OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - When friends of Sophia Mohler's family asked South Mississippi for help, they got a big answer. More than 5,000 people, both big and small, joined them Saturday morning for a benefit walk over the Biloxi Bay Bridge. It was their way of sending donations and love to the Mohler family, owners of the famed Tato Nut doughnut shop in downtown Ocean Springs.
You see, Sophia Mohler is a little girl with a grown up problem. She's battling a rare brain tumor right now at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. Her parents, David and Theresa are by her side.
"What we wanted to do was for the Mohler family not to have to deal with any financial stress," said Michael Zuber, a neighbor who helped organize the event. "We want them to spend time with Sophia. They're over there in Houston right now. We wanted them to focus all their time on her."
It's not just a small group helping. Sophia's school, St. Alphonsus Catholic School in Ocean Springs, her dance studio, and the entire Ocean Springs community has rallied around her, raising money and awareness any way they can.
"The overwhelming support from this community without David and Theresa even asking is just overwhelming," Sophia's aunt, Kathy Mohler, said.
The difference South Mississippi made Saturday alone seemed staggering. They raised close to $50,000 to help with medical bills.
"We all know what this community can do," said Mike Davis who also organized the bridge walk. "We've seen it done when neighbors help neighbors. We've seen it done during Hurricane Katrina, and now we're seeing it for a cause such as this."
Lori Cox said she's wanted to help the family since she heard the news about Sophia's diagnosis, and the business closure that followed. That's why she spent her Saturday selling t-shirts with Sophia's initials, and the words, "Community by chance, friends by choice."
"We are small business owners in the community and I can't imagine what it would be like to have to close my business and have to take care of a child who's ill," Cox said.
Sophia's parents, her sister Katelyn, along with her aunt and uncles say they're thrilled and overjoyed by the outpouring of South Mississippi support.
"People you don't know, support from that end is incredible," said Jerry and Brick Mohler. "People really do care. A lot of love."
Anyone who wants to donate can do so at any Hancock Bank branch. All you have to do is ask to donate to the Sophia Mohler Medical Fund.