Audrey Raziano began holding a benefit fishing tournament at Pier 90 in Avondale for her brother Frankie three years ago to help offset costs related to his cancer treatment.
"My brother was diagnosed in 2007 with lung cancer and we started it for him in 2009 as a benefit," Raziano said. "Frankie was always so touched that people came out to help him that after he passed we decided to keep it up in his honor."
Following Frankie’s death in January 2011, Raziano said the family is now committed to helping others who have medical problems.
"We just figured we’d do it for somebody in need," Raziano said. "We plan on doing this as long as we are capable and have the support to help the next person. So many people reached out and helped Frankie when he was in need."
Funds from this year’s tournament will go to offset the medical expenses of double lung transplant recipient Mike Diaz, who was also the tournament’s beneficiary last year.
Raziano said Diaz had been a dedicated public servant throughout his life before he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in early 2011.
"He was a Marine, a state trooper, a National Guardsman and a policeman at Tulane," Raziano said. "He has touched a lot of lives and given up a lot for us with his military service and all. I’ve contacted all of those groups and I think we are going to have a great showing of support for Mike this year."
Raziano said people in the community alerted the family to Diaz’s need last year.
"We found Mike last year. Somebody talked to me and somebody talked to my niece (Frankie’s daughter) separately and when she called me up and said, ‘hey I think I found somebody for the tournament’ it happened to be same person I talked to," Raziano said. "So we kind of took it as a sign that Frankie told us that this was the person to take care of."
Raziano estimated last year’s tournament brought out around 300 people in addition to 72 fishermen. They were able to raise $5,500 for Diaz and this year Raziano expects the tournament to grow.
"We get more and more participation of the outpouring of the community each year. It is just amazing," Raziano said.
The tournament is scheduled to begin Aug. 4 at 4:30 a.m. and could not come at a better time for Diaz, who has been hospitalized for complications.
"He has been in the ICU at Ochsner for about six weeks and he has been on a ventilator," Raziano said. "He’s finally showing some signs of improvement, but he is fighting infection in the lungs. He’s improving now so that’s good, but the medical bills are just astronomical."
Fishing teams can sign up for $100 per two person team up until the day of the tournament. Half of the entry fees will go towards Diaz’s benefit and the other half will be split by the top teams. One out of every eight boats will receive a prize.
Raziano said everyone is invited and there are other activities available for those who do compete in the tournament.
"Even if they don’t fish they can come out because we sell food and drinks and there are raffles and auctions and music. So there is a little something for everybody out there," Raziano said. "Come on out and have a good time and support Mike right now who is really in need."