John “Gungie” Rivera is considered one of the finest “conductors” in the music and nightlife space. His journey began in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx while witnessing the way music always brought his family together.
“Gungie”, the first word that was ever uttered out of his mouth, became his moniker early on. The name also became synonymous with introducing various venues to the masses so they could enjoy new genres of music in hip-hop and freestyle.
John “Gungie” Rivera started his career as a DJ, introducing the world to the classics we enjoy today. His passion for music and bringing people together quickly led him to becoming one of the most sought-after nightclub promoters in New York City history.
Beginning his journey in the late 1980’s, “Gungie” would dominate the nightclub scene for three decades. That path would place him as the “Go-To” if you needed your record played, your band put on a stage, or wanted the best entertainment experience New York had to offer.
“Gungie”, never satisfied with complacency, transitioned over to becoming a well-respected Music Industry executive, producing hits and eventually landing his own recording label, “Prestigio”, under the Sony Discos umbrella. “Gungie” struck immediate gold as label CEO when his first artist introduced under the “Prestigio” title became the fastest selling independent artist in Sony Discos Distributed Label history to go Gold.
“Gungie” tied all of his contributions together when he formed Prestige Productions, which boasted industry-leading clients from television, radio, and Corporate America. Prestige Productions also became one of the largest concert promoters in the Latin and urban genres in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Japan.
Despite all the success and accolades that “Gungie” has achieved, his most rewarding achievement is to give back to the community and youth.
When the political world approached “Gungie’s” company to engage a younger demographic to vote and understand the issues that are impacting our youth, he leveraged the power of music and created “Salsa the Vote”. The campaign empowered our youth and involved them in decisions that affected their future. “Gungie” also organized marketing and fundraising campaigns for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, produced the annual galas for Promesa Foundation, and was part of a Latino division for the charitable organization LIFEBeat.
Out of his love for the arts and cultural engagement, “Gungie” has done work for the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and co-produced plays for Teatro SEA, a bilingual non-profit organization founded in Puerto Rico that produces socially conscious and educational productions for children and young adults. Some of the company’s famous plays include The Roberto Clemente DC-7 playas well as La Gloria, a play honoring the life of Celia Cruz and other iconic Latin singers.
Today, John “Gungie” Rivera presides over the Cristian Rivera Foundation. Rivera lost his six-year-old son, Cristian, to a rare brain stem tumor known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) in 2009. The disease primarily affects children under the age of 9 and there is currently no cure for this inoperable cancer. “Ever since Cristian passed away, I have committed myself to help find a cure for this deadly disease,” said Rivera. “My hope is that no other family would have to go through the grief of losing a beloved child.”
Rivera has dedicated himself to finding a cure for DIPG and has assembled a high-profile committee to help him achieve his goals. Inspired by his son Cristian’s positive and encouraging spirit, “Gungie” authored and published his first children’s book entitled Cristian’s Journey to spread Cristian’s message of benevolence and love despite tragic circumstances. Among the hundreds of partnerships, projects and businesses that Rivera has been involved with, it is his children, Cristian, John Christopher and Sophia that bring him the most joy and remain the most important part of his life. Hard work and discipline have made Rivera successful, but it is happiness that has kept him going. Over the course of his career, Rivera has left an indelible mark on the nightclub, concert and record markets. With the Cristian Rivera Foundation, he is poised to change the world.
“I started the Cristian Rivera Foundation because no parent should have to bury their child, let alone watch them suffer a horrific death at the hands of a DIPG tumor. You suffer in pain. You and your family can only watch the devastation, as DIPG robs your child from enjoying a normal life. It takes their ability to walk, talk, eat, and move. A once vibrant, healthy child rapidly deteriorates before your eyes and within 3 to 18 months, their battle is lost, depriving them of their dreams.
Watching Cristian battle DIPG gave me the impetus to fight and help eradicate DIPG from our world. After experiencing the grief of losing your child in such a horrific way, it’s easy to give up hope. I’ve decided to dedicate my life so that other families will not have to experience the pain that I did or feel like they’re alone. My hope is that children diagnosed with DIPG will have a chance to fight and to live.”
A driven entrepreneur, Investor and Real Estate Developer. Andy is an accomplished Chief Executive Officer with 33 years of experience working in the food industry and is Co-Founder and CEO of B&A Food Brokers. His responsibilities include the formulation of the company’s strategic direction and the allocation of resources towards assets and talent to ensure the goals and objectives of the company and its Principals are achieved. B&A boasts a client list of national restaurant chains, club stores, and supermarkets, and includes five offices located along the East Coast, from New York to Florida.
In his personal life, Andy dedicates much of his time to philanthropies and giving back. Longtime member of the Board of Directors of the Cristian Rivera Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for Pontine Glioma, a rare condition that causes cancerous brain tumors in young children.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Andy began his business career as a young man as a nightclub promoter, running countless events for legendary NYC nightclubs such as Studio 54 and Xenon.
For more information about B&A Food Brokers, please visit
“Cristian was my dear friend’s son which made him part of my family. A beautiful little boy whose imagination and dreams were not very different from those of my own children. A friendly heart, always with a smile, bringing happiness to those who had the pleasure to come in contact with him. A trooper until the very end.
Pontine Glioma affects boys and girls alike typically between the ages of 5 and 9. It is truly heart wrenching to watch a pure, beautiful little child suffer and try to cope with and understand why he or she is sick and why he or she can’t get better. The absolute worst experience for a parent is burying their child. We need to stomp out this deadly disease and give our little ones the chance to grow, be happy, and have families of their own.”
Carlos J. Yepez, is a Vice President/Business Relationship Manager with PNC Bank in West Windsor NJ and President of PNC Bank Latino Employee Resource Group in the Central NJ Market.
