Audrey Champagne Raziano remembers a time more than a decade ago that she and her family put together the first Fishing for Frankie tournament fundraiser in roughly six weeks time.
The event has grown since then. Saturday marks the 13th annual Fishing for Frankie tournament, which will be held at Somme’s Marina in Des Allemands, and Raziano said she never saw the event’s impact and longevity coming.
“I can’t say enough … I never dreamed this would become what it has or would last as long. We’re super blessed to be able to touch so many people’s lives – and for people to also touch our lives, through this tournament,” she said.
The tournament began as a way to honor the memory of Frankie Champagne Jr., a resident of Luling who passed away in 2007 following a battle with lung cancer and who was known for his generous and uplifting nature.
Raziano has noted during Champagne’s battle, he would deflect attention from himself ask that funds raised to help him also go toward helping others. That unselfishness and desire to look beyond himself to help others made it a natural choice to create a tournament in his name that would help others. It’s fulfilled his wishes year after year.
This year’s beneficiary is Amy Pitre Vasquez, who was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.
Raziano said it wasn’t known for sure whether this year’s event would happen. The 2021 tournament was able to take place just before Hurricane Ida struck, but several months later, Ida’s impact is still being felt in many ways for community members. That brought this year’s tourney into question.
“So many people still have so much going on, trying to recover … we were unsure whether to have it this year. It’s a rough time to ask people for something,” Raziano said.
But a few weeks ago, Vasquez’s husband Masimo reached out to Raziano. He asked for help.
“That settled it … ‘OK, we have our sign,’” Raziano said. “We have to do whatever we need to do to get something going.”
Near the end of 2021, Vasquez had a medical emergency – her appendix ruptured. That was a scary situation in itself that the Norco native survived, but in the process, doctors learned through the tests she underwent that there was another very significant situation to address.
“I went to my stomach doctor, and told him it felt like a horse was kicking me down there,” Vasquez said. “He advised me to get a colonoscopy … I went to the hospital for that, and before I left the hospital, they told me I had colon cancer. I didn’t know what stage it was until a week or two later … it was a shocker.”
Vasquez’s mother was with her when she received the news, and it was a harsh blow for both for more than the obvious reasons – Vasquez’s brother is also battling cancer.
“I kind of wish she wasn’t there to hear it,” Vasquez said. “She has two kids with cancer.”
Vasquez said surgeons were able to remove some of the cancerous matter, but not all of it. Chemotherapy should begin in approximately two weeks.
“I have to be brave, because I have an 11-year-old. I don’t want her to see me down or anything like that,” Vasquez said.
Raziano said Masimo has been a selfless supporter of the fundraising tourney over the years.
“He has fished, and even the years he can’t fish at the tournament, he is donating,” Raziano said. “He does woodwork … he makes a frame from the wood and he’ll burn pictures into it. He does an excellent job, and he tells us, if I can’t fish, I’m gonna bring you an auction item. He’s always been there for us. I’m grateful we’re able to do something to give back to someone who’s supported us so much for so many years.
Raziano said that even if someone isn’t interested in fishing, they can still expect a great time with plenty to do if they make their way out to the event.
“You don’t have to fish to come to the tournament,” she said. “There’s food, drinks, auction items, raffles … it’s a long day, but it’s a fun day. And it’s very rewarding.”
Vasquez said the event will help greatly to absorb the financial blow. While she has health insurance, the out of pocket expense is still considerable for multiple surgical procedures, the chemotherapy and everything else that the process entails.
“I feel incredibly blessed and thankful,” Vasquez said. “I’m overwhelmed by everyone’s support … I’m just trying to get through.”