North Whitfield 8th grader designs scarf for Atlanta United during cancer battle
A North Whitfield Middle School student was in the Atlanta United Soccer spotlight recently, thanks to a very special scarf.
13-year old Valerie DeSantiago is a cancer survivor, who lists soccer and drawing as her two favorite activities. She combined her two passions into a winning contest entry that has made her a hometown celebrity.
The scarf tells a story. Two years ago she was diagnosed with B-Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, and during her stay at Children's Health Care of Atlanta, she was encouraged to design a scarf for the Atlanta United Soccer team.
She only had two days to complete the project, so she went at it nonstop. She had just attended a game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, meeting many of the players. What she saw inspired her artistic vision.
Valerie said, "The monsters and doodles represent fans. Some are sad their team is losing, others are happy their team is winning."
The team selected her scarf as the winner of their Unite and Conquer Cancer Campaign. It was an instant sellout, and made her even more famous on her beloved North Whitfield Middle School Campus.
Dr. Beverly Hedges, a social studies teacher, said "The students didn't realize she had designed the scarf, they are wanting her autograph!"
After taking a year off from school for chemo and other treatments, Valerie is back on campus, and looking forward to high school next year. She hopes her tenacity and enthusiasm inspires others, and is proud of her colorful scarf that depicts her journey.
Valerie has met several soccer stars in recent months, including Matt Lampson of the LA Galaxy, himself a cancer survivor. He told her that his story proves that you can still achieve your dreams after cancer.