OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - When a young child dies, the pain can be unbearable. On Father’s Day, the memory of children lost to cancer weighs heavy on their parents. One Ocean Springs father created a lasting tribute to his daughter and others.
A young girl dances in the garden, shaded by the sprawling limbs of a crepe myrtle. A butterfly sits on her shoulder, and another rests lightly on her finger. That girl is Sophia Myers, whose spirit captured the hearts of Coast residents after she was diagnosed with DIPG, a rare brain cancer. Myers was one of three Jackson County children who have died of the disease, and the statue is a tribute to those three and others who have died of childhood cancer.
“When Sophia passed away, about two or three months after, I was wanting to do something special in honor of her to give back to Ocean Springs and to honor the other kids who had passed away,” said Sophia’s father Joshua Myers.
“I owe this city so much," Myers said Friday. "I didn’t even ask for it, and they helped us. I say this all the time, but we couldn’t have done it without them, so I feel like every little thing I can give back means a lot.”
The sculpture was created by Lindsay LaCroix Peichl, the daughter of famous sculptor Janie Stine LaCroix. It sits in the butterfly garden outside the Mary C O’Keefe Cultural Center where Sophia had her first dance recital. Piechl created the bronze statue based on a collections of photographs.
“The statue is perfect. I know she wold love it if she could see it,” Joshua said.
Joshua’s memories of Sophia’s short life bring a smile to his face and a tear to his eye.
“When Sophia was born, I didn’t know if I was ready to be a father, and that first time I held her it just felt like it was meant to be, and now she’s not here any more so it’s tough," he said. "You have these holidays that come up, and Father’s Day is on Sunday so that’s a nightmare, and all the fathers who have lost a child...” Myers’s voice trailed off as his eyes swelled with tears. A pain in his heart, no one can know.
In addition to the statue, a memorial scholarship at Donna’s Dance studio was created in Sophia’s honor, and the SoSo Strong Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation continues to raise money to help find a cure for pediatric brain tumors and improve the lives of patients and their families.