Sophia Heschel, 4th Grade, Ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
“In 2022 Sophia was rushed into the ICU in a state of Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA),” said Sophia Heschel’s mother Marcey. “After a grueling four days we got to take our baby girl home, but life would never be the same. Sophia had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease preventing your pancreas from making insulin. The life-altering diagnosis affected the entire family and 4th grader, Sophia Heschel, who now has to face multiple daily injections, blood sugar tests and critical decisions about eating and drinking. Living life with two pieces of medical hardware attached to her at all times; an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor. Despite her setbacks, Sophia has maintained inspiring strength and resiliency.
Youth Ambassadors for JDRF such as Sophia represent all children living with Type One Diabetes and have represented at events such as the 2023 Fund-A-Cure Promise Ball. She will continue to represent as an Ambassador every year moving forward. JDRF is the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Type One Diabetes research.
“She never gives up and she doesn’t let Diabetes stop her,” said Marcey. “She says “Diabetes is tough, but I’m tougher. I am most proud of Sophia’s unparalleled sense of empathy and how she cares for everyone around her despite her own struggles. She is a warrior and we are so blessed to have her as our hero. She is unwilling to let Diabetes stop her, and she is a shining example of how full a life a child can live with a chronic autoimmune disease. She is a beautiful 9 year girl with the whole world ahead of her and a whole lot of people behind her cheering her on.”
Mila McKeown, 1st Grade, Miss Texas Junior Princess
“One thing that makes Mila so special is the fact that she always tries to include everyone. While at school, she actively seeks out children who play by themselves to play with,” said Mila McKeown’s mother, Mi McKeown. “Children need to feel included and she always makes sure everyone feels that way. She believes "there is something special about everyone" and "everyone needs friends".”
Beyond Pope Elementary School 1st grade student Mila McKeown’s loving personality, she recently won the title of USA National Miss (UNM) Texas Junior Princess at the USA National Miss TX Competition held in Katy, TX. She won her age group for the entire state of TX with only one year of pageant experience. She also won Miss Congeniality which is an award voted on by all of the girls participating in the pageant.
“Mila makes us proud every day. Her giant heart and giving nature make her loved by many,” said Mi. “She continuously works to give her toys away to friends and even children she meets for the first time.”
In addition, Mila volunteers her time as an ambassador for the Caring Queens (a pageant designed to serve young girls in foster care, residential treatment centers, group homes, and shelters) to make the girls feel like queens on their special pageant day. She brought her Confidence Board to the most recent Caring Queens event to have each participant write one thing they love about themselves to illustrate that everyone is beautiful.
Maximo Luna, 5th Grade, Graphic Novelist
”Maximo is a very bright kiddo,” says Xenia Herrera, mother of 5th grade Lowery Elementary
School student Maximo Luna. “He continuously has so many ideas running through his mind
from creating board games, creating costumes out of boxes and most recently publishing his
Maximo Luna recently published a new graphic novel called Super Luna Adventures. A highly
creative young student, the idea came about after his teacher Kathryn Haskins gave the
assignment to write a story. Following the writing assignment, Maximo turned it into a
handwritten comic book. The book is available in both English and Spanish, and is inspired by
Maximo’s dog, Luna.
“When he showed it to my mom, who has published several books, she asked him if he would
like to publish it,” said Xenia proudly. “So they worked on it once a week after school for six
In all, Maximo spent a full year planning, writing, editing and revising his book before it went to
publication, and sold on Amazon. Full of creative spirit, Maximo already has rough drafts of the
continuation of the Super Luna Comic series. He has also recorded a song with his cousin and
the music video is being edited.