My relationship with Gazette publisher Tom Curtis dates back more than three decades and includes the birth of this newspaper. Suffice it to say, I’ve been hanging out in Miami Springs for a very long time.
And in that time, there have been plenty of moments when I’ve been very proud of this city and the people who live in it. But none of those previous times compare to the pride I have felt in the last few months.
Two months ago, we learned of the awful news of TC’s grandson, Chad Carr, the 4-year-old son of Tammi Curtis Carr, a 1993 MSSH graduate living in Michigan. Chad was diagnosed with a brain tumor two days before his fourth birthday and the worst possible word was associated with his condition: inoperable.
The news quickly got out around town and the next thing you know, a group of area residents got together and took a photo at the Gazebo, all decked out in orange shirts. They held up signs, wishing Chad a Happy Birthday and supporting #ChadTough.
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It was a “no-brainer” that the photo ran on the front page of the Oct. 2 issue of the Gazette, but little did we know that the outpouring of support had only scratched the surface.
Everywhere I went around town, from Linda Healey at the Hurricane to Bonnie Fullerton, who herself had just gone through a life-threatening event, along with a bunch of others who would approach me with two words: “How’s Chad?”
The ultimate came a few weeks ago when Tammi and her entire family were on their way back home to Miami Springs from Michigan before heading up to Disney on a “Make a Wish” trip. Mayor Zavier Garcia made a few phone calls to people in high places at Miami International Airport and the next thing you know, up goes a huge banner as you enter the airport with “Welcome Chad, #ChadTough.”
But here comes the best one: Garcia’s daughter Alexa-Renee, along with her soccer teammate Hannah Gonzalez and Faith, Ricky and Christian Aguila (and if the last name sounds familiar, yes, Gazette writer Angie Aguila’s three kids) all teamed up to buy and place a long row of orange ribbons, tree-by-tree along Westward Drive to the Curtis family home. The orange bows were their way of saying, “Welcome Chad, we’re in this fight with you.”
Want one more? When Garcia, accompanied by his daughter, went to the Michaels on 49th street in Hialeah to purchase the orange ribbon, the sale representative asked what the ribbon was for. After finding out, he went in the back to talk to his manager. When he returned, he asked for $20. The actual cost was $300!
What really makes me shake my head in amazement and the inspiration for this column is how, in someone’s moment of crisis, people step up to the plate and go out of their way to show their support and offer help in so many ways.
I’m sure that there were plenty of folks in that photo in front of the Gazebo who haven’t always liked or agreed with everything written in the Gazette or what Tom might have opined about in an editorial. But that didn’t matter.
And it hasn’t been just Chad. Little 2-year-old Daniella Collazo, who has neuroblastoma cancer, was honored along with Chad at the annual Brain Power Walk put on by the Miami Springs Senior High School Anchor Club and Pilot Club of Miami.
Could there be a better Thanksgiving gift for these families than the prayers, generosity and thoughts from so many?
So congratulations to whoever is out there who came through. If you can reach around and pat yourselves on the back, do it. If not, I’m doing it for you. So on behalf of Tom and all of us at our little Gazette family, thank you.
A PROUD FATHER'S MOMENT:
If you all would allow me to indulge on a slightly personal note for a moment, I would appreciate it.
Two Saturdays ago came probably the proudest moment of my life when I got to do what every father dreams about from the day their daughter is born: to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.
To say the gamut of emotions were running wild inside me would be an enormous understatement. Funny how calm I was leading up to the moment, even helping to calm Jessica (take a deep breath sweetheart) while we were waiting for the church doors to swing open and the wedding music to start.
And then they swung open and, out of nowhere, it clobbered me like a roundhouse right hook. Good heavens, I’m walking my beautiful precious daughter down the aisle and about to give her away!!
I actually tried to go as slow as possible because I just wanted it to last forever, especially since she’s my only daughter, so I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
I hung tough, though, and managed to keep my emotions in check. But when we stepped out on the floor later on for our dance, forget it. It was over. I was toast. Yours truly lost it big time.
Any father who has a daughter needs to Google up the Bob Carlisle song “Butterfly Kisses.” When I first heard it 15 years ago, I knew it would always be the song I danced to with my daughter at her wedding and if it doesn’t melt your heart and cause you to tear up, your heart is officially made of cold stone.
Two moments that will be frozen in time forever and I can only hope that every father feels what I felt that day when they marry off their daughter.
So congratulations, sweetheart, as a proud father shouts out from the rooftops. Here’s one final “Butterfly Kiss” from Dad and wishing you and your terrific new husband Marc Marra nothing but wonderful things as you embark on your lives together.