Rena Kliot is a fairly new, but proud Board Member of the Cristian Rivera Foundation. She is the founder of the Diva’s, which is a group of female business leaders who focus on philanthropy. Through Diva’s, each member chooses a charity and hosts an event which  other members and friends attend to support the organization. While researching different philanthropies related to children, Rena came across the Cristian Rivera Foundation. After discovering CRF, she learned that the 11th Annual Celebrity Gala would be coming up soon.  After being touched by Cristian’s story and interested in learning more about the foundation, Rena purchased two tickets on a whim, even though she didn’t know anyone who would be attending. Since Rena has an outgoing personality, loves networking, and makes friends wherever she goes, she was confident that going to the gala would be a great time.

After winning a Jets helmet through the gala’s silent auction, Rena connected with our founder John “Gungie” Rivera. As a new face, John wanted to learn more about her and why she decided to attend the event. They quickly formed a strong bond and shortly after, John asked Rena to become a board member which she was honored to accept.

Even though she’s only been a part of this foundation for a little over a year, Rena has already made impactful memories as a board member. “With all of the things he (John) has on his plate, he still makes this so personal.” Due to COVID-19, Rena’s best memories are from virtual events, but she’s very excited for in-person events in the future. When CRF had to convert their Annual Full Steam Ahead 5K to a virtual event in July of 2020, Rena was in Miami at the time. She was able to gather a whole group of her friends and colleagues to walk with her in support of the foundation and united with others all across the nation against DIPG. Rena also attended a dinner where she met with John, our Director Sarde Laurente, and other new board members. She is really looking forward to meeting and getting to know the rest of the members of the board.

Rena works at Pulse International Realty and owns real estate brokerages in Miami and New York. While realty is not where she thought she was going to be, she loves it and has a deep passion for it. Rena is very close with her family and holds them close to her heart. She has 2 sons who are huge Jets and Giants fans. Rena has several passions including working out, boxing, singing, and family. She is also very passionate about empowering women and children. Her passion for philanthropy stems from the idea that, “People don’t realize you can lose everything in a blink of an eye”.

One aspect of CRF that Rena values is how the foundation assists families affected by DIPG in many ways, while also funding important DIPG research. 2020 alone caused a financial burden on thousands, so to add medical bills on top of that creates more stress. “The fact that we focus on the families as well goes to show how personal this organization is. It’s thinking about the details that so many other foundations don’t even touch on. I’m so proud of it.”

Rena has several goals as a CRF board member. She would love to double what she raised this year and also become more hands-on with the foundation. With the Coronavirus crisis, this was hard to do in her first year. She looks forward to , “Putting together some exciting fundraising opportunities where we can really interact and mingle.” Rena would love to see the foundation grow and bring as much awareness to DIPG as possible. Like many people, Rena had never heard about DIPG before and believes that spreading awareness is crucial to finding a cure. “We need more exposure, make more people aware of the existence of DIPG, and educate them about what it is”.

 A big part of spreading awareness is also sharing the progress that has been made and celebrating the success stories within the DIPG community. Rena is so proud that CRF was a part of saving Lisha Ayala’s life. Lisha was one of the patients from  Dr. Mark Souweidane’s clinical trial, and has survived DIPG for more than 7 years now. Rena is confident in the work CRF is doing because she has said that, “the next child we save could be the child that cures DIPG.” Due to COVID-19, Rena was unfortunately not able to meet any of the children or families, but is constantly fighting alongside them in spirit.

When asked what success looks like to her, Rena said “success is achieving any goal you set out for yourself.” She believes in creating short-term goals because each one brings you to closer to the next. “Achieve your short-term goals and you’ll always feel successful. You can make them broader and feel good about yourself. If you’re beating yourself up, you’re not going to be successful with anything because you’re too busy weighing yourself down.” Rena believes in paying it forward and that if you’re able to achieve what you want and help someone else, then you’re successful. We are so thankful for everything Rena has done for the foundation so far and cannot wait to see what’s in store for the future.

By Rhea Maladkar

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