“Laughter continues to heal me, and give me a reason to smile” ~Damien Antonio Nava (D.A.N.)
January 11, 2014 proved to be an exciting day for not only the BJJ community, but for my family as well. The 1st annual D.A.N. tournament was a great opportunity for us to bring awareness to a larger community in regards to Neurofibromatosis. NF2 is a disease that my wife, and two youngest kids are battling. I decided early on when given the opportunity I would do whatever it took to help them win this war. Anyone walking in my shoes would want to do the same. When starting to plan this endeavor I had no idea what kind of support I would be able to generate. Little did I know things were about to get crazy in this BJJ school, and it would open up doors to change our lives greatly.
On tournament day we were prepared to house over 120 competitors in only 3600 square feet of space. The day was very exciting as we saw well over 200 people come through our doors to compete, and spectate on behalf of NF2 awareness. There were schools represented from all over the valley, and all the way to Tuscon. They also came to support Damien. I was extremely proud of my son as he kick started the event with a speech from the heart that I will never forget. Struggling with Autism on top of this genetic disease has made socializing, and interactions difficult over the years. However, today he shined like no other as he spoke of his fears, and struggles about his walk with this disease.
There were plenty of exciting matches to be had, and many colored belts from white to black. It was an honor to have everyone in our school, and we even had several exciting competitors take part in this cause. World Champion Sarah Black joined us for a great match, and great purpose. We also had competitor Darron Caldwell who is not only a Bellator Fighter, but also a college all American wrestler participate. We had 2 very distinguished black belts John Wagner of North Phoenix GD-Jiu Jitsu, and Renato Freitas of JCBJJ come to compete in an exciting black belt match. For some of our Nava BJJ students as well as other valley students this smaller venue provided an opportunity to try out competition on a less intimidating level. The experience as a whole was very exciting!
I really would like to take time to thank some of the amazing people that helped this event come together. To name them all would be hard to do. This group of volunteers dedicated their time so that this cause would meet, and exceed its purpose. So to the volunteers thank you for your time, and energy. You gave so much more than your time that day. You gave me renewed hope in the dedication of friends, and of others. To the referees I thank you all for spending the day supporting this event. Those referees include Ryan Heilman, Jay Pages, Andrew Gardineer and Jesus Jose. Thank you to AGGRO apparel, and CNTRL Industries for donating gear to the event as well as setting up booths. Some of the other sponsors of the event who donated are as follows: Global Chiropractic, Eminence kimonos, Fighter Tech, 24 Carrots Natural Cafe, Fifty/50 BJJ (Ryan Hall) and Copperhead Crossfit. I also want to send out a very heartfelt thank you to AndrewKstudios who dedicated his time, and efforts to making a documentary style video. For all the countless hours he put towards helping us to have a voice my family will be forever grateful. Last but not least to all the people that competed, and walked through those doors I thank you. This is the beginning of great things for the future of my family. There is less fear when you feel the strength, and the support of others. I have never been more proud to be a part of this Arizona BJJ community.