Feb 092005
 
Authors: Sarah Rawley

Sonia Bawa was not your typical teenager.

She was described to her mother by a close friend as a "book."

"Some books are really long and drag on and some are really short and exciting, and those are the best kind, like Sonia's life," said Katie Weaver, a freshman psychology major and close family friend of the Bawa's.

Bawa, who died of acute myeloid leukemia at age 15 on Jan. 23, was known in the Fort Collins community and nationally for rallying support to increase cancer-research funding.

She created a stir last year when she sent a letter to President Bush asking him to put the Iraq war "on hold" for one month to double the national cancer-research budget.

Bawa was first diagnosed with cancer at age 3 and spent much of her childhood in hospitals. However, she did not allow her life-threatening illness to dominate her life or slow her down.

"It was never something that we let interfere with her life. For her it's like having two legs, it was just apart of her," said Bawa's brother, Umber Bawa, who attends the University of Pennslyvania.

In her short lifetime, Sonia contributed to several causes, including the creation of a Web site, www.peaceisthecure.org, for her "Thousand Points of Life" campaign urging Bush to increase cancer-research funding.

"Sonia was somebody who cared more about other people than herself," said Dan Bihn, the Bawas' campaign coach for the last year. "Her campaign may have appeared to be a na/ve attempt to help herself. But she was a sophisticated political person deliberately using her situation to bring attention to the fact that money that was being used to kill people could be used to save lives."

In her call to action, Sonia noted that the $5 billion spent every month on the war in Iraq is close to the amount of money in the national budget for cancer research.

"If you or a loved one has been touched by cancer and would like to support our cause of increasing cancer research funds, please join us in asking the president to put the war on hold for one month," Sonia posted on her Web site.

Bush's response to Sonia on June 14, 2004, did not address any issues she presented in her letter, but she continued to fight for her cause.

"I think that made her fight for the cause stronger," Umber said.

Throughout her life, Sonia Bawa was often described as a strong spirit who felt like she could make a difference in the world.

"She lived life to live it. She was so humble, seeing her actions she took as something needed to be done, nothing special. In that regard she inspired a lot of people," Weaver said.

After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Sonia raised money for the World Trade Center, but since the American Red Cross had received sufficient funds, she redirected the money to help schoolchildren in Afghanistan.

In 2003 she worked on the Measles Initiative with the American Red Cross and raised more than $1,400 by going door to door to help children in Africa.

"In the last three to four years, she became especially socially conscious. She was everyone's advocate," Umber said.

Sonia's strong spirit will continue to live on through the work of her family with her "Thousands Points of Life" campaign, and all the people she inspired.

"It's going to be Sonia who finds a cure for Leukemia in the end, by inspiring others to keep looking for a cure. She was the most amazing, spirited role model," Weaver said.

Pictures of Sonia can be found on–www.peaceisthecure.org

 

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