Cristian Rivera Foundation

Melinda Colon Cox

Melinda Colon Cox grew up in Rutherford, New Jersey. Her parents were born in Puerto Rico and moved to the U.S. where she lived between Jersey City and Middlesex County for many years. Today Melinda is married to her husband Kevin and is a dedicated mother to her 2.5 year old son Logan. Melinda attended Union College where she received her Bachelors in Political Science and subsequently obtained her Juris Doctorate Degree at the Rutgers School of Law.

Following her education, she became an attorney at the national law firm, Parker Ibrahim & Berg where she was their first associate as well as their first woman partner. She celebrated 10 years working for the acclaimed firm in October 2020. As a litigator she represents the commercial side including businesses of all sizes with a special focus on representing banks, mortgage lenders, and the financial industry.

Having reached a great amount of success within her industry, Melinda is passionate about promoting and developing the advancement of other Latinxs in the legal profession and finds passion in helping others in need. She served as the 40th President of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and is a recipient of several state and national awards, many of which are based on her commitment to diversity and inclusion. It was through the Hispanic Bar Association that Melinda met Carlos Yepez, who serves on the Cristian Rivera Foundation Board of Directors. After developing a great friendship with Carlos, he invited Melinda to the 11th Annual CRF Celebrity Gala in 2019. Melinda expressed that “It was an amazing event. I was immediately touched by all of the stories I heard and witnessed John getting incredibly personal about his experience with DIPG. It was honestly beautiful. I think I was in tears the entire time because it’s such a passionate group.”

After experiencing the gala and being introduced to founder John “Gungie” Rivera and CRF Director Sarde Laurente, it was clear that Melinda would make an exceptional Board Member. Her love for families and determination to make a difference was palpable and after great fundraising success with the Hispanic Bar Association we were all confident and excited to see what we would be able to accomplish together.

As one of the newer Board Members of the foundation, Melinda commented that,“CRF is unique from other organizations because they are clearly pushing the envelope by focusing heavily on experimental treatment in order to ensure that each kid has a chance. The foundation does this while also helping families financially. DIPG is such a significant and life-changing event for a child and their family. You’re dealing with the brain tumor, the pain, and then the emotion. I do appreciate that CRF is working to ease the financial burden for families because that’s the last thing they should have to worry about. In addition, John meets with the families he cares and he’s experienced it himself. It’s a unique perspective. We’re doing a lot because he clearly cares and the board cares.”

Receiving a DIPG diagnosis is an experience so unique that we find it important to connect families together whenever possible – to find people who can relate with one another. But what Melinda has found memorable in her short time as a board member thus far, is how much people are willing to help even though they have never heard of DIPG before and have no idea how it feels. “I started a Facebook fundraiser to help with Emiliano’s clinical trial a few months ago and I was overwhelmed to see the amount of support people were giving. They don’t know him, all they know is he’s a little boy in need and people wanted to help. That was very moving. Within, I was able to surpass my fundraising goal. When it comes to children, no one wants to see a child suffer,” said Melinda.

After seeing such a wonderful outpouring of support, Melinda set her own personal goals as a board member to spread knowledge and educate her own tribe and network. “I never heard of DIPG. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t know what signs to look for. Over time, I learned that DIPG has impacted a few people in my own network and realized that education is important. I want to help with fundraising and it’s not just about money, but it is. We need money for research and to be able to spread that awareness and help families. I’m hoping to use my network to help bring people in and elevate and expand our reach,” said Melinda.

When asked what other qualities a good board member should possess Melinda said that, “Every board member has to have a sense of loyalty and dedication to the foundation’s mission and be committed to spreading information, spreading knowledge, and networking. It all comes down to dedication and commitment which will bring along all the other branches necessary to making

this a successful group.” Spreading awareness is truly what empowers our ability to increase funding for research and help more families. The more people know, the more we grow.

Melinda specifically hopes to see the Cristian Rivera Foundation grow by obtaining more corporate sponsors as well as annual sponsorships. With the nation opening up, she would also love to see more fundraising events organized and looks forward to hosting her own event in the near future.

When asked what success means to her, Melinda said, “Personal success is being happy with my family and being able to support and spend time with them. Family is everything. Work is important but it’s not the most important thing. I want to be at a place where we are all healthy, happy, and financially stable. The pandemic has been hard on everyone. This year more than ever has taught me that family is most important.”

In terms of the foundation, Melinda finds that simply helping one child and letting that grow and elevate is a success in itself. “If we extend a child’s life at all, whether it’s one day, a few months, or a few years, that is a success. It’s important to take it one step at a time and celebrate the milestones. Health and research can be daunting because we’ve lost beautiful children that didn’t deserve to go through what they did. Celebrating milestones is important because it helps us keep our eyes on the progress that is continuing to be made”. Melinda, we are so excited to see the developments that will be made through your involvement with our organization. Full Steam Ahead!

By Sarde Laurente

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