With Over 15 years of banking experience, Carlos has managed to make a positive impact on his clients overall financial well-being. He is a strong leader in the community and is always engaged in community events delivering brand awareness for PNC Bank and himself.
He is a father of two wonderful children Angelica and Noah and Husband to an amazing wife Brenda. Carlos is a Native New Yorker and currently resides in New Jersey. Being born in “El Barrio ” he loved listening to all kinds of Latin Music especially Salsa. Carlos is the Lead Singer for Nelson Torres’ Grupo Decision, a Bronx based Salsa Band and loves teaching his kids all about their culture through Latin Music.
“Being asked to join the Cristian Rivera Foundation is a true honor. I never had the privilege of personally meeting Cristian Rivera but through his foundation I feel as if I already knew him. Through his pictures you can see the innocence and kind heart this young man had. Being a father myself I can’t fathom the thought of losing a child. I have had the pleasure of meeting John “Gungie” Rivera, Cristian’s father who has given me the opportunity to support the foundation as a committee member. The passion and drive that this foundation delivers is contagious. The goals of finding a cure for DIPG, creating awareness, and delivering support to those affected are impactful.”
“I am excited to become a part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation Family.”
Award-winning journalist Darlene Rodriguez is co-anchor of Today in New York which airs weekday mornings on NBC 4 New York from 4:30 to 7 a.m. Rodriguez has anchored multiple Emmy-winning broadcasts, served as a newsreader on Weekend Today and is a frequent contributor to the Today Show.
Rodriguez joined WNBC from WCBS NewsRadio 88 where she was a general assignment reporter for four years. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter for Bronxnet cable television for a year where she covered some of the most compelling stories about the borough’s politics, growth and renaissance.
Since joining NBC 4, Rodriguez has covered numerous breaking news stories throughout the city including filing multiple reports on the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, and coverage of the crash of Flight 587 en route to the Dominican Republic. She was the first television reporter in New York on the scene in Vieques, Puerto Rico when news broke about the clashes between residents and the U.S. Navy, and then she returned four times to cover the resulting developments. In addition, Rodriguez traveled to Rome to cover Pope John Paul II’s meeting with U.S. Cardinals regarding the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal.
Recently, one of Rodriguez’s stories, which appeared on the Today Show, was nominated for a national GLAAD award.
In 2011, Rodriguez was the recipient of the “Mujeres Destacadas (Distinguished Women) Award” from El Diario La Prensa. Rodriguez earned a “Latina Excellence” Award in 2000 from Hispanic Magazine for her coverage of the Hispanic community. She was also honored by both the City of New York and the town of White Plans for prominently and proudly representing the Hispanic community in her work.
Rodriguez is involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Hudson Valley and supports the Cristian Rivera Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for a rare fatal brain tumor in young children. In addition, Rodriguez has worked extensively with the American Heart Association of Westchester.
Rodriguez graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science.
She resides in Westchester with her husband and their family.
Music producer, former DJ and winner of the Battle of the DJ’s for the original WKTU 92-FM (New York), co-founder of independent record label Cutting Records (1983), served on the NARAS Latin Advisory Committee New York Chapter (1998-2000), NARAS Board of Governors New York Chapter (2002-2003). GRAMMY-nominated Latin artist groups: Fulanito (2000 & 2007) and Chico Malo (2001); record label hits: 2 In A Room “Wiggle It”, Corina “Temptation”, Sa-Fire “Don’t Break My Heart”, Hashim “Al Naafyish (The Soul)” and “Instrumental in the burgeoning Urban Latin movement”
“I had never heard of Pontine Glioma until John’s son, Cristian, was diagnosed with this disease. I believe the Cristian Rivera Foundation will bring great awareness to this terrible illness. It is my honor to be part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation and help bring upon an understanding to this understated and implicit disease. I’ve known John “Gungie” Rivera for many years and although I never had the pleasure of meeting his brave son Cristian, I felt an immediate attachment to him as I viewed multiple videos of him playing with his Thomas Trains and the wonderful brave stories of this young boy. We all have a purpose in life and I do believe Cristian’s short time in this life and his father’s relentless pursuit to find a cure for Pontine Glioma will one day come to fruition.”
Alex E Arizmendi, a Bronx NY native, is an Entrepreneur, Real Estate and Construction professional. He has been managing Real Estate for over 20 years and is well versed in all types of construction. He grew up in the Edenwald Projects of the Bronx. Alex has risen to success with many years of hard work and starting several business while maintaining a full time career. As a Master Mason his heart and mission is to always help and give back to those in need. He is also a proud contributor to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Dare28. He is a business owner, car enthusiast, music lover and loves to travel the world.
“It is an extreme honor to be associated with the Cristian Rivera Foundation. I have been a close friend of Cristian’s father John “Gungie” Rivera for many years and was only aware of DIPG for the years that I’ve seen John fighting for a cure. Not having children, I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child, so I understand the importance of bring awareness and finding a cure to this horrible disease. No parent should ever have to bury their child, with that we will continue to fight for a cure.”
Alex Garcia is a Nuevo Latino chef who helped popularize a version of Cuban food at several New York City restaurants and on the Food Network. After spending a few years working as a waiter, Alex attended Northeastern University in Massachusetts where he earned a degree in hotel and restaurant management. He later attended the Culinary Institute of America, and Florida International University. Alex worked alongside famed Nuevo Cuban chef Douglas Rodriguez for four years at Yuca restaurant in Miami. Garcia’s work in New York has included stints at Erizo Latino in Soho, Babalu, Patria, Calle Ocho and, most recently, Habana Room.
