SoSo Strong Because Kids Should Live Gala

Sometimes, you’d never guess who some of the strongest and bravest people are. No, it doesn’t depend on muscles, height, or how much you can lift or bench press. The strongest people are without a doubt those that contain inner strength, and often you’d be surprised who those are. Many are the smallest children that have been dealt the unlikely hand in life of cancer. They show amazing strength and might to fight this horrible disease.

Cancer is a terrible, heart-wrenching disease, and when that diagnosis is given, it can bring many patients to their knees. But children are so often much more resilient and fearless that adults when they hear that they have cancer. They show a great determination to beat this horrible disease so that they can remain with their families and get the chance to live their lives.

That is the premise of that the SoSo Strong Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is based on said Stephanie Payne, chair for the Because Kids Should Live Gala. The foundation holds a special place in the hearts of an Ocean Springs family. Angel Myers McIllrath and Josh Myers heard the diagnosis that no parent ever wants to hear. Their precious daughter Sophia Ann Myers had cancer, a very aggressive form of cancer.

“In 2017, at the age of 7, Sophia was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), a highly aggressive, inoperable brain tumor located in the area of the brain-stem call the ‘pons’ that controls most of the body’s most vital functions,” Payne said. “After Sophia’s passing, Angel knew that the fight against this cancer and other pediatric brain tumors would not end with Sophia’s life and established the SoSo Strong Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation in 2018 to continue the fight.”

In a continued fight so that other families would not have to face this devastation, the foundation joined forces with Payne and her resources to found the inaugural gala held in September of 2019. Due to Covid, they have been unable to have a true fundraiser since that date, but they are honored to be able to hold an official gala honoring the life of this brave little girl and bringing awareness to this horrible disease.

“The Foundation will host its second ‘Because Kids Should Live’ Gala this year,” Payne said. “It is through this event that we wish to raise funds necessary to be a glimpse of hope to families traumatized by pediatric brain cancer and be a part of finding a cure. The event will feature a combination of live entertainment, food, raffles, silent auctions, and sponsorship opportunities.”

While the purpose of this event is to raise funds for continued research and studies, at the heart of the event is to honor some of the bravest people to ever face these diagnoses without fear.

“A primary purpose is to honor Sophia and the other children who have fought, and those that continue to fight this deadly disease that is pediatric brain tumors,” Payne said. “We seek to raise awareness of DIPG and these pediatric brain tumors while raising fund necessary to help fund research grants and the ability to offer a variety of patient services that include paying for medical bills and equipment, providing comfort items to the children, offering access to resources and support to patient families, and even helping to pay for funeral services.”

The “Kids Should Live Gala” will be held Saturday, September 24 at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino. “The event will be a beautiful black-tie optional event that will feature a combination of live entertainment from Brandon Green and Paperchase, a silent auction, raffles, cash bar, and heavy hors d’oeuvres,” Payne said. “Raffles will include a Split-the-Pot and a ‘Purse with a Purpose’ (Louis Vuitton) Raffle, as well as a butterfly pull that will be available for attendees to win prizes on the spot.”

For those that are unable to attend, the gala does offer an online bidding ticket for $25 which allows for participation in the silent auction if you’re unable to attend. Donations of any size are also accepted and can be made at They are also accepting item donations and sponsorships. To donate an auction item or sponsorship, email [email protected]

Payne encourages everyone that can to attend because this is much more than a gala it is a chance for all who attend to make a difference.  “By attending the gala, making a donation of any kind, purchasing raffle tickets, you are able to be a part of finding a cure for pediatric brain tumors and being a light to so many children and their families.”

“Our community is so generous,” Payne said. “We are so grateful to everyone who has already contributed to this event and look forward to the potential of developing new partnerships to help further the cause of the Foundation. We need people to join our fight…because kids should live!”

For more information about the Kids Should Live Gala, visit SoSo Strong PBTF | Powered By GiveSmart.


Written by Judy Smith

Judy Smith has been a freelance writer and photographer for several magazines and publications around the South, including Social South Magazine, Our Mississippi Magazine, DeSoto Magazine, Deep South Magazine, Country Roads Magazine, among others. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Paralegal Studies, Master’s of Science in Mass Communications, and PhD in Communications at the University of Southern Mississippi. And Judy Smith is proud to forever be a Mississippi Girl.


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