An Investment in HopeSeptember 5, 2012
In 1976, at the height of the Cold War, Sophia Pesotchinsky and her family fled the Soviet Union. They arrived in the U.S. as refugees with a toddler, significant language barriers, no place to live, nor jobs awaiting them, and about $300 to start their lives over. And yet, with one obstacle larger than the next, they overcame them all. Sophia went on to co-create three life science companies and her husband Leon became a professor of mathematics at UCSB and San Jose State University.
Indeed, theirs is an inspiring American success story, but when you ask Sophia about life’s challenges she immediately shifts the conversation to the most courageous person she knows, her daughter, Vera.
Vera was diagnosed with Late Onset Tay-Sachs disease eleven years ago. Since that time, despite the unrelenting toll of her illness, she has received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wellesley College and Santa Clara University, worked in marketing for her family business, and has embraced life with dignity, great humor, and not a trace of self-pity.
“She is an inspiration to everyone – and I mean everyone she meets,” said Sophia. But mercilessly, her condition rages on. So Sophia decided to do whatever she could to help in her daughter’s fight. Thus, she established a Donor Advised Fund, dedicated to the eradication of Tay-Sachs and other degenerative neurological diseases. “If there is one thing I want people to know about our DAF it is that I believe it is helping us get closer to combating this disease. I’m an engineer, I analyze things. I don’t work in dreams. And the scientific breakthroughs we’ve had in the last six years, particularly with gene therapy, have given us real hope – not just for a cure for my daughter, but for people who struggle with any genetic neurological diseases. The first clinical studies are scheduled for the beginning of 2013.”
Of course, running a business, being involved with the Tay Sachs Gene Therapy consortium, and tending to the needs of her family doesn’t give Sophia a lot of time to take on the responsibilities of operating her own philanthropic foundation. “I’m a very busy person,” said Sophia. “So that’s why I set up my DAF with JCF. It was incredibly easy and it has allowed me to focus on what I need to focus on to stop this disease.”
To learn more or contribute to Sophia’s Fund #797 call 650.248.9630 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Sophia has done, supporting causes that are personally meaningful through DAFs has become increasingly popular. Today more and more donors are using DAFs to honor loved ones and celebrate lifecycle events such as weddings, b’nai mitzvahs, memorials and graduations.
For information on DAFs contact Ruth Bender at 415.512.6205 or email RuthB@sfjcf.org.