His first cookbook, In a Cuban Kitchen, was published in September 2004 in the United States and in England.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Cristian even before he was born. Through my friendship with his father, John “Gungie” Rivera, I’ve always had the chance to cook for John and Cristian’s mom at various restaurants, and I even cooked at Cristian’s baby shower at a restaurant I owned with Ralph Mercado called Babalu. It is through my cooking that I got the chance to interact with such a beautiful and strong little boy, whether it was before he was born or when John would take him to my restaurants. When Cristian got sick, I volunteered to make him special meals and I also cooked at the first Cristian Rivera Foundation Gala. I am proud to be part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation and to be one of its Committee Members. I know what John went through with Cristian’s illness and I feel a loss just from speaking with him. As a father myself, I can only imagine what it’s like to lose a child and I don’t want to have to keep picturing such a terrible thing. I feel that someone needs to educate and eventually find a cure for this horrible disease, Pontine Glioma. If everyone joined forces, we’d be able to make even more of an impact.”
Carlos R. Colon is a Brooklyn, New York native whose diverse professional background is software development, design, entertainment, and marketing. Carlos completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Rochester where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. At the University of Rochester, he held many professional development roles including Editor in Chief and Creative Director of the Messenger, a cultural publication and sound engineer/DJ. After graduating, Carlos took on a freelance opportunity with The Connection Magazine, a start-up music, fashion and cultural publication geared towards the Reggaeton genre. He started as a graphic designer but eventually became Creative director and Editor in Chief. After producing 5 issues, he decided to move on to a bigger Creative Director opportunity with one of NYC biggest event promoters and urban marketing guru, John “Gungie” Rivera at Victory 2 Multimedia. Carlos was also a member of the Society of Professional Engineers NYC professional Chapter, a non-profit professional organization that promotes Hispanic leadership in Corporate America where he held the Creative Director VP role for two years. While working with John, Carlos acquired skills in urban marketing and branding. He utilized his background in Computer Science to develop custom web applications that enhanced Victory 2’s productivity. In addition, he designed branding and identity campaigns for major events at venues such as the Madison Square Garden, the Las Vegas Hilton, Jones Beach and Lincoln Center. His work has been showcased on newspapers, subway billboards, flyers, and websites. After working with John for almost 3 years, he decided to pursue a software development opportunity at MindSpark owned by fortune 500 company IAC, which also owned popular brands such as Ticketmaster, Home Shopping Network (HSN), Match, ASK and among others. By adding his expertise and past experiences he continues to bring considerable value to his team. In 2010 Carlos decided to kick off X-Interactive Media, a startup company that specializes in developing custom applications. Ultimately, his long term goal is to work on this endeavor on a full time basis.
“I got the pleasure of meeting Cristian when I was working with Gungie and from the first few seconds of hanging out with him, I knew he was in a league of his own. Cristian was so advanced I called him a Little Einstein. He knew what he wanted and was determined to get it. This is a great quality that even some adults fail to acquire in a lifetime. Cristian’s smile would light up any room; in fact, he made such an impact in my life that I told my wife Joanne if we ever had a boy we would name him Cristian. Even though Cristian is not physically with us, his spirit continues to make us smile and inspires us to accomplish great things. I had the opportunity to design and develop the original Cristian Rivera site and helped develop the foundation site. I am very pleased to become an integral part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation and look forward to putting forth my part in finding a cure for Pontine Glioma. Full Steam Ahead!”
Like his father, Elis was blessed with the ability to play various instruments, and to read and write music. Elis scored numerous successes producing for the likes of Stevie B, Brenda K Starr, George Lamond, Red Man & Method Man, Brand Nubian and others. After scoring numerous gold records for his production work, Elis started a management company, Pay Up Management, with long time friend Mickey Bentson. Pay Up Management achieved great success developing the careers of Fat Joe, Ice T, Big Pun and many others. With a natural marketing ingenuity, Elis was able to take his stable of talent and synergistically create marketing campaigns with several major brands in the form of TV commercials, endorsements, digital media campaigns, etc. i.e.: YJ Stinger and Fat Joe, Beyonce and Airtel Calling Cards, Vida Guerra and Sprint, Frankie J, Mario Vazquez, and Paula De Anda with Yahoo etc. As the market started to become digital dominant, Elis aligned himself with some of the key players in the rich media world, mobile space, and at the key editorial web sites, creating a global pipeline through Digital Launch that has the ability to brand clients and disseminate messages with pinpoint accuracy and precision. Since his time of being a professional, Elis has always found time to raise money and awareness for charitable endeavors. Being a New York State Master Mason, Elis has raised money for Pediatric Aids, Juvenile Diabetes, and currently is working with Operation Smile raising money for children with facial deformities.
“Many people say time flies, but it certainly has a profound way of also standing still. Back in 1999, my childhood best friend’s son Liam Patrick Reda past away from Brain Cancer at 5 years old. 10 years to the month, history repeated itself with Cristian, one of my current best friends child, and time stood still again. There still is a great need for cancer research especially in children who are the most innocent victims of such a rabid disease. This is the second wake up call for me to be committed to the cause and physically get involved. If collectively we can help not only children but parents, friends, and relatives of other families gong thru such a horrible crisis, it will make the difference we are looking for.”
Fernando Ferrer was Borough President of The Bronx from 1987 to 2001, and was a candidate for Mayor of New York in 2001 and the Democratic Party nominee for Mayor in 2005. During his 14-year tenure as Bronx borough president, Ferrer created housing for about 66,000 families. The borough saw a significant drop in crime, particularly in the South Bronx neighborhood, and a steady rise in business and real estate investment. He is currently Co-Chairman of Mercury, a high-stakes public strategy firm, located in New York City. Ferrer is also a director of Sterling National Bank and Sterling Bancorp, as well as the Regional Plan Association.
“When I see a picture of Cristian, I see his father, John “Gungie” Rivera. One can only imagine the passionate and complete person he would have become, had he survived. I am happy and honored to be part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation because I, too, want to be part of finding a cure for Pontine Glioma. As a parent myself, it is impossible for me to imagine the loss of a son or daughter. A cure for Pontine Glioma would mean that fewer mothers and fathers will have to know that awful loss. Being part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation gives me the opportunity to make a difference for children and their parents, too.”
