"She was a real life super hero" - defiant five-year-old Sophie Taylor given spectacular send-off after cancer fight
PUBLISHED: 09:11 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:17 27 February 2019
A convoy of orange supercars, a helicopter flight and nerf gun RAF guard of honour ensured Sophie Taylor had the "perfect" farewell.
The fiercely defiant five-year-old from Sprowston died on January 18 after a year-long fight with cancer.
And her family have today spoken of the youngster’s bravery after they gave her the “most fitting send-off” at her funeral.
“Sophie coped with adversity in a way I imagine is never seen,” said her dad, Alex. “Her journey hit so many bumps but she accepted them and got on with it.
“She was a real life super hero.”
The family had believed Sophie was in remission at the turn of the year, and she had received her new “magic” prosthetic leg after an amputation.
Her top wish was to visit the grey castle at Disneyworld Florida, and the family were set to fly out on January 12.
But after Sophie was admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital with breathing difficulties they were told the devastating news on January 7.
The cancer was back, it was aggressive, and it was too late to intervene.
“Sophie had been in the clear and had her magic leg,” said Mr Taylor. “It was all looking perfect. My girls were living out their dreams and the most important one was Sophie had this wish to go to Disneyworld.
“We never got to fulfil it and it was like being diagnosed all over again.”
Even when Sophie was told her “naughty cancer was back” and she couldn’t go to Disneyworld, she “didn’t complain,” Mr Taylor said.
The Sprowston Infant School pupil gained thousands of followers through her journey as she stuck her tongue out at cancer and encouraged others to “Take a Sophie”.
When she was diagnosed her family said “no matter what that child goes through she is going to be happy”.
“We thought we are still raising a child here and we want her to win this battle,” said Mr Taylor.
“I didn’t go into this thinking she was going to die. I went in thinking we are going to do everything in our power to win this and she will come out the other side.”
While she was undergoing treatment, Sophie made a new best friend. Former Norwich City midfielder James Maddison forged a special bond with her after walking her out at Carrow Road.
The pair were so close that James was a pallbearer and gave a reading at her funeral at St Faith’s Crematorium on February 13.
“His friendship with Sophie was like family,” added Mr Taylor. “They just had that mutual love for one another. His eyes lit up when he saw Sophie and how happy she was. She was always just so buoyant around him.
“She was naturally talented at football and she just loved kicking a ball with James.”
He added James “didn’t hesitate” to get involved with the funeral, which became a spectacular send-off, and “just what Sophie would have wanted”.
For Sophie’s fourth birthday she had taken a helicopter ride at Old Buckenham. By chance, the same aircraft was available to fly her to her funeral at St Faith’s, passing over Norfolk before hovering above a 17-car convoy as it travelled along the NDR.
After a wake at Carrow Road, flowers were then taken to Spixworth for a memorial fireworks display as a tribute to Sophie on February 17.
“Sophie as a person knew her own mind, was extremely strong and determined,” said Mr Taylor. “Everyone that saw her was in awe of her inner strength.
“She was cheeky, had a lovely giggle, infectious smile and people wanted to be with her because of how she made them feel.
“She did not care who you were or what you did, if you were nice she liked you and if you were not she told you straight.
“It goes without saying that we live each day with something missing and will never lose that feeling.
“But we were really pleased to have been able to give her the best and most fitting send off we could wish for Sophie and could look back on the day with pride in the same way that we think of Sophie with so much pride.
“We know she would have loved the day we put together. We thank everyone that was involved, our loving and supportive family and friends, to all those that attended, that have sent messages and supported Sophie and continue to support us and Sophie’s legacy which we are calling Sophie’s Sparkle.
“This will be aimed at supporting children and families that find themselves in our shoes.
“No child should have to endure what she did or have her journey end the way it did.”
To donate to the Sophie’s Sparkle fund visit Sophie’s Sparkle.
A fitting send-off
A 17-car convoy painted orange with the #TakeaSophie logo was organised by swimming instructor Kristen Fox and led by funeral director Shayne Stork.
The convoy included a police sports car from PC Ross Tupper and former Canary striker Grant Holt, driving a Porsche.
Saxon Air at Norwich Airport stepped in with a helicopter, provided for free by Quinto, to transport Sophie to her place of rest, and RAF Marham organised an eight man guard of honour firing nerf guns into the air as Sophie’s coffin passed by.
The coffin itself was custom made orange and designed with her name and favourite things on it, with Olaf from frozen, a helicopter, football and a host of Disney characters. Bubbles were blown outside and butterflies were released in the garden area by Alex, Kirsty, Evie and Connor for Sophie.
Sophie’s service included a minute silence, her favourite songs Million Dreams from Greatest Showman, Gold Forever and Rocket by the Wanted, In Summer by Olaf from Frozen, Immortals from Big Hero 6, Friend in Me from Toy Story and her favourite song Shout out to my Ex by Little Mix.
The wake was held at Carrow Road where club director Tom Smith gave his condolences, and the Norwich game against Preston was screened live.