River Cities

Annual Miami Springs Brain Power Walk dedicated to two children

Dania and Daniella Collazo; Silvia Vanni, founder of Mystic Force Foundation, who lost her son to neuroblastoma; and Marilyn Lopez Fernandez at last Saturday’s Brain Walk.
Dania and Daniella Collazo; Silvia Vanni, founder of Mystic Force Foundation, who lost her son to neuroblastoma; and Marilyn Lopez Fernandez at last Saturday’s Brain Walk.

Curtiss Parkway was brimming with orange shirts last Saturday as people from the community joined forces with the Miami Springs Senior High Anchor Club and The Pilot Club of Miami for their Fifth Annual Brain Power Walk.

In past years, the walk has been held to raise awareness about brain-related disorders, disabilities and the prevention of traumatic brain injuries in general. However, this year the walk was dedicated to two very special young children in particular.

Four-year-old Chad Carr, son of 1993 MSSH graduate Tammi Curtis-Carr, who has an inoperable brain tumor, and 2-year-old Daniella Collazo, who has neuroblastoma cancer, were both honored at this year’s walk.

The T-shirts that were included under the registration fee of $5 were made orange, as that is Chad’s favorite color, and on the back was written #ChadTough and #TeamDaniella, as those are the slogans that represent each child’s fight against cancer.

The event lasted the better part of three hours, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending around noon. During this time, a large group of people were able to walk up and down Curtiss Parkway twice while the MSSH cheerleaders created cheers that inspired the crowd to keep hope and fight for a cure. They even made up a personal cheer for Daniella, who was present at the event with her mother Dania Collazo.

“It made me feel very special. It means that awareness is getting out there and that’s what our children need, awareness and more funding for childhood cancer,” Dania Collazo said upon finding out that her daughter was being recognized at the walk.

Also featured at the walk was the Mystic Force Foundation, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness for childhood cancer and raising funds for research to find more effective, less toxic treatments that can be used on children.

Founder Silvia Vanni, whose son Salvatore was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 4, recognized the wonderful opportunity that the Brain Walk provided to spread the word about childhood cancer.

“Nobody wants to talk about childhood cancer because nobody wants to think of a child having cancer,” Vanni said on the taboo nature of this type of cancer and how underfunded it is because of the lack of awareness there is for it, despite it being the No. 1 disease killer of children. “What people need to know and understand is that kids do get cancer, too.”

According to Vanni, one in every 285 will be diagnosed with childhood cancer before the age of 20. “It’s like having all of your kids in a lottery,” she said, “and you don’t know who’s going to be next. Every day 46 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer and every day seven of them pass away. With these alarming statistics in mind, raising funds for the cure is absolutely crucial.”

At the event, Anchors encouraged walk participants to make and decorate cards for children with cancer in order to put a smile on their faces while they go through such difficult trials. More than 50 cards were made and donated to the Mystic Force Foundation, which will deliver them to the children’s hospitals.

In keeping with tradition, the Pilot Club of Miami handed out free bike helmets and fitted them to the children who attended. In between the walks, the Anchor Club performed their signature Brainminder’s Puppet show, which informs kids about how and why they should keep their brains safe. The children who were there received coloring books to enhance their understanding of what was taught in the show.

The Pilot Club also held a 50/50 raffle and a raffle of gift baskets, while the Anchor Club set up a table with a bake sale. At the end of the day, these two clubs in conjunction with the Mystic Force Foundation that was collecting donations raised more than $1,100 for pediatric cancer research.