In January 2019, Valentina was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a type of brain tumor found in an area of the brainstem known as the pons. This type of brain tumor primarily affects children, and fewer than 10% of children survive two years from diagnosis.
Valentina’s parents, Leo and Emily, took their daughter to receive care at the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute at MemorialCare Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach. Unfortunately, Valentina lost her battle to DIPG at 6-years-old, but Leo and Emily decided to find a way to bring lightness into a dark time.
“Children aren’t always aware of what’s going on when they’re in the hospital, but their environment makes such a difference,” says Emily, Valentina’s mother. "Miller Children’s & Women’s became our home. From the ins and outs of being in the hospital, there has to be some elements of hope. We decided we wanted to give hope to other people.”
In honor of their daughter, the couple created “Team Valentina Marie” on social media: a group that gathers hundreds of toy donations for children of all ages to enjoy while they are staying at Miller Children’s & Women’s.
“When Valentina received treatments and check-ups, her care team was amazing,” says Leo, Valentina’s father. "We saw the smiles that it would bring Valentina and her sister Daniela. We wanted to help the team here and other patients that are going through treatments and battling their illnesses. We want to give them a reason to smile.”
December 2023 marked their fifth annual donation to the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program at Miller Children’s & Women’s - their biggest donation to date. There were more than 1,000 items donated, including plush toys, play sets, board games, and dolls.
“We are so grateful to Valentina’s family for their generosity through these amazing donations,” says Rita Goshert, director, Child Life Program. “Their wonderful gifts are going to help enhance and impact the lives of each patient.”
Donations such as these are important year-round. You can give back during the holidays and year-round. To help support the Child Life Program, we encourage you to use the online wish list to have our most needed items sent directly to our program.