Sofia was diagnosed with cancer when she was just three years old.
Now 10, she managed to beat her cancer and, inspired by her bravery, her dad is now cycling all the way to Lithuania in a mammoth challenge to raise money for Cancer Research.
Vinnie Raulinaitis said: “When Sofia was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukaemia, it was a devastating blow to me and my family.
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“After a difficult two-year battle, Sofia successfully completed her treatment, winning her fight against the disease. Thankfully our story ended happily, but the journey was difficult nonetheless.
“To watch your child endure such a cruel illness and relentless treatment regime was really hard.
“The experience, though hugely traumatic, has subsequently had an extremely positive effect on my life, in many ways changing my whole outlook. I was determined that something good would come out of this difficult life journey.”
‘I knew it was nothing compared to what she had endured’
After seeing his daughter battle through gruelling treatment, the Bromley dad decided to get his own body in order by getting fit and losing five stone.
He shrank from more than 17st to just under 12st and took up cycling.
Vinnie said: “I knew I had to do something to change the direction of my life, so at 30 years old, and weighing a hefty 105kg, I found myself signing up for my first sporting challenge – 2014 London to Paris charity cycle.
“It gave me the drive to get into shape as well as a way to thank staff at the Royal Marsden Hospital for caring for Sofia and returning her to me, as a healthy, beautiful and vibrant little girl.
“I loved the cycling experience, the feeling it gave me – a combination of pride, pain, satisfaction and more pain!”
Vinnie, now 36, vowed to become a healthier version of himself, for him and his family, and found himself signing up for an Ironman challenge.
With Sofia as inspiration, he got through the gruelling eight-month training plan.
He said: “I knew it was nothing compared to what she had endured. But it wasn’t without its challenges.
“During my initial swim training session, I barely managed 100 metres – fitness was somewhat lacking!”
But exercise has since become an integral part of Vinnie’s life and he has numerous Ironman challenges under his belt.
‘7 countries, 2,000km, 1 idiot’
Sofia has also caught the fitness bug.
He said: “I’m so proud of Sofia. She now competes in triathlons too! My wife, Agne, our son Hugo and I, feel so lucky to be able to cheer Sofia on, although we know other families haven’t been so lucky.
“I want to help make sure more families have the positive outcome mine has, so I have set myself the target of raising £20,000 for Cancer Research UK’s lifesaving work.”
Vinnie has set himself a demanding challenge and is also hoping to win a place in the record books.
He said: “I decided I needed a challenge which was huge and crazy! So I will be attempting 2,000km in five days, from London to my hometown Vilnius in Lithuania.
“I’ll be cycling 400km (248 miles) a day and spending up to 18 hours a day in the saddle. It’ll be an incredibly tough challenge both physically and mentally so I will need all the support I can get, although I won’t actually have a support team with me.
“My cycling Bromley has on the back: ‘7 countries, 2000k, 1 idiot’, which just about sums it up!”
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Vinnie’s journey will take him from the UK, through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and finally Lithuania.
He said: “Donations from supporters will spur me on – the more we can raise together the more lives we can help Cancer Research UK save!”
For details about the challenge and to sponsor Vinnie, visit this website.