Shelton family bringing hope to cancer-stricken children
Daniel Vieira and his wife, Katrina Lage, know all too well how cancer can devastate a family. It was only four years ago that the Shelton couple learned their then-16-month-old daughter, Lauren, lovingly known as Liv, had leukemia.
“I cried … I put a pillow over my face and cried,” said Daniel, who has served in the Marines, when he learned of Liv’s diagnosis. “Then there was a paradigm shift. Liv laughed at me while I cried. She laughed, and I knew we were going to be OK. I knew it was going to be hard, but it was going to be OK.”
Liv dealt with the chemotherapy, the medicines and now sits healthy and entering first grade. And while Liv’s battle with leukemia was victorious, the Vieiras continue to battle pediatric cancer the best way they know how — by bringing happiness to those children and families suffering through the disease.
“We were the lucky ones,” said Daniel. “It does not always end that well. We are blessed she is doing well. I always say that our daughter getting cancer was the worst thing that ever happened to us, but we turned that negative into a positive because of all the good we do now and all the families we are helping.”
The Vieiras — after learning how devastating a pediatric cancer diagnosis can be not only to the sick child but also the family — formed LivFree, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission, according to Daniel, is to fight pediatric cancer with smiles by providing children and their families an experience “to help give them a break from treatment and provide them some family fun time.”
Daniel said, whether it be a visit to a movie theater, a sporting event or even meeting a celebrity, the LivFree foundation wants families to have something to look forward to during their tough time.
“Being on the frontlines of pediatric cancer and its effects on daily life has given us a special perspective,” said Daniel. “As we went through treatments with our daughter, Lauren, she was not allowed to be inside of public places. This meant our ‘normal’ daily tasks, such as going to the supermarket with her, were now not allowed.”
Daniel said Liv only left the house for doctor’s visits for more than eight months.
“We couldn’t go to baseball games, the circus or even birthday parties,” said Daniel. “It felt as though some of her childhood was taken away from her with this disease. Medically, her body couldn’t handle it and, financially, we couldn’t afford it. This is where LivFree was created.”
Daniel said the foundation has held numerous fundraising programs, from movie nights to golf outings, but this latest event is one close to the heart of his family, since his son, 7-year-old Armando, plays baseball in the Shelton American Little League — and Daniel is a league board member.
The first LivFree Charity Baseball Tournament, presented by Techniques Tiger Baseball Academy, will feature 18 teams from across the tri-state area compete in a charity event this weekend, Sept. 28 and 29, at Seaside Park in Bridgeport — all to benefit children with cancer.
The goal, according to the Vieiras, remains helping those children stricken with pediatric cancer and the families of those children to be able to, at least for a few hours, enjoy the togetherness that at times can elude them with all the doctor appointments, treatments and hospital visits.
“Helping these families was a source of therapy for our family,” said Daniel. “When we started to provide normal family time for these families, what we didn’t realize was the magnitude of the problem. We realized we were providing hope to these families, and there is no stronger calling than that.”
For more information on LivFree, visit http://www.livfreetoday.org/