Bella Rodriguez-Torres battled a rare, aggressive cancer for six years until she died at 10 years old. This little girl became a social media phenomenon as her parents chronicled her chemotherapy treatments on Facebook.
Her positive outlook on life inspired many to Live Like Bella — to laugh, sing, play and be compassionate toward others.
A South Miami-Dade park was renamed in her honor just last month. And now, the Live Like Bella and Miami Children’s Health foundations will honor Bella with a pavilion at Miami Children’s Hospital.
The Live Like Bella Pavilion is an $8.5 million project that will consist of a four-story building, emblazoned with the words Live Like Bella written in red, childlike handwriting and a smiling sun. It will serve as a temporary housing facility for families of children undergoing cancer treatments, as well as treatment in neurosurgery, neurology, cardiology and neonatology.
“Families travel far and wide to our centers of excellence like our Cancer Center… looking for hope, and with the Live Like Bella Pavilion, they’ll find the comfort and support they need to reduce the stresses of being far from home,’’ said Lucy Morillo, president and CEO of Miami Children's Health Foundation.
The number of rooms that will be available for families is still being determined. Construction is estimated to be completed by mid-2018, according to Lisbet Fernández-Viña, director of external affairs at the Miami Children’s Health Foundation.
Miami Children’s Hospital is also in preliminary discussions with Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida to create a Ronald McDonald house within the pavilion.
A partnership between the Live Like Bella Foundation and the Miami Children’s Health Foundation was announced last December under the name, “Bella’s Promise.’’ The partnership raises funds for pediatric cancer research.
Danys Baez, a retired Major League Baseball pitcher, is on the board of directors of the Live Like Bella Foundation. He and Jose Fernandez, a pitcher for the Miami Marlins, lend their support to the foundation.
“Providing housing for families in treatment is something that has long been needed in this community,’’ Baez said.
Raymond Rodriguez-Torres, Bella’s father, says he is proud to have helped establish the pavilion.
“The words Live Like Bella circulated the world, and they mean different things to different people,’’ he said. “For some, it means to be courageous. For others, it means to live in the moment. At the core, what it means to us and what it meant to Bella was to care for others.’’