Francesco is the owner of Supermarket Italy, an online marketplace that was established in 2009. He is an extremely hard worker and has dedicated well over a decade to building this brand. Today, Supermarket Italy receives $30 million in sales a year and yields nearly 100 employees. Francesco is 33 years-old and attended Hofstra University. He loves to play soccer and is all about giving back. In addition to the Cristian Rivera Foundation, Francesco is an unwavering supporter of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He is a true family man and the proud father of his 2-year-old son, Leonardo. Francesco is Italian by blood but was born here in the United States and currently lives in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with his girlfriend, son, and step-son.
“Through my friend Andy Epstein, who is the Chairman of the Board, I sponsored and attended both the 10th and 11th Annual Cristian Rivera Foundation Celebrity Galas. After these events, I found myself running home to hug my boys. I’ve always been a person who likes to give back and I felt deeply compelled to join the board of the Cristian Rivera Foundation. As a father, I can’t imagine what these children and families go through and I feel it’s my obligation to do my part to eradicate this disease. I am happy and proud to be part of such a great organization and look forward to serving under the leadership of Andy Epstein, Carlos Yepez, and John “Gungie” Rivera. Through our combined efforts, I hope that one day DIPG will be a thing of the past.”
Jarrad Seuferling, has worked in the security and nightlife industry for over 20 years. He has brokered dozens of deals in the entertainment industry and is passionate about helping others. Uniting people to elevate businesses is one of his top priorities. Jarrad Seuferling is a proud husband and father of two.
“I’ve known John Rivera for as long as I’ve been in the security business. We’ve worked together on many occasions and always had a mutual respect for one another. I attended The Cristian Rivera Foundation’s Celebrity Fundraising Gala in 2015 & 2016 and saw firsthand, the dedication and amazing work the foundation does. I was amazed by the amount of support and love I felt in the room on both occasions. As a father of two, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child to DIPG. I feel so compelled to utilize my influence to make a difference.”
Kenan Thompson was born on May 10th, 1978 in Atlanta, Georgia. His first foray into acting came at a young age when he joined the TBS program “Movies for Kids” as one of several child movie critics. It was during this show that he reviewed the movie “Mighty Ducks” and got to meet some of the stars of that movie. He was pursued by their producers in an attempt to include him in “Mighty Ducks 2”, which he later won a role in.
From 1994-2000 Kenan was an integral part of Nickelodeon’s two highest rated shows. In 1994 he was cast in the highly popular kid’s show, “All That” on Nickelodeon, which he followed up with another highly successful show on the same network titled “Kenan and Kel.” He won a Kid’s Choice Award in 1998-’99 for his continued success on both shows.
While starring on Nickelodeon, Kenan continued to land parts in the movie industry. First, he was cast in “Heavyweights” in 1995, followed by “Mighty Ducks 3” in 1996, “GoodBurger” in 1997, “Rocky and Bullwinkle” in 2000, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” 2003, “Barbershop 2” in 2004, the lead role in “Fat Albert” in 2004 and “Snakes on a Plane” in 2006.
Kenan currently stars in the NBC show “Kenan”. He is also a member of the “Saturday Night Live”, of which he’s been a member since 2003. He is the first member to join the cast that wasn’t born yet when the show first aired and is the longest serving cast member in the show’s history. Kenan also had guest appearances on such TV shows as “Felicity”, “The Steve Harvey Show” and “Sister, Sister”.
“Being part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation means a lot to me. Working to save children’s lives is a very important and inspiring thing. I’ve known John for seven years and I had the pleasure of meeting Cristian a couple of times. I remember what a happy child he was and how loving the relationship was between John and Cristian. It was like they were friends and they would feed off of each other. When John came to me and told me what had happened to Cristian and what he was doing to fight this disease, my first thought was “how can I help?” No child should have to suffer like that. I have young children in my family—nieces, nephews and cousins—so I can imagine what it would be like to lose them, although no one can truly understand that level of heartbreak unless they’ve gone through it firsthand. I’m very excited to be involved in this foundation in any way I can.”
Manhattan native Luis Guzman has carved out a long and successful career as a character actor on both film and television. After years of performing independent films and street theater while supporting himself as a youth counselor at the Henry Street Settlement House, the City College graduate got his big break in the early 1980s with a role on Miami Vice. Guzman’s profile grew in the 1980s and 1990s with roles in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Mr. Wonderful, Carlito’s Way, Magnolia, Out of Sight, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, Traffic, Anger Management, School for Scoundrels and countless other films. He appeared on HBO’s recent hit show How to Make it in America and is remembered for roles on Oz, Law and Order, NYPD Blue and Walker, Texas Ranger.
“Although I never met Cristian in person, I can say that I’ve met Cristian through the spirit of my friend, and his father, John “Gungie” Rivera. I am so honored to be part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation because I want to be part of finding a cure for Pontine Glioma. As a father of five, and having lost a child myself, I know what a terrible void it creates in someone’s life when their son or daughter passes away. A cure for Pontine Glioma would mean fewer families will have to know that void. Being part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation will give me the opportunity to make a difference.”
Meiling Macias Toro has over 25 years of experience in advertising and broadcast production. Meiling has produced advertising for U.S. Hispanic consumers at agencies such as Hispania of J.Walter Thompson, Castor advertising, Siboney, and Conill. She also worked at UniWorld Group, where she produced for the African American and Hispanic Markets. Before The Vidal Partnership she was also Director of Broadcast Production at Rapp Collins Worldwide, a direct response general market agency. She has worked with Fortune 500 clients such as AT&T, Budweiser, Burger King, Colgate, Ford, McDonald’s, Nissan Pepsi, and Procter & Gamble to name a few. She has covered location shoots around the United States, Europe, and North and South America.
