Sheri Sobrato sets her sights on meeting the emotional needs of seriously ill young people

by Linda Hubbard on November 21, 2014

After many years living abroad and on the East Coast, Sheri Sobrato has, as she says, “come home to my roots,” living in the home once owned by her grandparents. It was here almost three decades ago that she was treated at UCSF for a brain tumor, and the long-time philanthropist’s current focus of attention — helping seriously ill young people — is, in part, an outgrowth of her long survivorship.

“Even before I got sick, I was interested in health issues and children,” the Atherton resident says. “I was a Candy Striper at Stanford and after graduating from college, I volunteered at Ronald McDonald House when I was working on Wall Street.”

She says she first started thinking about doing something in the area of childhood illness when she marked the 25th anniversary of her survivorship.

“It just became apparent I needed to do something and do it now,” she says. “What was missing in helping sick kids was a simple, easy, affordable way for kids to talk directly about what was happening with them. There needed to be a tool that helped them with their journey.”

Digging Deep: A Journal for Young People Facing Health Challenges is the result. Written with Rose Offner, it provides an engaging, fun, and affordable resource to build a child’s emotional strength through journalling. The book – available free to any family who requests one – was recently awarded the Mom’s Choice Award: “The Gold Medal for Young Adult Books in the Mind, Body, Spirit category.”

“The initial journalling activities focus on the struggle with illness,” Sheri says. “But as the journal progresses, it’s really about life, not illness.

“Kids are proud of their stories. Telling them gives them inner strength and powers. They get to bring up topics that they wouldn’t otherwise.”

Sheri believes that her own life is much richer from the experience of being diagnosed and treated with a life threatening illness. “Before I got sick” she says, “I wasn’t connecting with people at the heart level. This was my big blessing after the storm.”

Life-threatening illnesses in childhood are increasingly curable, but often require treatment through adulthood. Sheri formed Resonance House, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, to distribute Digging Deep across the country and better meet the ongoing psychosocial needs of young patients.

“We partner with children’s hospitals, physician offices, medical camps, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, children’s health associations and nonprofit organizations to get Digging Deep to any child who needs it,” Sheri says.

Information on how to donate to get Digging Deep into the hands of more children and how to order the book in volume is available on the Digging Deep website.

Photo by Irene Searles

One Comment

Mr. Scullion November 23, 2014 at 2:33 am

I live in the UK now but I used to live in Menlo Park, and I just read
the article about Sheri Sobrato,whose name I remember from the
Sobrato Pavillion on Oak Grove Avenue. Sometimes apparent
curses can become blessings,and I think that,s the case with Sheri
Sobrato.In her eyes I can see the essential,defining qualities of a
beautiful human being, ..which she was unlikely to have become
had she not had that brain tumour. Thank You,Sheri. A pleasure.

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