CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Be Loud. That is the title of a poem Sophie Steiner wrote less than a year before being diagnosed with cancer in 2012. 

“Be loud, and move with grace, explode with light, have no fear,” an excerpt from the poem reads. 

Steiner was 14 years old and in her first year at East Chapel Hill High School at the time. 

        What You Need To Know

  • The Be Loud! Sophie Foundation is in honor of Sophie Steiner 

  • Steiner passed away at 15 in 2013 after a brief battle with germ-cell cancer 

  • The foundation provides medical and psychosocial support for cancer patients ages 13 - 39 at UNC hospitals 

“She had the most extraordinary care. What was missing was the recognition that she wasn’t a child and she wasn’t an adult. She was in this in between age. In the course of her illness, she spent a tremendous amount of time in the hospital and so did we,” said Lucy Steiner, Sophie’s mom.

The Seiner Family. (Spectrum News 1)

On Aug. 30, 2013, Sophie passed away from her cancer — less than a year after her diagnosis. While Sophie was in the hospital at UNC, she had overwhelming support from her family, friends, field hockey teammates, her dance teacher and so many others.

Sophie’s parents said when she walked the halls, she noticed other people in the hospital, who were her age, were often alone. She left her parents with a challenge before she passed, which was to create a better experience for those teens and young adults battling cancer and who may not have the support team she did. 

“After Sophie died, we sat together as a family and thought a lot about what we wanted to do to honor her life,” said Lucy Steiner. 

That’s when the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation was born. 

The foundation is a way to honor Sophie’s memory. By providing medical and psychosocial support to people between the ages of 13 and 39 who receive a cancer diagnosis. The foundation provides the funding for the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) outreach program at UNC hospitals. 

“I think it was a remarkable way to channel our grief and energy into something that’s grown into something beyond what we could possibly imagine before it started,” said Niklaus Steiner, Sophie’s father. 

Lauren Lux is the program director. 

“There are about 400 newly diagnosed teens and young adults that come to UNC Chapel Hill every year, and we try to meet as many of them as possible so we can offer them some context to their care. To see them through this lense that you are a young person and you have really different needs, and we have staff that work to provide that tailored unique care,” said Lux. 

Since the program started in 2015, it has grown to a team of eight employees that includes a medical director, Dr. Andrew Smitherman, who was Sophie’s doctor. 

Lux and her team offer one-on-one support, financial help, resources for work, school and emotional support, clinical trial recommendations and survivorship care. 

“When I started this job seven years ago, we would always quote 70,000 a year in the U.S. of the number of teens and young adults that are diagnosed, now that number is closer to 90,000, we know more people in that age range are getting diagnosed from before,” said Lux. 

Sophie pictured with her sisters, Elsa and Annabel Steiner. (Spectrum News 1)

The AYA program at UNC was one of the first of its kind in the country. Lux’s team serves as a model for cancer centers across the country working to improve the patient experience for this age group. 

“I never had the chance to meet Sophie while she was alive. I feel honored and privileged to carry out her vision and her family’s vision, it’s our why and it’s sort of our North Star and Sophie was at the beginning of that,” said Lux. 

When doctors diagnosed Sophie with cancer in Nov. of 2012, it was a shock to the Steiner family. 

“We were quickly pulled into the medical system. We spent most of the time with her that year in the hospital. We realized how lonely it can be to live in the hospital and how important it is to bring people and services and life into the hospital,” said Lucy Steiner. 

While Sophie is no longer physically here, her family says she lives on through the foundation. “One of the things she helped us realize was how important it is everyday to live your life and do something that is going to be meaningful to you,” said Lucy Steiner. 

The Be Loud! Sophie Foundation is holding their annual benefit concert on Sept. 24 at the Cats Craddle in Carrboro. The show will feature local musicians playing cover songs by The Police, The Ramones and The Cure. 

Tickets can be purchased here. All proceeds go directly to supporting the foundation.