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Hays teen battling cancer gets Christmas surprise

By Hays Daily News
Sophia Linenberger, left, and her sister Holly were surprised Christmas Eve morning when local law enforcement officers made an Elves of Christmas Present delivery to their house in Hays.
Stan, Jenny and Holly Linenberger, left to right in back, with their daughter Sophia, center, and the Hays and Ellis County law enforcement officers who delivered the "Elves Of Christmas Present" surprise.

A Hays teen battling cancer, Sophia Linenberger, was the recipient of the anonymous Kansas City-based group that delivers a unique Christmas surprise to children with a life-threatening illness.

"Sophia was so surprised with the sirens and knock at the door Christmas Eve morning from our local police department," said Jenny Linenberger, Sophia's mother. Sophia's sister Holly was also at home for the delivery.

"Thank you to The Elves of Christmas and Hays Police Department for making Sophia's and Holly's Christmas so special," Linenberger said. "We are truly grateful for your generosity."

The "Elves of Christmas Present' gift was delivered by officers with the Hays Police Department and the Ellis County Sheriff's Office.

Sophia, who is battling cancer, is a junior at TMP-Marian High School. Her #SophiaStrong hashtag keeps the community updated and providing her with support, note her mother and her dad, Stan. 

"Next week Sophia will be getting chemotherapy and radiation," said Linenberger. She has just started radiation, with five of 15 treatments complete. She is being treated at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

"We travel weekly since August to KC," Linenberger said. "Please continue to keep her in your prayers."

The Elves of Christmas Present remain anonymous. Their stated mission on their web site, elvesofchristmaspresent.org, is to provide unique, surprise Christmas gifts and experiences for children who are suffering from life-threatening illness and families that have experienced tragedy.

Due to COVID-19, the elves this Christmas relied on local law enforcement to make deliveries to nine children throughout Kansas and Missouri, including Sophia.

In January 2019, Linenberger was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in the bones or soft tissue surrounding the bone. She was in remission last November but it was discovered at her nine-month checkup that she had relapsed and would need more chemotherapy.

"Please let the Hays Community and our Thomas More Prep-Marian families know we are grateful for the continued support, prayers, gifts and phone calls," Linenberger said. "It means a lot to us!"