Meilng’s work has won many awards from a Silver Telly, a number of Se Habla Español and FIAP awards for excellence in communication to consumers. She has been awarded La Tribuna’s Distinguished Women Award and a Colgate-Palmolive Award, and was named one of El Diario La Prensa’s Distinguished Women of 1998. She has served on the boards of the Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly and New York Organ Donor. Meiling is a founding member of 100 Hispanic Women of Westchester, where she contributes time to mentoring and fundraising for scholarships for young Latinas entering college. She is a proud mother of Nicole, and is married to (another Cristian Rivera Foundation Committee Member) Rafael Toro.
“It’s an honor to be of service to the Cristian Rivera Foundation. Together we will increase awareness so we can further the research needed to eradicate this dreaded disease.”
Paul Pristavec, a Staten Island native, is a Wealth Management Advisor at Merrill Lynch. He joined Merrill Lynch in 1992 and has been advising high net worth individuals and wealthy families since 1996. He is a parishioner of Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church and is involved in charitable work for the Archdiocese of New York. Paul and his wife Dana reside in the Tottenville section of Staten Island with their four children.
“It is an honor to be associated with the Cristian Rivera Foundation. I have been a close friend of Christian’s father, John “Gungie” Rivera for many years and became aware of Pontine Glioma when Cristian was taken from us. Being the father of four children, I understand the importance of finding a cure and bringing awareness to this terrible disease.”
Rafael Toro began his career in the field of public relations in 1979 as a special assistant to Mayor Kevin White in Boston where he handled a variety of city campaigns, cultural programs and community activities as well as serving as the liaison to the Hispanic community.
In 1985, Rafael joined Goya Foods, Inc. as Director of Public Relations where he first set out to extend Goya’s community outreach to the Dominican, Mexican, South and Central American communities. As the Hispanic market grew in the United States, so did Goya Foods’ facilities, product lines and the company’s marketing and public relations departments. In turn, Rafael’s responsibilities expanded and led him to play a role in Goya’s crossover of the Hispanic market into mainstream America.
Rafael currently oversees Goya’s public relations department including public affairs, media relations, community activities, corporate contributions and food donations as well as event sponsorships, production and cultural programs. In celebration of Goya’s 75th anniversary in 2011, Rafael coordinated the launch of a yearlong media and event campaign to honor Goya’s history and success that included the initiation of Goya Gives, a national campaign to fight against hunger and to encourage others to help those in need. Through Goya Gives, the company donated one million pounds of food to The United Way on the 75th day of the year. The campaign also included a nine city concert series with Latin artists Marc Anthony, Ana Gabriel and Marco Antonio Solis where Goya donated 75,000-pounds of food to local charities in the name of each artist. In addition, Rafael has cultivated a strong relationship with the White House and the Obama administration and helped to facilitate President Barack Obama’s recognition of Goya, the only company that has been honored by the President. He also facilitated Goya’s collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama to launch MyPlate/ MiPlato, a national health initiative to educate Americans on how to eat healthier.
Over the years, Rafael has extended Goya’s good-will by supporting organizations including The Hispanic Federation, L.U.L.A.C., The Hispania Leadership Institute, The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, City Harvest, and the Latino Commission on AIDS, as well as disaster relief efforts including the donation of 300,000 pounds of food and 25,000 hot meals to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Rafael also initiated the annual Goya Scholarship Fund and the Goya Employee Scholarship Fund to provide students with a four-year college scholarship of $20,000 in honor of Goya’s dedication and commitment to higher education.
Most recently, Rafael played an intricate role in the commissioning of a life size statue of Roberto Clemente. On June 27, 2013, Goya honored the lifetime achievements of Roberto Clemente and unveiled the statue at the Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx to celebrate Clemente’s 40th anniversary of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The unveiling attracted over 300 members of the community, family and friends as well as press including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, El Diario, CNN Latino, Telemundo, ESPN, and Univision to name a few.
Rafael holds a Masters in Education from Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has been married for 18 years to Meiling Toro and has one daughter Nicole.
“I commend John “Gungie” Rivera for his efforts in spreading awareness and supporting the research for Pontine Glioma. Through the Cristian Rivera Foundation I am hopeful that one day we will find a cure to this terrible illness so that no parent should ever have to bury their child.”
Broker I Owner | Pulse International Realty – FL & NY
Results oriented leader with a track record of nearly $1 billion dollars in sales. As an expert in her field for 18 years, Rena has proven success in independent sales, management, training, strategic planning, team building, sales operations, marketing, public relations and international relations. International travels included consulting on behalf of investors and developers on topics ranging from visa related programs as well as equity raises for projects. Rena also works with developers and investors strategically creating assemblages for them in emerging markets. Rena continued utilizing the skills she cultivated over the years and opened her own boutique real estate brokerage, Pulse International Realty, over a decade ago overseeing a team of 30 agents/employees.
Currently a regular cast member on the weekly Real Estate show The American Dream featured on CBS in 49 cities. Co-host on The Real Estate Forecast show airing on The Beach Channel. Rena provides content for all the programs and has been interviewed and featured on several other programs nationwide. C-Suite interviews highlighting her success in a male-driven industry such as commercial real estate, as well as her success as an entrepreneur and a regular content contributor to CNBC. Recently featured in International Policy Digest and interviewed by Forbes.
Developments, Consulting and Training
Rena provides consulting on development projects to developers and their teams leading them to successful sales. Pulse Intl Realty’s current in house project is Sophie Bay Harbor Luxury Residences in Bay Harbor Island, FL. as well as currently working with the sales team of the Luxurious Turnberry Ocean Residences project representing them in NY. As part of her skills in consulting and training, Rena has been hired over the course of her career to train brokers internationally through her own system working closely with sales teams to improve their performance in Dubai, France, Milan, and Rome.
