How Camilo and Maria Villegas have found a way to keep their daughter’s memory alive

How Camilo and Maria Villegas have found a way to keep their daughter’s memory alive
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“I wasn’t expecting anything out of my game,” Camilo said. “I just wanted to just walk the fairways with my brother, see some people and just kind of breathe a little bit of some energy.”

The TOUR wives were supporting Maria, as well. Tiva Lovemark, Jamie’s wife, served as a conduit for information since Maria couldn’t respond to every message. The situation hits home for Tiva more than most since she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2002. The Lovemarks’ foundation supports patients at Yale New Haven Hospital where she was treated.

Tiva and Dianne Donald, Luke’s wife, helped organize a meal train for the family that stretched well into September. So many wives sent flowers and cards and drawings for Mia’s room that Maria lost count.

“They made a beautiful video that if I see again, I’ll be crying like crazy again,” Maria said. “… Very uplifting, and then at the end, the kids have a song for Mia, and when she saw it, she was clapping and dancing with them. It was like their own version of ‘Baby Shark,’ but it was their version of ‘Get well, Mia.’ …

“Our PGA TOUR family is amazing. The quality of people on the PGA TOUR, it’s mind-blowing.”

Not too long ago, Camilo saw Jack Nicklaus for the first time since Mia entered the hospital back in March. The legendary golfer had suffered a similarly heart-wrenching tragedy when his 17-month-old grandson Jake died in a hot tub accident in 2005.

“Jack comes, gives me a big hug and tells me a little bit of story about Jake,” Camilo recalled. “And obviously I’d been playing The Jake (pro-am) for many years, trying to help him raise funds with this. And we had a good chat, man. We had a good chat.

“And it’s what I told him. I’ve got two options. I mean, I either have good attitude or become the victim, and if I become the victim it’s going to go into a dark place. That’s definitely not where I want to be. That’s definitely not where Mia wants us to be.

“So, we’re opting for the good. We’re opting to give back, turn the negative into a positive.”

That’s what Camilo and Maria did on Sept. 26, which would have been Mia’s second birthday. They held the first of five Mia’s Morning Walks on successive Saturdays at their Jupiter home – and virtually around the world — that raised nearly $84,000 for their foundation.

They walked because Mia had always enjoyed her daily outings on the beach with her mom and her nanny and the family’s 130-pound Great Dane with the rather ironic name of Pixie. People were encouraged to create their own teams to walk whatever distance they chose, or they could contribute to an existing team, many of which were formed by wives of players Camilo competed with on TOUR. 

Maria would be walking anyway. She feels close to Mia when she does.

“We always talk, pray and send her positive vibes, and we tell her we’re fine and we know she’s happy where she is,” Maria said. “It’s been a great healing moment of my day.”

There’s that word again. Healing. Mia’s spirit lives on, a daily reminder for Camilo and Maria to fight through the pain of heartbreaking tragedy and help others who need it most. The little monkey may be gone, but through her short life comes an enormous impact.

“I’m sad, of course,” Maria said. “I have days where it’s so hard and I miss her physical presence all the time, but I know I’ll be OK. I know we’ll be fine, and I know we’ll just honor her name.

“That’s our mission now.”

Source: PGA tour

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