Founder & President of Sofia's Hope
Marta Blanco was born in New Orleans, LA to Colombian parents and is fully bilingual and bicultural. She received her undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University (LSU) and is a graduate of Thunderbird – the American Graduate School of International Management. She began her career in Research and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge regarding the importance of consumer insights and their implications for marketing and advertising. Ms. Blanco considers herself more an Account Planner than simply an Account Manager or Research Manager. Currently she works on a consulting basis for 4DV Marketing supporting their account teams and as an active member of their New Business team.
In January 2013 Ms. Blanco founded Sofia's Hope in honor of her eldest daughter, Sofia. She is dedicated to the foundation and the cause of pediatric cancer. However, Ms. Blanco has always considered her most important role to be that of the mother to both her girls. She lives in South Florida with her husband, Carlos, and daughter, Gabriela.
Jamie Doherty is the founder, President and CTO of R2 Unified Technologies, a leading technology solutions provider of mid-market businesses, governments, and educational systems within the Southeast. Since founding R2 Unified Technologies in 2008, the company has been widely recognized on a regional and national level for Jamie's innovative visionary leadership. R2 has been consecutively awarded by Inc. magazine as one of Florida's top technology partners, INC 500/5000 as one of the fastest-growing private companies and ranked no. 10 on the South Florida's Business Journal Fast 50 technical organization. R2 Unified Technologies was also recognized by Cisco as the 2014 Cisco SMB Partner of the Year for the Southeast.
Jamie also serves on Ingram Micro's Master Mind Group 5 Peer Group within the Venture Tech community. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida, with his wife and two children.
“It was very important for R2 Unified Technologies to give back to the community. As a family-oriented organization, a focus on giving back to children was at the top of our requirement list as well. When we learned about Marta and her mission, it was one of the easiest decisions we’ve ever made. Sofia’s Hope encompassed everything that R2 believes in and we admired Marta’s dedication to her work.“
Linda Villena is a native Miamian who has been a stay-at-home mom to five children, the youngest who is a senior in high school. Linda is a Certified Public Accountant, that graduated from Florida International University (FIU). Currently, Linda runs a successful accounting and QuickBooks consulting business from her home office. Her only daughter, Julia, was a friend and classmate of Sofia's at St. Louis Covenant School. Currently Ms. Villena lives with her husband and three of her children.
For the last eight years, Ms. Villena has also worked on bringing, DryZzz, the pillowcase for wet heads, to the market. A percentage of the sale of each DryZzz is donated to Sofia's Hope.
"I donate my time to Sofia's Hope so that I can be a small part of bringing smiles & some peace to the children & families who are currently in the fight for their lives. I know that our mission to help these families is born out of the experience of living the fight."
Silvia is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional with over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. She works at Academy Financial, Inc. in Bethesda, MD on the development and implementation of retirement and investment planning strategies for individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations. Silvia graduated from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and a Master of Science degree in Marketing from American University.
"I joined the Board because I have seen up close the dedication Marta shows for the organization and its mission and quite simply want to help in a meaningful way."
Sandra D.M. Bruno, M.D.
Dr. Sandra Bruno, MD is an internal medicine specialist practicing in her hometown of Lake Charles, LA. Her practice is affiliated with MDVIP, a national network of primary care doctors who focus is on delivering personalized medicine, patient-centered and preventive care.
She completed a Combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. She graduated from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. She attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA for her undergraduate studies, majoring in History. She remains an active and dedicated alumna, attending LSU football and baseball games whenever she can. She met Sofia’s Hope founder, Marta Blanco, while attending LSU. She enjoys travel and time with her greyhound, Mario.
"I support Sofia's Hope because of the numerous programs we have to help patients and their families cope with their cancer diagnosis and treatment. I’m proud of our commitment to supporting cancer research and working to see the direct impact of that to save lives."
Mariana De Michele, M.D.
Officer, Medical Advisor
Mariana was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and emigrated to the Miami, Florida when she was 15 years old. After completing high school at Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll, she enrolled in Florida International University Pre-Med program. As a a sophomore in college she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and underwent two years of chemotherapy treatment which is when she met Marta and Sofia . Following the completion of her treatment, she restarted her studies at FIU and went on to the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. She graduated medical school in 2012 and completed her residency training in General Internal Medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. She has worked as a Faculty Physician at Michigan Medicine, and at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland Ohio.
Along with her husband and two children, she recently moved back to Miami Florida to be closer to family. Mariana recently started working with Baptist Health South Florida.