Rena’s career over the years has placed her in several leadership roles in the communities she has served such as:
*Mentor for Women of Tomorrow – mentoring 30+ at risk Miami Dade students.
*Co-Founder of Divas Philanthropic Business Leaders – a C-Suite level organization uniquely focused on philanthropy and dedicated to highlighting its members professional strengths
*Board Member of The Cristian Rivera Foundation.
*Pillar of Trustees Board Member of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.
*Miami Children’s Hospital Presidents Cabinet Executive Board Member and Chair of PR and Community Relations Committee for Miami Children’s Hospital Presidents Cabinet.
*Two-time Floridian Award Nominee for Best Realtor of Miami and The Beaches.
*Winner of the Floridian Awards Best Realtor of Miami and The Beaches.
*Finalist for The Better Beach Citizens Award/Category: Broker
“In my quest for making a conscious effort of paying it forward throughout my entire adult life, I always felt it was important to focus on mothers and children. Perhaps being a single mom, I recognized how easily we can be challenged with the necessities we want to provide for our children and so as I moved ahead with launching a philanthropic organization. I continued looking around and reading up on so many charities. I had never heard of DIPG and when I came across Cristian’s story and the Cristian Rivera Foundation I was touched and decided to attend an event and familiarize myself with the people, the focus, and the initiative. John was so gracious and I had the opportunity to speak with him. He was so incredibly genuine about wanting to help other families and children from suffering. He genuinely wants to save lives. I couldn’t help but want to help him. Help him create more awareness about this terrible disease and help to raise funds to ultimately save more children’s lives. Every child is a shining star. A hope for the future, each one has a dream and they should have the chance to live out their dreams. We need to keep our future bright by giving every little star the chance to live and shine for as long as possible. They make our lives brighter. We owe them.”
Steve was born in Manhattan (El Barrio), NY in 1966, the fourth of four boys. He moved to the Castle Hill section of the Bronx in 1979, just prior to his thirteenth birthday, where he and John “Gungie” Rivera soon became close childhood friends, athletic competitors, and DJ partners.
Steve is a graduate of C.W. Post (Long Island University) and an alumnus of Inroads N.Y.C., Inc. He is an Information Technology manager with United Parcel Service.
“I can clearly remember the phone call from John to inform me about Cristian’s condition. As a father of two boys myself, I could only try to imagine what John, Cristian, and their family were going through – and it wasn’t easy even trying to imagine it. I did not know anything about Pontine Glioma at the time, but I did know that John was determined to help his son survive, and that Cristian was going to be a fighter.
Two years later, I was hit hard by the news that Cristian had left us. Again, I could only try to imagine what John and his family were going through – and it was even harder to try and imagine.
John continues to be determined to help Cristian and children who suffer from Pontine Glioma. I am honored to be a part of helping to achieve his goals and the goals of the Cristian Rivera Foundation.”
Vito Bruno is founder and CEO of AM PM Entertainment Concepts. He got his start at iconic Brooklyn club 2001 Odyssey, where he became an integral part of the disco scene, organizing the first public show by The Village People as well as performances by Chic, Kool and the Gang, The Trammps, Gloria Gaynor and France Joli. Bruno has owned, managed and operated many of New York City’s most iconic nightclubs. He managed and built the careers of Noel and Crystal Waters, and he is credited with helping acts such as Lisa Lisa and Doug E. Fresh break into the mainstream. Bruno has produced many successful events over the years, including the Michael Jackson/ Pepsi Press extravaganza, KTU’s annual Beatstock concert, and parades for Puerto Rico Day, African-American Day, Cuban Day, Heritage of Pride and Halloween.
“It is an honor to be a committee member of the Cristian Rivera Foundation. I have known John “Gungie” Rivera for over two decades and consider him a friend. I have had the privilege of meeting Cristian and as a father myself, I cannot imagine losing my child. Being a committee member of the Cristian Rivera Foundation gives me a chance to make a difference and contributing to someday putting an end to D.I.P.G.”
Alberto Torres, Esq. is a graduate of New York Law School (J.D. 1986) and the City College of New York (B.A. 1983). Mr. Torres’ practice of law entails twenty-five years of legal experience in the areas of Cooperative and Condominium general counsel, Commercial and Real Estate Transactions and Litigation, Civil and Housing Court Litigation, incorporating and advising small business and not-for-profit corporations, trusts and estates and criminal law.
Throughout the past twelve years, Mr. Torres has had extensive experience in counseling and advising cooperative and condominium developments on conversion plans and governance of their cooperative developments. Mr. Torres was an instructor with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and represents many cooperative developments under the Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) statutes, and represents developments under the Tenant Interim Lease Program (TIL).
Mr. Torres served as a Commissioner on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission from 1996 to 2004 and was the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Bronx Council for Economic Development and a member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the American Legion Unionport Post 1065.
Alberto Torres, Esq. offices are located at 629 Melrose Avenue, Bronx, New York 10455, Tel No. (718) 620-0106 and Electronic mail: email@example.com.
“In the year 2018, I came across the name “John Gungie Rivera” on social media. I had lost contact with John for over 15 years. Unknown to me, John had a tragic loss to his family when his son, Cristian, tragically lost his life to a horrible disease that afflicts young children and terminates their lives within one year of diagnosis..
That same year I attended the Cristian Rivera Foundation Annual Gala and was amazed by John’s dedication and determination to find a cure for this horrible disease that stole Cristian’s life..
At that gala, I decided that I would support of all of John’s efforts to find a cure for this horrible disease that kills a young child before the child has an opportunity to experience life, and likewise destroy’s the family.
I am proud to be a part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation’s journey to obliterate DIPG.”
