Like anyone coming to the Florida Keys, it’s a vacation that you will never forget. With every planning of our Foundation trips, we strive to make it something that will boost spirits and make memories that will last a lifetime. While it is incredibility exciting for the kids, it means a lot to the whole family.
“Fighting cancer is a full-time job for everyone involved and there is little time to spend just enjoying family, friends and God’s enormous blessings.” Torie’s mom, Debbie.
Marty and Karen McKenna have been gracious enough to lend their vacation home to the Foundation. Their home is secluded and provides everything you would need for the perfect vacation. While the family was anxiously awaiting their trip, I would get text messages from Debbie asking questions about kayak rentals, bikes or other “Keysie” activities. Well, Karen and Marty’s home has a pool, kayaks and bikes along with many nature trails and hidden views of the backcountry. When they arrived I got a message, “Oh my goodness! The house is amazing and all these gifts … It’s like Christmas over here.” Walking into a beautiful home with a bunch of Shimano, Costa, Yeti, Cuda Tools, Raymarine and some Spanish Fly gear will bring a smile to every angler’s face.
I came by to show them around the house and introduce my son and I to the family. Now I may be a little bias, but my son (Anthony Jose, or AJ) is one of the happiest babies I have ever seen. Torie was immediately taken to him. She asked if she could hold him and, needless to say, for the rest of her trip if AJ was around he was in Tories’ arms.
Having a new baby and with my husband working every day during tarpon season, I wasn’t able to join the family on the boat like I normally do. However, I knew they were in good hands. Mike O’Brian was their guide for the fishing on the flats. He picked Torie and her brother DJ up at the dock and they headed out. They came back a little sunburnt and exhausted, but nonetheless stoked about their first day fishing. Barracudas and sharks proved to give them a work out, and shortly after they arrived home, I got pictures of DJ and Torie passed out in bed. Well, Torie was in bed, but DJ had from his torso up in bed, and from his butt down was hanging off. June in the Florida Keys is brutal.
The next day was a father-daughter bonding day on the water with Mike. Fishing wasn’t great, but Mike made sure to show them around the flats, and all the things that make our backcountry so special and unique.
After a day of relaxation, I brought them take out from the Square Grouper. Torie ordered the same thing my father always did: the ribeye, rare, and just like my dad she inhaled the whole thing! Torie’s family tries to make light of her cancer and she said, “After years of not being able to eat I now want to eat everything I can.” Leave it to a 16-year-old to put things in perspective.
Next was a day offshore with my husband, David. Since I was still nursing and AJ was starting to get a cough, I stayed behind. Torie had this to say about the experience:
“My trip was the best thing that’s ever happened to me since I was diagnosed. It was specially tailored just for me, and what I wanted to do. I went out with the hopes of catching a Mahi, and we tracked them until we did. Dave taught me how to track fish with the birds, how to drive Jose’s old SeaVee, and how to drop a hook to the bottom of the ocean to hook a fish.”
After they left, myself and everyone involved were on cloud nine. It’s a rewarding feeling to be able to give back. My job can be a little emotional at times since it is a result of my father’s death. However, when a family shares with you what they took away with them it is truly humbling. As time goes on, I try to smile because of how my father lived and not cry because his life is over … because it’s not. His legacy continues through the Foundation. Here are a few quotes from Torie and her mother, Debbie, that make it all worthwhile.
“After my trip, I went home and talked about my trip for weeks, and still tell stories about my trip today. I’m so glad I got to experience such an amazing trip.” Torie
“What an amazing week we had in the Florida Keys hosted by you and the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation. After battling bone cancer for nearly three years Torie and the family were becoming quite weary with the constant doctors visits, bone scans, MRIs and CT scans. I cannot imagine a better opportunity to experience all of these things than the adventure that the Foundation provided for us all. Torie was able to experience the beauty of the Keys, spend several days on the water fishing both inshore and offshore (which had been a lifelong dream), kayak in the crystal clear waters, and relax without reminder of her diagnosis. We hadn’t shared with many people, but the scans just before her trip were troubling. Although not conclusive, they suggested that her cancer had returned in spite of her treatments. Having the chance to get away before they were repeated certainly helped to distract us and relieve some stress. Thank God her most recent scans have improved. I’m convinced that a high dose of Vitamin “Sea” made all the difference. We cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to rejuvenate and prepare for the fight that continues. It was desperately needed.” Debbie