she manages to talk up a storm, play with her big sister Isabella, and provide her family with many joyful moments. Her upcoming 3rd surgery offers no guarantees, but one thing her family knows they can count on is the continued support of an organization that grew out of a simple act of kindness.