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4-year-old cancer survivor inspires others to give back

Mia Strong Night at the Kern County Raceway
Posted at 8:22 AM, Jun 16, 2018

In August of 2016, Korina and Michael Sparks got news that changed their lives forever. 

"It all started at two in the morning," Michael said. "She kept saying, my tummy hurts, my tummy hurts, but she was grabbing her chest," Korina said. 

Those were the moments before they rushed their then 3-year-old daughter Mia to the emergency room. It was there that they found out that Mia had an enlarged heart with fluid around it. 

"No body ever expects their child to get sick. When it happens, it is just like a sock in the gut," Korina said. 

But things didn't get better. Mia was flown to Madera Children's Hospital in Fresno, California where they got news that she also had a mass on her heart. 

24-hours later, she was on a helicopter being taken to Stanford Children's Hospital, where doctors performed surgery to remove the fluid surrounding her heart. 

“My baby is in a helicopter without me, she is being admitted into different hospitals without me and you’re just like how is this all happening so fast,” Korina said. 

Two days later, they found out that Mia had a form of cancer called a Yolk Cell Tumor. 

“You run through such a wave of emotions. We were told there is about a four percent chance that this type of cancer developed in the place where it developed on Mia," Michael said. 

She started chemotherapy that night. After five different treatments, she had to have open heart surgery. 

That was almost two years ago. Today, Mia celebrates a year and a half in remission. 

“We almost lost our daughter, within seconds. And just to see her the way she is now, it is just a blessing," Korina said. 

With Mia now healthy, the Sparks family wanted to give back. They said the Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House and Second Star to the Right, a local non-profit that fights childhood cancer were the two organizations that helped them when they needed it most. 

"I was literally living at the hospital with Mia, but knowing that the boys could go back to the house, have a meal to eat, was amazing," Korina said. 

Last year, the Sparks family teamed up with JB Motorsports owner Johnny Bedingfield, who was a family friend. 

Bedingfield saw first-hand what the Sparks went through and wanted to help others going through similar struggles. 

“I mean kids that go through cancer, treatments, open heart surgeries. It is just crazy to think that. I mean you have a child, and you just think wow," Bedingfield said. 

Mia Strong Night was held at the Kern County Raceway. The event raised almost $25,000 dollars for the Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House and Second Star to the Right. 

“It was a no brainer to get involved and hopefully pay some blessings forward to other families going through the same thing," Michael said. 

On Saturday, June 16th, the Kern County Raceway will hold their second Mia Strong Night.

Korina and Micahel now reflect on Mia's recovery. 

“That’s your baby, and then when you see that scar…. but now we look at her and that scar is there to remind her what a fighter she is," Korina said. 

The event starts at 6 p.m. You can purchase tickets here: