Federica Soriano, director CRIT TeletonUSA
Alicia Civita/Latin Times

SAN ANTONIO - In the heart of San Antonio, a beacon of hope and unwavering dedication shines through Federica "Fica" Soriano, the executive director of the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of TeletonUSA (CRIT).

Her story, one of compassion and relentless commitment, resonates profoundly within the Latino community in the United States. As the TeletonUSA's pivotal fundraising event approaches, Soriano stands as a symbol of cultural strength and transformative care, poised to make an even greater impact in the lives of many.

Soriano's roots trace back to Mexico, where her journey in philanthropy began. Born and raised there, she completed her economics degree and returned after studying in the United States. It was during this transitional phase that she stumbled upon her true calling. "I had no definitive plans upon returning to Mexico," Soriano told the Latin Times during an exclusive interview from her home away from home, the San Antonio CRIT.

"An opportunity to volunteer at a youth congress changed my life. That's where my passion for assistance and social work, which had been with me since childhood, truly flourished," she remembered.

After two years volunteering full time, her dad asked her to find a job. She did, being offered a paid position in the organization she had volunteered for. Initially it didn't feel right. "How could I get paid for doing what I love, for bringing joy and happiness?" she wondered. However, Fernando Landeros, the visionary behind Teletón, persuaded her to see the professionalization of charity work as a necessary evolution, not just in Mexico but globally.

Eventually she joined Landeros. Soriano's narrative is intertwined with the growth of Teletón in Mexico and its expansion to the United States. Teletón, inspired by its Chilean counterpart and with the support of Don Francisco, was founded to unite people around a common cause - supporting children with disabilities and their families. "Teletón is more than just a fundraiser; it's a symbol of national unity and compassion," she explains.

Empathy begins at home

Being part of the Teletón organization has led to a deep-seated empathy that was most poignantly tested and revealed when Soriano was faced with a heart-wrenching plea from her own daughter. She made an earnest request for her to step away from the organization.

This moment was a stark reminder that empathy must begin at home. It challenged her to reassess her priorities, leading her to make the difficult decision to leave Teletón. As Soriano recounted this significant chapter in her life, tears welled up and gently traced down her cheeks. "There is nothing a parent doesn't do for a child," she said also thinking of the 1,800 families TeletonUSA has work with in the San Antonio CRIT.

Going back to Teletón

Soriano's husband had long harbored the desire to relocate their family to the U.S., motivated by the expansion of his business there. Previously, Soriano's commitment to Teletón had made such a relocation impossible. Things had changed so the move was on: "He had always respected and supported my dedication to Teletón. When the opportunity came, it was my turn to reciprocate that support for his dreams."

By then, TelevisaUnivision had started TeletonUSA and the CRIT in San Antonio was a reality. It was something she didn't know at the time. This institute, a part of TeletonUSA, represents the Latino legacy in the U.S. health system, offering comprehensive rehabilitation services to children with neurological and musculoskeletal disorders.

I an unexpected turn of events by saying 'yes' to this new chapter in her family life, Soriano not only honored her husband's wishes but, in a twist of fate: "Life brought me back to Teletón," she says.

Her mother's daughter

"My mother always said, 'You can't just go through life leaving things as they are; you must leave them having made them better,'" Soriano reflects. This principle, deeply ingrained in her from a young age, has guided her in her quest to improve the lives of children with disabilities. She carries this ethos into every initiative at CRIT, striving to create a space that not only rehabilitates but uplifts the spirits of those it serves.

In describing the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of TeletonUSA, Soriano speaks with palpable pride about its significance as a landmark of Latino contribution to the county. "The CRIT stands as a testament to the collective effort and generosity of the Latino community," she states.

The facility, built primarily through small donations gathered during the TeletonUSA event, symbolizes a unique model of community-driven healthcare. Each brick and beam of the institute, according to Soriano, represents the compassion and solidarity of thousands of individual donors, many of whom are part of the Hispanic community.

Soriano's narrative about the CRIT extends beyond its physical structure to its role in cultural integration and empowerment. She sees the institute as a bridge between cultures, providing a space where Latino families can receive care and support in an environment that respects and understands their cultural background. "At CRIT we don't just offer medical services; we offer a sense of belonging and recognition to the Hispanic community," Soriano explains.

This approach has made the CRIT a beacon of hope and a model of inclusive healthcare. It is a place where children and their families find not only medical expertise but also a community that embraces them, reflecting the rich tapestry of Latino culture and its enduring legacy in the fabric of American society.

As the TeletonUSA event nears, Soriano's message is clear: "It's not just about helping a child or a family. It's about celebrating who we are and our contributions to this country." She also highlighted the importance of each donation, no matter how small, in building the CRIT facility.

Soriano's story is one of cultural bridging and relentless pursuit of a better world for children with disabilities. Through her leadership and vision, Federica Soriano continues to champion the values instilled in her by her mother, while simultaneously forging a path for greater Latino participation and recognition in the United States.

For more information on the TeletonUSA event and how to contribute, visit https://critusa.org/es/

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