To help a little boy with leukemia, Hialeah Park Racing and Casino brought together Miami area firefighters and police officers in a “pig cook-off” competition on Sunday afternoon in the courtyard by the racetrack.
Members of the public paid $20 for a wristband, which included unlimited samplings of pork-based dishes from nearly a dozen booths, worked by fire and police departments. The proceeds will help offset Alex Flores’ medical expenses. He was diagnosed with AML Leukemia a month and a half ago, just before his second birthday.
“It started off with him having a fever,” said his mom, Venessa Flores. “And then he started to limp, and the day after, he just refused to walk.”
They spent three weeks in the hospital. Alex recently had his second round of chemotherapy at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
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“He’s already undergone three operating room trips, had five lumbar punctures (also called spinal taps), chemo...” said his mother.
“Everything gets turned upside down,” said his dad, Marvin Flores.
Venessa works as a dispatcher for the Hialeah Police and Fire Departments. Her boss contacted Hialeah Park’s director of events, Vivian Casáls-Munoz, and told her about Alex. Then she and her team set up the benefit event.
“I’ve been an officer for 13 years,” said Marvin of his tenure with Miami-Dade County’s police force, “and this is the first time I’ve ever seen police and fire come together. The level of support is mind-blowing and heart-warming at the same time.”
Pigs and cajachina boxes were provided to the participating police and fire departments. Judges came around toward the end of the event and sampled each of the dishes. Each department was in charge of providing its own spices and marinades to season the pig. The winner would win bragging rights in the cooking competition. It was the first event of its kind held there.
Firefighter Victor White, 32, was the lead chef representing the Miami Beach Fire Department. “Regardless of whether we win or lose, we entered as a team and we hope for the best – and it’s for a great cause.”
The only downside to the event, which lasted from noon until sundown, was that most of the pigs weren’t served until well after 4 p.m., a problem for those who arrived when the event opened and were only served finger-food to snack on.
“It seems like a neat idea,” said Randy White, Victor’s dad, who came with his wife from Kendall, “but it is taking a bit too long.”
“We plan to make this an annual event to raise money for local causes,” said Casáls-Munoz in a statement.
“I hate to say it, but I’m glad Alex started this event, because it can benefit someone else next year and years after,” Venessa Flores said. “There’s a lot of agencies who came together for this. We appreciate everyone’s support and especially the prayers, because honestly, there is power in prayers.”
How to help
If you would like to donate to Alex’s medical costs, visit his Go Fund Me page: https://www.gofundme.com/4BabyAlex?ref=hialeahpark.com