PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

February 18, 2013

Friends come out in support of Brenda Villifano, 26, fighting rare blood disease

Erinn Calllahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Anyone who has met Brenda Villafano will attest to her kind heart.

“She is the sweetest woman you could ever imagine,” said Cory Villafano of his 26-year-old wife, a Port Arthur native and former Mexican Heritage Festival queen who was recently diagnosed with a cavernous angioma — a malformation that causes blood vessels in the brain to swell, often resulting in severe headaches, mini strokes, partial seizures and hemorrhaging. She will undergo brain surgery to remove it on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Methodist Hospital in Houston.

While one might argue that Cory is biased, the outpouring of support Brenda has received stands as a testament to his words.

“We found out about a month and a half ago — she’s had headaches every day since I’ve known her, she’s had mini strokes, mini seizures,” Cory said. “When she went to the doctor, he noticed that something was irregular and transferred her to a neurosurgeon.

“Our friends kept asking what they could do to help, because Brenda’s helped so many people and they just want to return the favor. I said, ‘I don’t know, just pray for her.’

“Then they said, ‘Man, we should do a benefit.’”

That is exactly what they decided to do. Today, Brenda’s family and friends will hold a washer tournament in her honor at Dylan’s on 9th, 8601 9th Avenue. Registration will begin at 1 p.m., with the games beginning at 1:30 and lasting until 4 p.m. The tournament will be either single or double elimination, depending on the amount of participants. The cost is $20 per team of two, and participants may sign up at Dylan’s when they arrive.

“It means the most to me that people are coming together to benefit such a great person — someone who truly deserves praise,” Cory said. “She truly cares for others more than herself and asks so little out of life — she just wants to smile, love life and respect others.

“If I can gain anything or get anything out of this, it’s to make my wife happy and positive going into her surgery.”

Dylan’s will sell links, boudain and chopped beef sandwiches for $3. Proceeds from the lunches will go toward Brenda. Entertainment will be provided by Valley View, a classic rock and blues band.

“It’s been an eye-opener as far as how generous and good people are,” Brenda said. “Dylan’s told us they were going to be selling lunch plates, the band offered to play free of charge -- I’m in awe of how the community has come together. It’s surreal.”

T-shirts will also be available for $15 at the event. The shirts are black and emblazoned with “Team Brenda” on the front in pink — Brenda’s favorite color. Below that is the slogan decided upon by Brenda’s legion of supporters — “Pray. Fight. Win.” — followed by a verse from the Bible: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Brenda said that the benefit has provided her with something more valuable than money -- peace of mind. “I never thought I’d have this much support, and I just want to thank everybody,” she said. “The community, all my friends, my mom, my husband -- he’s my rock. Normally I’m the optimistic one in the relationship, so when I first got the news, I was more worried about him. But he’s been like, ‘We’re going to beat this. We’re going to have kids, and we’re going to live a long life.’ He’s the best husband I could ever ask for.

“Now I’m just ready to get this done so I can live a long and healthy life.”

Cory has remained optimistic about his wife’s prognosis.

“She’s got me on her team, and she’s got a lot of people praying for her,” he said. “She’s going to be fine.”

The family is also accepting donations to PayPal Account 0217, at

www.paypal.com.

For more information, contact Cory Villafano at 549-2463.

Email:

ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA