Tribute to Brianna

August 05, 2004

Deepa Bharath

The black-and-white portrait that hung on the wall of Todd Olympius'

Eastside apartment was of a little girl in pigtails.

She was his little girl, Brianna, sitting on a bike with her eyes

closed as if she were ready to ride it into a magical world of fun

and adventure.

But 10-year-old Brianna didn't get to live her life, dreams or


fantasies. The girl, diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her brain

stem, died in September 2001. She lived nine months longer than


Olympius thanks his daughter's doctors at Children's Hospital of

Orange County for giving him and his family that extra precious time

with Brianna.

Three years after her death, the 42-year-old Costa Mesa resident,

who fabricates custom cars for a living, is organizing a car show,

Rev-N-Rock for CHOC, on Saturday to fund brain-tumor research through

CHOC's Neuroscience Institute.

The fundraiser, where he expects to see more than 300 cars, is a

special tribute to Brianna and other children like her, Olympius


"There is no better tribute to my daughter and the other little

faces in CHOC," he said.

The event will commence at 10 a.m. in Central Park in Huntington

Beach. The cars, ranging from hot rods and classics to muscle cars

and custom vehicles, will be parked on the grass that Brianna loved

so much. Even her memorial service was held a park, Heller Park in

Costa Mesa, with friends and family dressed in "Brianna brights" --

bright-colored clothes like she always wore.

Olympius worked hard to bring the show to a local park, he said.

"I must have talked to 18 different city council members in

different cities to get approvals," he said. "It didn't work for some

of them."

But the city of Huntington Beach, which works closely with CHOC on

many projects, agreed to host the event at Central Park, Olympius


His daughter's illness changed his attitude and perception of the

world, Olympius said.

"You see a lot of people in this area: they're like 'me, me, me,'"

he said. "I used to be one of those people. I was in my track in

life. And then I got pushed to the ground, sat up and said, 'Wow.'"

He doesn't even remember how many hours he spent at the hospital,

waiting, as Brianna underwent her treatment.

"You look at the children in that hospital -- many of them don't

even know why they're there," he said.

Scenes at the hospital touched Brianna's heart too, Olympius said.

"When she saw this article about her in the newspaper, she said,

'Why me?'" he said. "She wanted to know why only she was written

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