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A walk to remember

Community walk-a-thon and fundraiser will coincide with what would have been Vina Trinh's 13th birthday

After witnessing her sister's lavish 'Sweet 16' birthday party at the Washington Square Embassy Suites last year, Vina Trinh asked for something a little less flashy for her next birthday.

'She said, let's do something small,' recalls Joe Zelk, Trinh's stepfather.

Trinh, 12, a Conestoga Middle School seventh-grader, died Jan. 12 after a rare reaction to viral meningeal encephalitis. On Saturday, she would have turned 13.

To commemorate her passing, and to call attention to the young girl's illness, a Vina's Victory over Viruses Walk-A-Thon and Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Southridge High School, 9625 S.W. 125th Ave.

In addition to the walk-a-thon, the day-long event will include several inflatable jumping attractions as well as visits from Radio Disney and music provided by D.J. Tronics. Both Starbucks and Baja Fresh have donated food and drinks along with volunteer help.

Zelk said the day's activities also will include Xbox 360 Rock Band performances, a video game that allows for singing along to songs with guitar and drum playing. He said his stepdaughter loved the game and that Harmonix Music Systems, creators of Rock

Band, have donated two systems, one signed by a rock star.

Both of the gaming systems will be given away during Saturday's events.

Numerous raffles will be held, as well as a corn-on-the-cob eating contest in commemoration of Trinh's favorite food.

'I think it's going to be a lot of fun,' said Zelk, who is a nurse practitioner. 'The school's been real supportive. They've just been really good.'

The walk-a-thon will begin around 1 p.m., said Zelk.

In addition to being a celebration of Trinh's life, Zelk said the fair is a chance to disperse information on viral menigneal encephalitis as well.

What he would personally like to see is:

n An improvement made to the vaccine formula that prevents the disease.

n The creation of a better delivery system for the vaccine (using drops instead of a shot).

n Improving access to anti-virual medications in general.

'This is really a disease where you're not prepared,' said Zelk.

When Saturday's event is over, Zelk wants to create a slideshow of the activities set to Fergie's 'Big Girls Don't Cry,' one of Trinh's favorite songs. He also hopes to get fellow students to sing the song in her honor.

Meanwhile, Conestoga Middle School has planned a memorial shoot off/free throw competition in memory of Trinh, set for Wednesday at 9 a.m. Zelk said plans are to make it an annual memorial tournament with winners' names placed on a golden basketball trophy.

An avid basketball player, Trinh played for the Lady Warriors, a recreational team where she was named the most valuable player for three straight years. More recently, she placed first in a shoot off in her age group.

Zelk hopes to form some type of 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Trinh's name this summer as well.

'I know that's what Vina would have wanted,' said Trinh.

To register for Saturday's event online, go to www.vvvfoundation.org. That site also provides a link to a site that includes photos and videos of Trinh's life.