Deputy inspector Edward Caban is a native of the Bronx with 18 years in the New York Police Department. He was appointed to the New York Police Department in April of 1991 and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in April of 1994. As a sergeant, he served in the 28th, 33rd and 34th precincts. He was promoted to lieutenant in October of 1999, where he served in the 41st and 48th precincts, and promoted to the rank of captain in December of 2006, where he served as the executive officer of the 23rd precinct. Caban was named to his current position—deputy inspector—in March of 2008 and is currently the commanding officer of the 25th precinct. Edward Caban holds a Bachelor’s Degree from St. John’s University. He is married to his wife Leidy and is a proud father of 2 children, Eddie Jr., 4 years old, and Ava Marie, 3 years old.
“Cristian meant a lot to everybody. Even through his illness, he was a very strong child who had strength and maturity well beyond his years. He was still able to bring a smile to everyone’s face—everyone who knew him and everyone who had contact with him. It’s an honor of mine to be affiliated with the Cristian Rivera Foundation.”
“I am proud to be a Committee Member of the Cristian Rivera.
No parent should have to bury their child.
John Gungie Rivera and the Cristian Rivera Foundation, work tirelessly against the deadly pediatric cancer, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas. The foundation, founded and named in honor and memory of Gungie’s beautiful son, Cristian is dedicated to supporting the brilliant doctors devoted to treating, curing and ultimately eradicating the world of this dreadful disease, DIPG, and offers direct support to the children and the families it threatens. The Cristian Rivera Foundation is a source of innovation, inspiration and hope.
Please join me and these heroes to help save the lives of innocent children and spare their families from the absolute devastation it causes.”
Maggie is a Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) hospice social worker for Ocean County, NJ. Maggie first became interested in medical social work as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University. She would volunteer weekly for a local foundation that supported children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Maggie visited pediatric patients receiving treatment at the clinic, where she would spend the day playing games and doing activities with the children.
After receiving her masters degree specializing in palliative cafe from Fordham University, Maggie relocated to Belmar, NJ to work full time as a licensed medical Social Worker for VNA hospice. Maggie loves her career as a hospice social worker, and in her free time she enjoys going to the beach, spending time with friends and family, and traveling.
“Two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting John “Gungie” Rivera when I interviewed for a position at the Cristian Rivera foundation. As a newly-licensed social worker, I had just graduated from Fordham University and was in the process of applying to multiple agencies. John sat down with me and told his story about losing Cristian to DIPG, which was very moving. I was originally drawn to the position advertised because I had such a great experience volunteering for a foundation that supported children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders in the past. While I ended up accepting a different job offer, I knew that I would continue to volunteer for the Cristian Rivera Foundation whenever I was able to. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be more involved with the foundational, and I am determined to help fight this devastating illness and find a cure for DIPG.”
Mark A Rosner
Born- New York City
Reside- Jericho, NY
Graduated- York College, CUNY
Children- Rachel, Carly and Adam
Occupation- Manager, Compucolor Associates, Inc.
“What Cristian Rivera meant to me – Cristian Rivera showed me what is meant by the phrase “fighter”. Throughout his entire ordeal he always had a smile whenever I saw him. When Cristian was about 2 years old I remember him being bright eyed and full of energy captivating everyone in John’s office. A few short years later after I learned that he was diagnosed with Pontine Glioma I again saw him in John’s office. This time he was huddled on one of John’s chairs. He sat up, looked up at me with his big dark eyes smiled, said hi and slapped me five. I don’t remember how far advanced the tumor was, but it was already draining the vim and vigor out of Cristian. I remember coming home that night and telling my wife, Leslie that “this isn’t fair.
I hope that through the work of this committee we can first bring an awareness of this terrible disease that most people have never heard of. Through early awareness there may be children who can be diagnosed and receive treatment that may save their life. Through research new or alternative treatments may be found so the suffering from this horrible disease can end.”
Melinda Colón Cox is a Commercial Litigation Partner at the national law firm of Parker Ibrahim & Berg LLP. She specializes in representing national banks, financial institutions, and small and large businesses with an emphasis in commercial and civil litigation, contested foreclosures, consumer finance and protection, contract disputes, and general business law and corporate governance. Melinda is proud of her Puerto Rican heritage and grew up in New Jersey, where she continues to reside. She is happily married to Kevin E. Cox with whom she has a beautiful 2-year old son, Logan Carter Cox. Melinda is actively involved in promoting and developing the advancement of Latinxs in the legal profession and community at large 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. She loves all animals and enjoys hiking and playing softball and volleyball and, most importantly, spending time with family.
“I am truly humbled and honored to be a part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation family. What the Foundation is doing to raise awareness and to help find a cure for DIPG is inspiring. No parent should ever have to see their child suffer, no parent should ever lose hope of finding a cure or treatment that will prolong their child’s beautiful life, and certainly, no parent should be put in a situation where they feel alone and cannot afford the necessary treatment to save their child. I joined this all-too-important organization because of my love for children – our future – because their lives matter, and because I believe in the strength and power of collaboration and unity. Together we can and we will make a difference. Full Steam Ahead!”
Vanessa, a native New Yorker, is a real estate sales agent with The Corcoran Group. She advises clients at all price points and stages, from first time home buyers to seasoned international investors. She loves the city and all things cultural. She attended St. Jean Baptiste High School in the Upper East Side and graduated from Columbia University. When she’s not working with her clients selling properties or partaking in community events, Vanessa enjoys the small things in life: exploring new restaurants, Broadway theatre, making dinner with family, and going for walks and runs with her 2 doggies – Remy, the Miniature Pinscher and Jimmy, the Boxer.
“I am thrilled and honored to lend my support to help the world learn more about this disease affecting children. I wish no other child got cancer again, and the only way to reach this dream is to have more people join the cause. We all need to work together to help further the research to find a cure. Childhood cancer should be a global health priority. Children are our future, and we owe it to them to give them the best chance at life that we can. This highly aggressive cancer, DIPG, is stripping away the life of children below the age of 10. We need to bring awareness and find a cure. I’ve known Gungie for over 10 years and he has become a dear dear friend; I admire his tenacity and tireless efforts for this beautiful foundation, and it’s a privilege to join him in this cause.”
