Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Fresh Breath of Life

This coming Sunday is the 12Th annual Dina LaVigna Breath of Life Triathlon in Ventura, CA. This is a very meaningful event to me and my close friends, but even more meaningful to a particular friend I love a lot – Ayndrea LaVigna. You see this amazing event was born of an even more amazing woman, Dina LaVigna. She was vivacious, energetic and caring. A real spitfire of a person, who packed a lot of energy and life into her five-foot, 95 pound frame.
Where Dina was tiny in size, she was huge in life. She was one of those people who commanded attention when she walked into the room, would sway a conversation with her conviction and smarts, yet balance all of this bigness with the ability to be genuine, real and easily handle an intimate, personal conversation. This is when she’d impart her advice and love to help someone. I know because she was my friend Ayndrea’s favorite person in the world. As a younger sister, she benefited from her big sister’s time and attention in way that can’t be replaced. It is because I love my friend Ayndrea that I take the time to share her sister’s incredible story.

Sunday, June 28 will be a happy day. One with hundreds of athletes making it to the finish line and accomplishing personal goals. They will celebrate with their family and friends, while they talk about how they could have done better, will try harder next year, and yes, they will temporarily allow themselves to bask in the glow of their own hard work.

This event day means success for many people, but as I said earlier it was born of a tragedy. April 10, 1997 was a very dark day. A very sad day in the lives of hundreds of family and friends who knew Dina and the LaVigna family. It was the end of 33 years of life because of Pulmonary Immunodeficiency , the disease Dina had since birth. Primary Immunodeficiency (PI) is a set of more than 80 hereditary disorders caused by a defect in one or more genes responsible for the development of key components of the human immune system. It afflicts over 500,000 Americans (one in every 500) mostly children. PI affects more children than childhood leukemia and lymphoma combined. Dina died of complications from a double-lung transplant operation. No one wanted, nor expected, this outcome for the young mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend.

After Dina’s death, somehow, some way, her brothers started this triathlon in her honor. This is not an everyday task and most people would never find the strength to carry on, let alone go big and create an event to educate others about PI, inspire participation through their own efforts and organize such a large-scale event in the name of their sister. But just as Dina was no wallflower, neither is her family. They are a tightly knit bunch, with a will of iron and a belief in doing something because it’s the right thing to do. Thus, the Dina LaVigna Breath of Life Triathlon is here to stay!

Proceeds from the Triathlon are put toward the greatest possible impact for people with PI, such as the room created in her name, Dina’s Beach, at the Children’s Health Center at UCLA and other improvements at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. The hundreds of thousands of dollars raised have made positive changes in hundreds of lives. All made in the loving honor of Dina’s life.

Each time an athlete crosses the finish line on Sunday, Dina finishes with them. She is there in the spirit of the day and the inspiration for why each athlete, each person fights for something every day. Fights to succeed, win, gain an edge, get healthy and be the best they can be. That’s what Dina did. She was a fighter. I will be at the event volunteering my time. If you can’t join me in person, please join me and others in spirit as we celebrate Dina’s inspiration on all of us. Learn more about PI or make a donation at: http://www.triforlife.com/ . See you at the finish line with Dina.

1 comment:

The Redhead Riter said...

That is such a lovely way to honor her.