The Coast News Group
Sage Creek High School sophomores Mia Humphrey, left, and Zoebelle Hinjosa, were honored as Leukemia & Lymphoma Society San Diego Chapter 2020 Students of the Year after raising $89,000 as part of the competition. Each lost a parent to cancer in 2018 and teamed up for the campaign. Courtesy photo
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Sage Creek teens honor late parents, set fundraising record

CARLSBAD — In dark and unprecedented times, two Carlsbad teenagers are beacons of light and inspiration.

Sage Creek High School sophomores Mia Humphrey, 15, and Zoebelle Hinjosa, 16, are beaming bright after smashing a fundraising record for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society San Diego Chapter’s Students of the Year competition.

The teens raised an eye-popping $89,000 in seven weeks, each in honor of one of their late parents, and also earning a research portfolio in their names. Both lost a parent — Mia her father and Zoebelle her mother — three months apart in 2018, but joined forces for this cause.

The previous record was $48,000 set just last year, but the two maxed out their networks soliciting their friends, family and others in the community, who came through. As a result, the two were honored by the LLS during a March 6 gala.

“It’s a seven-week campaign for high school students all across San Diego,” said Vanessa Nguyen, campaign manager for the LLS program. “Obviously, Mia and Zoebelle have a compelling story. They had a letter-writing campaign … and then they sent out emails every week.”

She said in addition to Mia and Zoebelle, this year’s competition raised a new total record of $511,826. Also, this year’s fundraising campaign, which had 16 teams, saw six other teams raise at least $50,000, another San Diego record.

Nguyen said both girls maxed out their personal networks, along with those of their late parents. Humphrey said the two used an aggressive email campaign to land donors, all who were more than willing to support the cause.

Mia and Zoebelle’s team name was “Take a Hike Cancer,” a nod to curing cancer, but also to their lost loved ones who had adventurous outdoor spirits.

“It was such a surreal experience and was incredible,” Mia said. “I had a bunch of connections. Anybody he worked with, those companies, and my family I reached out. It was a healing experience for me.”

Mia and Zoebelle’s bittersweet journey began in November when Nguyen spoke to students at Sage Creek High School about the upcoming Leukemia & Lymphoma Society event. The girls, who first met in kindergarten but had since started to drift apart, joined forces and the competition.

Their journey saw them reconnect and strengthen their bond as they paved their way to history.

But back in 2018, the two were in dark times of their own. Zoebelle lost her mother, Cindy, to ovarian cancer in July 2018, and Mia’s father, Brad, lost his battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia three months later.

The deaths crushed both girls as they lost role models, best friends and their biggest supporters. But over time, the wounds began to heal as the two, perhaps unknowingly, waited for a moment to honor their parents.

And when the opportunity came, Mia and Zoebelle struck hard and fast. In the first three weeks, the duo raised $35,000 as their goal was to just simply beat the record.

Nguyen said their goal then changed to $50,000 and then to $75,000. On the night of the gala, it was announced a team had raised $79,000, but Mia and Zoebelle were unaware it was them.

By the time the two got on stage to receive their awards, their campaign raised an additional $10,000.

“The opportunities that have opened up to us … it’s insane,” Zoebelle said. “I’ve gained so much strength from doing this. It was amazing to know that so many people are going to be affected.”