The Va family, from left to right: Saroun, Lucas, Monique and Gabriella.

By Lily Belcher

Thirteen-year-old Lucas Va was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in October after suffering from back pain in the few months before his diagnosis. Lucas had always been healthy and active, so his diagnosis was a shock for the Va family. Lucas visited five hospitals before Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital diagnosed Lucas and started treatment.

“We’re getting great treatment at All Children’s. We’re in the right place and he’ll get through this,” said Monique Va, Lucas’ mom. “He’s actually doing very, very well. He’s been very strong and he’s been taking this as best as he can and he’s given us strength throughout this whole process.”

Melanie Brockmeier-Jordy with Operation Lotus did not know the Va family personally, but she wanted to show her support with the FishHawk community.
She started by tying orange ribbons around FishHawk, including the soccer field where Lucas’ younger sister, Gabriella, plays. Due to coronavirus protocols, Gabriella is not able to see her brother in the hospital, which Monique said has been hard on her.

Along with the ribbons, Brockmeier-Jordy collected cards written by the community for Lucas and his parents, who are staying in the hospital with him, and assembled a gift basket for Gabriella. Operation Lotus started a fundraiser to raise money for gift cards to give to the Va family to help pay for meals.

Brockmeier-Jordy ’s son, Brodie, is Lucas’ classmate at Randall Middle School and wanted to involve Lucas’ friends and classmates by encouraging them to wear orange and raise money to help fund Lucas’ treatments.

“When Brodie heard of [Lucas’ diagnosis] he came right to me and said, ‘Mom I’m so sad about Lucas. I want to help however I can,’” explained Brockmeier-Jordy. “His goal is to get every student at Randall to show support for Lucas.”

As a community-wide show of support, Operation Lotus ordered rubber bracelets that say “#LucasVaStrong” and paired up with Lawn Greeters Tampa to make yard signs with the same slogan.

“We thank the community,” said Monique. “We’ve been there for 18 years and it’s amazing. That’s why I love FishHawk. I’ve never had doubts or regrets about living there. It’s such a wonderful place.”