Community Voices

After losing friends to heart attacks, lawyer gets into shape and completes half marathon

Miami-Dade County resident Hugo Alvarez ran in the Miami Half Marathon after turning his health around. He lost two young friends to heart attacks and another friend suffered a disabling stroke.
Miami-Dade County resident Hugo Alvarez ran in the Miami Half Marathon after turning his health around. He lost two young friends to heart attacks and another friend suffered a disabling stroke. Photo provided to The Miami Herald

Setting a goal to get healthy isn’t as easy as it sounds.

There are grueling workouts and training runs and the necessary weight loss. Miami-Dade County resident Hugo Alvarez hadn’t done any long-distance running for eight years. He’d been busy.

But after losing two friends to heart attacks in their early 40s and seeing another friend suffer the disabling effects of a stroke, Alvarez decided it was time to improve his own health.

He started training last summer for the Miami Half Marathon, lost 35 pounds, and wore out several pairs of running shoes. With his wife, Mari, he got up early in the morning for training runs before putting in long days at his law firm, Alvarez & Barbara, which he co-founded 10 years ago.

“Being a lawyer is a stressful job that does not require a lot of physical activity,” he said. “I used to play football in college, but with fatherhood and job pressures, I drifted away from my healthy eating and fitness habits.”

Completing the recent Miami Half Marathon with Mari to cheers from their children and friends made all the work worthwhile.

“We both feel great about starting the New Year with a long-distance run and setting a good example for our kids,” he said after the race. “It’s important for busy professionals to stay in shape, and that’s a top priority for me in 2017.”


College students also often lose their way to eating healthy and exercising.

But the students at Miami-Dade College North Campus are trailblazers for bringing wellness strategies to their peers through a new student-led college campus club event.

On Wednesday, to kick off celebrating Heart Awareness Month, members of the Women’s Breast & Heart Initiative College Campus Club will present “Show Us Your Heart,” which is being organized by club president Richard Pascual and Jaletha Hield.

The event begins at noon and ends at 1 p.m., Building 4 Breezeway, Miami-Dade College North Campus, 11380 NW 27th Ave.

The awareness gathering can make a huge impact on future generations as the students learn and practice disease reduction and prevention strategies they can pass on to their friends, family members and future children.

“This peer-led Heart Awareness Month event will serve as a catalyst for young adults to take an active role in the awareness and prevention of heart disease right on their college campus,” said Andrea Ivory, executive director of the Women’s Breast & Heart Initiative.

The interactive event will feature free heart screenings by Baptist Health South Florida, volleyball games, informative booths on nutrition, heart disease detection and volunteer outreach enrollment opportunities to join the WBHI unique door-to-door outreach campaigns.

Also, the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders will attend to cheer on students, faculty and staff to good health, encourage healthy behaviors and offer students an opportunity to sign up for information about auditioning to join the squad.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women over age 35, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Most women are completely unaware of the threat they face, and each year one in three women dies from heart disease.

WBHI has increased awareness in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties through its targeted outreach and referral program for more than 10 years. Through the support of the community, the group serves more than 11,000 households each year with breast and heart health education, preventive screenings and care coordination for at-risk women in an effort to beat breast cancer and heart disease.

Become empowered and visit for more.


Plan to enjoy a free symphony concert that will present the young winners of Alhambra Orchestra’s annual Concerto Competition. South Florida middle- and high-school students will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at Florida International University’s Wertheim Auditorium, 10910 SW 17th St.

The orchestra, conducted by Daniel Andai, will accompany the students, and the concert will feature Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro Overture” and “Finlandia” by Sibelius. The soloists are: third-place winner Matthew Hakkarainen performing Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3, second-place winner Sophia Zheng with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D; and first place winner Laura Liu with William Walton’s Viola Concerto.

Bring the whole family and stay for a post-concert dessert reception to meet the musicians. Alhambra Orchestra is Miami’s community orchestra and has a mission to support classical music and music education. No tickets or reservations needed. More at and you can call 305-668-9260.

The group also will present “Heart Strings,” a Valentine’s Day Concert by the Alhambra Quartet with Pianist Mia Vassilev at 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave.

Romantic selections by Haydn, Schubert, Vivaldi, Mozart and Grieg plus a waltz, tango and opera excerpt will be played.

The concert is $35, $25 for museum members, and includes an open wine bar, chocolates and museum admission. There are limited tickets and registration is required. Call 305-603-8067 and purchase tickets at


Congratulations to two South Florida pro bono attorneys and a South Florida bankruptcy judge on receiving recognition for their efforts to serve our community.

Each year, the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar honor lawyers, groups and members of the judiciary who have “freely given their time and expertise in making legal services available to the poor.” The awards were given at the Pro Bono Awards Ceremony in Tallahassee.

David Manz, from the Florida Keys, received the 2017 Florida Bar Presidents Pro Bono award for the 16th Circuit in Monroe County. Brett Barfield, of Holland & Knight’s Miami Office, received the award for the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami. They were nominated for their contributions to the Dade Legal Aid Put Something Back pro bono project.

Laurel M. Isicoff received the Distinguished Federal Judicial Award. She is chief judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida and is noted for creating innovative partnerships to help make equal access to justice available to those in need.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at