Marlana Lacivita
Marlana Lacivita

By Gary Nager & Matt Wiley | September 14

Long-time Hunter’s Green resident Bernie Desrosiers is someone I consider to be a good friend, not only because he helped coach the Wharton High ice hockey team that both of my sons played for a few years ago, but also because Bernie was the first person I met in New Tampa who spent untold amounts of his free time helping others to try to build an actual community in the middle of our suburban sea of seemingly impassive, sometimes apathetic subdivisions.

Although I first met Bernie at one of the first annual “Toilet Bowl” touch football games he organized within Hunter’s Green, it wasn’t long before he asked me if I could help a family in need. Although he works full-time and travels a lot for his job, over the years, Bernie (who also is the keyboard player in the local band called the Deacon Blues; more on them later) has donated untold hours of his time and saved people lots of money by offering his services as a deejay with a professional audio setup for free, as long as the event is for a good cause. It’s just the kind of guy he is and always will be.

So, I know when Bernie asks me if I can help at all with something, it’s always his way of trying to do the most he possibly can to help someone who not only deserves that help, but who probably also is the type of person who would never ask for any assistance themselves.

In Honor Of Marlana…

Shari Torres (left) & Marlana Lacivita
Shari Torres (left) & Marlana Lacivita

The beautiful young woman in flight in the far right photo is Marlana Lacivita, a full-time professional “Dance Captain” at Busch Gardens Tampa who is friends with Bernie’s daughter Nicole (who also is a paid performer at Busch Gardens). Unfortunately, Marlana was diagnosed in March 2012 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but despite her ongoing chemo treatments, she is somehow still doing what she loves — dancing — all while keeping a smile on her face.

So, I was happy to help when Bernie asked me to promote a silent auction and fund-raising concert by the Deacon Blues (a band I sang with for a couple of gigs) in honor of Marlana to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Tampa Bay, at Peabody’s Palms Lounge in the Shoppes of Amberly plaza in Tampa Palms on Saturday, September 28, 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

Not dancing during her treatment wasn’t an option for Marlana.

“I shopped around for a doctor because I wanted to find one who would work with me, and my dancing,” Marlana says. “I was determined to keep dancing the whole time.” She says she is happy she decided to go with Dr. David Wright at Florida Cancer Specialists.

Marlana had to get a special “port” for treatment because the chemo chemicals could not touch her skin. Dr. Wright sent her to a breast cancer specialist to get the port. “Busch Gardens (BG) worked with me and my treatment schedule,” she says. “They also adjusted my hours and my costumes for my port. They keep my spirits up.”

And, Marlana keeps other people’s spirits up, too. “She is such an inspiration,” says her friend and fellow BG dancer Shari Torres (Rae). “She just loves to dance and isn’t going to let her condition slow her down.”

Marlana, who met her husband Guy Harris at BG, is the Dance Captain for the park’s “Born 2 Rock” show, where the troupe puts on six shows per day.

Bernie says that on treatment days, she performs in the first two shows, then slips out to the hospital for a few rounds of chemo and then back for the 6 p.m. show. “It really puts things in perspective, at least for me,” Bernie says. “If she can fight through chemo while dancing, it’s hard for me to say ‘I’m tired’ after a day of just working.”

Marlana Lacivita in Performance Costume
Marlana Lacivita in Performance Costume

Marlana says that when she goes for her treatments, she’s always positive and tries to wear crazy colors. “I put a smile on for others who are going through treatment, too.” At our press time, she had two chemo sessions left of 12, then will have a positron emission tomography (PET) scan a month after the last session to see the status of her cancer.

The Deacon Blues, a truly rockin’ blues band which started in 1998 at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church on Cross Creek Blvd., has performed at more than 100 different venues, including The Taste of New Tampa.

The requested donation to attend the event at Peabody’s (15333 Amberly Dr.) is $5 & proceeds will benefit the Leukemia Society. Call 972- 1725 or visit pages.teamintraining. org/sun/StPeteHf13/storresg0s.


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