Having a 15-month-old baby brother helps to keep precious life in perspective for one Fenwick student.
“I will always be appreciative of everything I’ve been blessed with,” proclaims Fenwick senior Sophia FioRito ’18 of Oak Park, which is where her growing family moved from suburban Addison a few years ago. “Having an excellent education, like Fenwick’s, can open so many doors to opportunities for success,” notes Sophia, who is a member of the National Honor Society and maintains a 3.6 GPA.
“I have eight siblings, seven of whom are younger,” continues Ms. FioRito, whose brother, Danny ’20, is a sophomore Friar and older sister, Isabella ’16, is a sophomore at the University of Chicago. Helena, one younger sister, is an eighth grader and future member of the Fenwick Class of 2022. Their father, Dan ’88, is a Friar alumnus along with his brothers, Kevin ’83 and Jim ’92. As the second oldest of her brothers and sisters, “I’ve had to learn to care about others’ needs and put them first.”
Her parents agree. “Sophia often takes on the responsibility as a ‘second Mom,’ caring for her younger siblings and always having fun with them,” says her mother, Deborah. The summer and fall of 2016 were far from fun, however. Sophia’s youngest brother was born four-and-a-half-months early and was hospitalized from August to December of last year.
Tiny Thomas FioRito was born four-and-a-half months early last August.
Many in the Fenwick Community will remember praying for baby Thomas. It was a tense four months for the family while they lived at the Ronald McDonald House in Hines, IL, as their brother and son was being cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at nearby Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. “Sophia really helped pull her siblings together to continue their studies and establish as much of a ‘normal’ routine in these not-so-normal circumstances,” adds Dan, her dad.
The Miracle Boy
Thomas, now a healthy toddler, was only 22 weeks old when he was born last August 18th. The FioRitos consider him their miracle baby: He is the second-youngest child ever born in the United States to survive. “He literally had a one-in-a-million chance,” stress his parents.
“His hospital bills definitely took a toll on my family,” Sophia says, “and not having to worry as much about paying for my education and focusing more on his health was because of Fenwick donors. Coming to Fenwick has been attainable because of the help from donors allowing kids that come from large families, like me, to have a great education. I can’t thank them enough for that,” she praises.
What a difference a year has made for Thomas, his parents and his eight brothers and sisters.
Sophia is very involved in the Fenwick community. She is president and a four-year member of the Pro Life Club and also is a member of the Photography and Italian clubs at FHS. In addition, she runs track – “I’m a sprinter and long jumper” – and is “very involved with helping the community,” she adds.
“I am a part of Community Outreach and, outside of Fenwick, I am on the Ronald McDonald Teen Board, where I work with families that have children that are battling cancer, diseases and paralysis,” says Sophia, who will celebrate her 18th birthday in late January. “If it were not for the [Fenwick] donors, I wouldn’t be as involved as I am today, and I wouldn’t be able to give back to others in the way that I am able to today.”
Sophia presently is applying to Purdue, the University of Illinois and Marquette. “I plan on studying business/marketing and Classics,” she reports. One adjective that Sophia uses to describe herself on college applications is “adaptable” because “I’ve moved five times,” she says. Sophia has proved herself to be adaptable in many more circumstances, and – thanks to donors who will help her graduate from Fenwick next spring – she looks forward to adapting to college soon.