"I am excited about the opportunity to join the Board of Sofia’s Hope and continue her legacy. And to help increase awareness of childhood cancer and the repercussions of treatment to long term survivors like myself."
Sandra Berenguer is a Certified Elementary Education teacher who currently works at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove, Florida. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1991 and has taught in a wide variety of settings which include the public school system in Miami-Dade County, Catholic Schools, private non-denominational schools and abroad in Costa Rica.
She is a dedicated wife to Ramon and mother to Nicholas, 21 and Sarah, 18. Sandra enjoys reading, traveling and is an accomplished cook. She met Sofia’s Hope founder, Marta Blanco and her family at St. Thomas the Apostle thirteen years ago. Her daughter Sarah was a close classmate of Sofia’s and remains good friends with her sister, Gabi.
“I chose to work with Sofia’s Hope because I strongly believe in their research grant that supports groundbreaking research that helps childhood cancer patients with the devastating & often times deadly side effects of their treatments. And because of the countless programs that support and help patients and their families enjoy fun activities that distract them from hospital visits and treatments.”
Andres Hidalgo was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and raised in Miami, Florida. On April 14, 2012, his life changed forever when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the age of 15. High school classes and extracurricular activities were replaced by doctors’ visits and chemotherapy sessions. He was suddenly immersed in the world of medicine and his doctors and nurses quickly became his role models. After much support from family, friends, and the community, he overcame his diagnosis and decided to be a patient advocate for children suffering from pediatric cancer by sharing his story. As a survivor speaker, Andres has helped Sofia’s Hope raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer since 2016.
After graduating from Belen Jesuit, Andres attended the University of Miami to pursue what he thought would be a career in medicine. He quickly realized his strengths lied in reading, writing, and public speaking. He decided that pursuing a career in law would allow him to showcase these skills. Andres is currently fourth year JD/MBA candidate at UM. Upon graduation, he is interested in pursuing a career in litigation. His dream is to be able to advocate on behalf of those who have suffered tremendous losses or tragedies.
“No one could have prepared me for the physical and emotional toll my diagnosis and treatments would have on me and my family. Volunteering for Sofia’s Hope helped me connect with others who have experienced similar struggles. I am proud to work for a local organization that focuses on the specific needs of families in our South Florida community.”
Jorge and Linda Martinez
Linda is a clinical psychologist and is currently focused on children as they enter the foster care system. Jorge is Vice President of the Conroy Martinez Group, a full-service public relations, marketing and social media firm headquartered in Miami and connected to media outlets worldwide.
Linda participated in the Disney Marathon as a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2004. There, she met Sofia, who was the team’s Honored Teammate. When her own nephew was later diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, running again served as the vehicle to raise money and awareness, as she and her husband, Jorge, launched the Reason to Run 5K, which raises money to fund childhood cancer research. Linda and Jorge have two children, Jack and Katie, both of whom are in college. Katie and Sofia were classmates when Sofia passed. All members of the family have taken an active role in the family’s fundraising efforts, and all are privileged to support Sofia’s Hope.
"We are pleased and honored to support Sofia’s Hope because we believe deeply in the dual mission of acting on a macro level by funding ground-breaking research and on a community level by offering innovative programs and patient support initiatives for families whose lives have been impacted by childhood cancer."
Melissa Perez is a South Florida native who graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. Ms. Perez taught full-time then later became a stay-at-home mom. Her and her husband Carlos have three kids. For the last several years, she has been substitute teaching at various private and public schools.
Ms. Perez met Marta at St. Thomas the Apostle when her son Brian was in the same class as Sofia. Marta also inspired her to start running, which has also led to participating in half marathons.
“I am honored to be representing Sofia’s Hope. I’m also excited about working on programs for the children and their families. It means a lot to support their mission to help fight childhood cancer.”
Nataly Prieto was born and raised in Miami, FL in a household with three older sisters who pursued their educations in different branches of medicine. At the age of sixteen, Nataly was a volunteer at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s hematology/oncology unit and it was then that she realized she too would enter the world of healthcare specifically as a pediatric hem/onc nurse. She is currently a 2nd year BSN student at Nova Southeastern University and set to graduate in about a year. Her heart will always find a way to support and benefit the pediatric cancer community.
“I am thrilled to begin this new chapter as a Program Assistant for Sofia’s Hope. It’s an honor to be a part of a non-profit foundation with a mission of funding pediatric oncology research and supporting children and families that are impacted by childhood cancer.”