In 2013, about 100,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Florida. The number is overwhelming. However, for those actually diagnosed with the disease, the time that follows the diagnosis is often crowded with fear and great concern both for patients and their loved ones.
For more than 10 years, the Cancer Support Community Greater Miami (CSCGM) has helped those impacted by cancer improve their quality of life by providing free educational and emotional support. Since inception, the mission of the non-profit organization has been to help caner patients with research-based psychosocial services from the moment of diagnosis. Since 2002, the CSCGM has seen more than 21,000 patients and family members.
On Thursday, April 11, CSCGM will host its 11th anniversary Heart & Star Award Dinner at Temple Beth Am. John Arasi, Briana Vega and Dr. Richard Zakheim will be honored at this event. Arasi will receive the Champion of the Community Spirit Award for his philanthropic and community leadership; Vega, the Champion of the Human Spirit Award for her work as a cancer survivor, the first child to ever receive a Champion honor; and Zakheim will be given the Founder’s Award for outstanding volunteer leadership. More than 400 business and philanthropic leaders are expected to attend.
“John, Briana and Richard are extremely deserving honorees who have done so much for cancer awareness, our medical community and for Miami-Dade County in general,” said CSCGM executive director Danielle Spiegelman. “We are grateful and proud to have them as our Heart & Star Honorees, as well as supporters and advocates. They have each performed extraordinary acts of kindness and have selflessly worked to inspire hope and action.”
Arasi will receive the Spirit Award in recognition of his charitable leadership and his ability to unite others, motivating them to focus on a greater good for the community. Involved in a wide range of community activities such as DaVita Kidney Trust, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of East Kendall and the Gateway Community Outreach of Deerfield Beach, Arasi is the vice chairman of the CSCGM board of directors and the chairman of the annual Tee Off Fore Wellness Golf & Tennis Tournament.
Arasi founded Sharp General Contractors (SGC) in 1999 and today it is one of Florida’s leading commercial contracting companies. Specializing in medical facilities and dialysis centers, he was introduced to the CSCGM through this important work. Vega will receive Human Spirit Award as a tribute to surviving cancer and being a beacon of light and hope for others facing the illness. She is the first child to receive a Champion Award.
Vega is being recognized for doing extraordinary acts to create awareness, hope and education about pediatric oncology while she is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A fifth grader who was diagnosed just a few weeks after her 10th birthday, she left Howard Drive Elementary to start treatment at Miami Children’s Hospital.
Since then, she has become an inspiration. She was a keynote speaker at the 2012 Miami Children’s Hospital Diamond Ball, and has been featured on network television and in newspapers. Yet, with all the fanfare, her most courageous endeavor was reaching out to the other children and families at her school. It has been her mission to bravely share her cancer experience with them. Vega and her friends organize toy drives and fundraisers, and she attends special class parties. She believes that cancer affects more than just the patient and she has used her illness to educate her community.
Dr. Zakheim is the 2013 Founder’s Award recipient. Zakheim moved to Miami in 1977 and founded the Pediatric Cardiology Department at Miami Children’s Hospital (MCH). In 2006 he founded the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic at MCH. Zakheim and the staff he recruited have led the pediatric cardiology division at MCH to a world leadership position in the care of children with congenital heart disorders. They have treated more children with heart defects than any hospital in Florida, with clinical results that have been internationally recognized.
In 1999, Zakheim and his wife Pam founded The Wellness Community-Greater Miami, now known as Cancer Support Community Greater Miami (CSCGM). He brought wisdom, guidance and a commitment to provide services that meet the highest standards. The programs offered at CSCGM enjoy the confidence of the large medical oncology treatment community in Miami- Dade. The majority of those who attend the free support, education and healthy lifestyle services offered are referred by their doctors and nurses.
Zakheim received his medical degree from Albert Einstein Medical School in New York and trained in pediatric cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is the father of two adult children and has four grandchildren.
The Heart & Star Award Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, at Temple Beth Am, 5950 N. Kendall Dr.
Committee leadership includes Jennifer Stearns Buttrick, Chanin and Adam Carlin, Candace Falsetto, Ana Hughes Freund, Carmen Perez, Aida and Joseph Roisman, Lourdes Rosales, Kim Sarkisian; Amy, Scharlin and Debra Schottenstein; Kara Stearns Sharp, Edie Spiegel, Carole Wright and Pamela Zakheim.
Table sponsors include Advanced Medical Specialties, Carmen and John Arasi, Baptist Health South Florida, Carnival Corporation, Chanin and Adam Carlin, Fluxman Family Foundation, Sandy Krasick, GYN Oncology of Miami/Dr. Nicholas Lambrou and Dr. Troy Gatcliffe, Morrison Brown Argiz & Farra, Packman, Neuwahl & Rosenberg, Pantry Liquors, Perry Ellis International, Margarita Pons, Aida and Joseph Roisman; SAP International; Carrie and Erik Sherman; Edie and Firth Spiegel, Pamela and Richard Zakheim.
In-kind donors include Andrew Duany Photography, Fare to Remember, Imagine That Miami Graphic Design; InBloom Group, Ivents by Isis, MAC Parking, Nu Designs, Reflections Productions and Temple Beth Am. For information, call Danielle Spiegelman at 305-668-5900.