A local teen is hosting a volleyball tournament to benefit a disorder that has affected her childhood friend.
Larissa Cooper, 16, the daughter of Gary and Melissa Copper of Bedford and a junior at Bedford High School, has organized a volleyball tournament at Bedford Area Middle School at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 to benefit the Children’s Scoliosis Foundation.
Last year, Larissa, who is a member of the school’s volleyball team, organized a tournament for the family of a team member whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Proceeds from last year’s tournament went to the family to cover travel expenses and other needs.
The teen said she wanted to do another tournament this year but did not know what to raise funds for.
She said she thought about another Pink Out because she could not decide on a cause and that was when her mom, Melissa, suggested that she consider scoliosis because her longtime friend Sophie Replogle had just had major back surgery due to her scoliosis.
So far, $1,000 has been raised, according to Larissa.
“We’re pretty excited about that,” she said. “Plus everyone had a blast year and it’s like a big competition.”
Sophie, 15, the daughter of Kimberly and Trevor Replogle of Bedford and a sophomore at Bedford High School, said that she was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 9 years old.
“It was just a seven degree curve, so very small, but my sister had scoliosis so we started on physical therapy early just so it wouldn’t get bad, but it did,” she said.
Sophie said scoliosis is more than just a curve in one’s spine.
“You look and feel much different because your spine starts curving and that all starts making your rib cage start to turn as well. So you have a rib hump or a side dip so you look different.”
She said some patients have a lot of pain depending on which way their curve is going. “I didn’t have much pain. I just had soreness,” she said. Scoliosis can caused hips and shoulders to go off center, she said.
When she was younger, Sophie said she liked being different but that later changed
“At first, when I was like 9 or 10, I thought it was cool because I looked a little different from my friends. But when I got older and it started to get worse, I would just get annoyed at the look,” she said. “Certain clothes would fit differently, especially with swimsuits and things like that and then I would get sore easily if I was walking around a lot like if I was traveling or something. By the end of the day, I’d be pretty sore,” she said.
Surgery she had in July helped her “in the long run. I’ll be feeling better now that I’m all straightened up. I still get some pains and soreness but I think that will all heal up in time,” Sophie said.
Sophie had a spinal fusion at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center to correct the curve in her spine.
“They did tractions to loosen me up and they stretched me out to make it straighter and then they made an incision down 13 vertebrates and they fused 13 vertebrates,” Sophie said explaining her surgery.
“So they put screws in and they put rods in and they put bone fragments over that. So in about six months it will grow into one large bone,” she said. “That’s how the fusion process works and it will stay straight the rest of my life and not cause any problems ”
Before Sophie’s surgery, she had an 86-degree “C” curve in her spine.
Sophie has documented her journey from the weeks before her surgery and throughout her recovery on social media. The teen has posted everything from pre- and post-operation pictures and X-rays of her spine, embracing her surgery scars, to videos of various milestones in her recovery like walking or sitting up for the first time. She even has sent and received gifts to/from her “scoliosis sisters.”
On the same account, the teen can be seen playing her ukulele from the hospital, giving a smile as she sits up for the first time and smiling spending time with friends and family.
In many of the photographs by her side are her sister, Abby, or her childhood friend Larissa. The teens said that they met when they were younger from their moms working together and have been friends longer than they remember.
Through the volleyball tournament, both teens hope that many will walk away with a better understanding of scoliosis.
Sophie and her mom will be at the event with photos displaying before and after pictures and her progress.
“I feel like scoliosis is pretty common and you don’t think much of it, especially in Bedford. There’s a good many number of girls that I know with scoliosis but I hope that it spreads awareness and that people understand more about it and know that there’s more than just a curved spine,” she said.