Briana Vega, a 12-year-old student at Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay, lost her battle to acute myeloid leukemia in February, two years after being diagnosed with cancer.
Just a year and a half after being in remission, she developed the secondary type of cancer, which proved to be an aggressive type of leukemia that required a bone marrow transplant and eventually took her life.
Now, in memory of the “little warrior,” as described by her family and friends, Briana’s school has teamed up with the Live Like Bella Foundation and created a fishing tournament to raise funds for the foundation and will be used exclusively for research in this form of leukemia, known as AML.
“We were overwhelmed and humbled and felt beyond blessed,” said Joyce Vega, Briana’s mom, when she first heard about the tournament being held in her daughter’s memory. “Briana was only there for six weeks. It was such a short amount of time and the support the school gave us was amazing.”
The fishing tournament will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, at Shake-A-Leg Miami in Coconut Grove.
“Briana has touched so many of us, and we wanted to do something in her memory,” said Ana Poveda, a spokeswoman for Westminster Community School, or WCS.
In previous years, WCS had fishing tournaments to raise money for underprivileged children in order to give them the opportunity to attend the school. But for almost two years, the school’s fishing tournament had been on hiatus — until now.
There had been informal talk for months among the administration and the school’s board members to revive the tournament. Then, on one fateful morning, Alexander Trujillo, one of the board members and event sponsor, ran into Raymond Rodriguez-Torres.
Mr. Rodriguez-Torres is an author and founder of the Live Like Bella Foundation for Childhood Cancer and the father of Bella Rodriguez-Torres, the little girl from Miami who lost her battle to childhood cancer over a year ago.
That morning, Mr. Trujillo happened to pick up one of Mr. Rodriguez-Torres’ books that he brought to school and began to read it. The two strangers began to talk about childhood cancer and left the conversation at that.
“I remember that after speaking to Raymond, I had a tugging in the heart to call him,” said Trujillo, who asked Rodriguez-Torres if the Live Like Bella Foundation had a fishing tournament and if he would like to partner with WCS.
At the time, Vega had just lost her battle to cancer.
Both men approached the administration with the idea to raise funds for her in conjunction with Live Like Bella and WCS in the form of the fishing tournament. Without hesitation, they agreed to the idea and stated that they wanted all the proceeds to go toward clinical research.
“Both Bella and Briana fought aggressive types of cancer at such young ages. Raising awareness about childhood cancer is important — it is critical,” said Mr. Rodriguez-Torres.
On the day of the event, there will be a 40-foot banner displayed on the committee’s boat. The banner, donated by Instant Signs Miami, will say, “Westminster Christian School Fishing Tournament in Memory of Briana Vega” and have handwritten messages and prayers to Vega from the children in the art program at her school.
“We’ve helped with all of Raymond’s events and are committed to doing our part as much as we can,” said Boris Zedan, owner of Instant Signs Miami.
In addition to the banner display, the event will have aerial coverage by helicopter of the boats leaving the specified area. A professional photographer will also be on site to capture all of the day’s activities.
Those participating in the tournament will have sponsorship opportunities listed on the school’s website at wcsmiami.org.
“The idea of the sponsorship opportunities is to give people not only a chance to participate in the tournament but to participate in the cause,” said Trujillo.
The event is expected to attract more than 40 boats as well as many friends, family and supporters.
Those who are not fishermen can still attend the tournament. There will be a dock party from noon to 5 p.m. with food, drinks and all sorts of fun activities as well as a silent auction.
“The fishing tournament is not just a tool, but more of a platform to raise awareness for this cause,” Trujillo said.