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Benefit to defray medical costs for restaurateur


July 26, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.

David Vrana recently had surgery to remove a 20-ounce  tumor from his neck. He is also undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer. Vrana says that as a small-business owner, he has no insurance, making it tough trying to pay back all of the people he's borrowed money from.

From time behind the restaurant counter to donations to Crossroads groups, David Vrana has spent his life serving others. And this weekend, he hopes for a bit of generosity in return.

A barbecue benefit takes place Sunday to help the restaurateur combat a growing stack of medical bills.

It all stemmed from a bump on the back of his neck, said Vrana, president and general manager of Victoria's Texas Drive Inn restaurants. What started out small, rapidly grew into a tumor the size of a 20-oz. soda bottle.

Doctors removed the benign mass two months ago.

Vrana said he was glad to meet the malady head on, but said his $7,000 medical bill proved a problem.

"Being just a family business, insurance was expensive," he said, noting it would cost about $800 per month for him and his wife. "I'm not insured."

The Victoria native borrowed money to pay deposits along the way, but said that, now, it's time to repay those debts.

Inspiration for the benefit came from Bobby Trevino, another Victoria restaurant pro. Years back, a similar fundraiser went to cover costs when Trevino had his leg amputated.

"So we started putting this together," Vrana said, noting help came from family, friends and members of the the Mid Coast Restaurant Association.

Vrana on Wednesday teared up as he described the support he'd already received.

Church friends vowed to attend on Sunday, he said, while other friends with Uncle Mutt's Bar-B-Q and Ventura's Tamales volunteered to help with the food.

Trevino also joined the ranks, helping get word out to the public via social media and email.

He said he'd known Vrana since childhood, since both men's families owned eateries. He wanted to do what he could for the person he described as "a good friend and great businessman, with a strong faith and positive attitude."

"I've been in those shoes," Trevino said. "I had a benefit. Now it is his turn, and I'm honored to help him out."

Once all is said and done, the event will offer up plates of sausage, brisket, rice and beans, along with a live auction and a DJ. Vrana said he hoped to sell about 1,000 tickets.

Although he envisioned chaos in the final days of planning, he said he looked forward to Sunday. Once it ends and things once again calm down, however, it will likely be time to plan another.

Vrana was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and is slated for another surgery down the road.

Health issues aside, he said he tries to stay positive.

He said he was grateful to be on the mend from his most recent surgery - although he is only two months into the nine-month recovery, he said it was still something - and felt blessed that thyroid cancer won't spread.

Everyone has medical issues, Vrana said. He just happened to stumble across his.

"I guess this really is my pain in the neck," he said with a smirk.

Most of all, he said he appreciated those around him willing to help get him back on his feet. All things considered, he said he should be just fine.

"The good Lord takes care of us," he said. "He's kept me in a good place so far, for all these years. I'm just going to leave it in his hands."



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