Award-winning, nationally recognized, and sought after strength and conditioning coach, performance consultant and physical fitness advisor to professional athletes and corporate executives. Ben has consistently demonstrated ability in assisting clients to improve peak performance and acheive the desired results applying strong assesment, analytical, motivational and interpersonal skills. He posseses a sixth intuitive sense in evaluating individual ability, then determining suitable corrective action for overall improvement.
“Every person likes to think that when times are tough they will behave in an appropriate manner. That they will exhibit courage and dignity under fire. That no matter what the circumstances that they will continue the good fight until there is not one ounce of energy left or one short breath to take.
I truly did not understand this commitment until I met Cristian and John Rivera.
When I first met Cristian and his Dad John and learned about this condition called Pontine Glioma, what he had suffered and what he was continuing to suffer through I realized that I had to help in any possible way that I could. I witnessed the untiring and unconditional Love that drove John to do whatever humanly possible to save his Son and I also witnessed the suffering that went hand in hand with that struggle. Although I never was lucky enough to meet little Cristian when he was healthy I heard many wonderful stories about the special person he was and the Big personality that he had. He fought the valiant fight to the end and left an indelible imprint on us all.
More importantly now, his life and passing must be honored in the only way that is worthy. We must all pool our resources and energies to fund the research and find more successful early diagnostic procedures and treatments for this terrible condition. Let us learn the true meaning of courage and dignity through Cristian’s memory.”
Mr. Rodriguez is a graduate of the City University of New York, Lehman College, with a B.A. in Political Science and English Literature. Mr. Rodriguez is a former Police Officer and Deputized United States Drug Enforcement Agent. Mr. Rodriguez obtained a J.D. from New York Law School and is admitted to practice in NY. While in law school, Mr. Rodriguez worked with the Court Advocate Project, where he assisted victims of domestic violence in court proceedings; the Criminal Justice Seminar, in conjunction with a local District Attorney’s Office; and was awarded the highest scoring advocate at the NYLS Intramural Trial Competition.
Prior to law school, Mr. Rodriguez worked in law enforcement and conducted investigations on the local, state and federal level that included homicide, money laundering and international narcotics cases. After law school, he worked as a Prosecuting Attorney for the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission and an Immigration Attorney representing families and children facing deportation before the United States Immigration Tribunal.
Mr. Rodriguez has always devoted much of his time to assisting those who are less fortunate. Throughout his career, working cases on behalf of immigrants, developmentally delayed children, child abuse and domestic violence victims, has shaped his course of service to others. He also currently volunteers with the Cristian Rivera Foundation, working to find a cure for DIPG, a rare fatal brain tumor in young children.
Mr. Rodriguez is fluent in Spanish, was born and raised in the Bronx and now resides in Westchester county.
He is originally from Puerto Rico. From an early age, he has been working in professional theatre and television as a performer, puppeteer, writer, composer, director and producer in Puerto Rico, Latin America and the United States. He is the founder and CEO/Executive Director of the award winning Society of the Educational Arts, Inc. (SEA), one of the leading bilingual Arts-in-Education organization and the premiere Latino Theatre Company for young audiences in the United States.
He holds a B.A. in Humanities and Drama from the University of Puerto Rico, a M.A. in Educational and Musical Theatre from New York University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Theatre from New York University. Dr. Morán has also studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, Holborn Center/NYU in London, and The Menéndez Pelayo University in Santander, Spain.
He has received many prestigious awards and citations for his artistic & community work, among them: multiple ACE Awards, HOLA Awards and ATI Awards for Best Actor, Best Director & Best Musicals; Grand Marshall of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade; Comité Noviembre Award; Cultural Awards, by the NY City Council & Queens Borough President; the “EL Award” by El Diario-La Prensa; was chosen as one of the Nation’s top 15 young adults Latino Leaders: Programa para Líderes Hispanos. Dr. Morán is an Alumni/Member of AmeriCorps, where he completed two years of National Service. Recently he was selected as one of “40 under 40 Young Master Puppeteers World-wide” by Puppetry International Magazine.
Actor Credits: Off Broadway: DC-7 The Roberto Clemente Story (HOLA, ACE & ATI Awards);); Don Quixote and his World; Romance (HOLA & ACE Awards); Just Another Star in NYC. Stage & Tours: West Side Story; Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac; Shvarts’ Drakon; A 3 Voces (HOLA & ACE Awards); Verdi’s Nabucco; Lorca’s The Billy Club Puppets (HOLA & ACE Awards); The Toothache of King Farfán (UNIMA-USA, HOLA, ACE Awards); and his one man show, Viva Pinocho! (Best Actor, HOLA & ACE Awards). He has an extensive list of credits in Children’s Theatre and Theatre for Young Audiences. TV/Film: Aventurera; La Charca; ContactArte (Host); Deception; Planeta SEA (Host); Acceso Total.
Perhaps most notably, Dr. Morán is responsible for re-establishing professional children’s theatre in Spanish in New York City, a tradition that was abandoned for more than 18 years. For the past several years, SEA has presented hundreds of educational performances, reaching thousands of children and young adults throughout New York City. In just a few years, Dr. Morán has built a professional repertory of 18 shows for children and adults, which tour throughout the US, Latin America and Puerto Rico.
Dr. Morán has served on many local and national Boards of many non-profit institutions as well as cultural and educational organizations. Currently he is the Vice President of UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionette) “the oldest international theatre organization in the world.” He is also President of UNIMA’s North American Commission and Vice President of UNIMA-USA. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Hornet Dorset Colony and sits in the Advisory Board of HOLA (Hispanic Association of Latin Actors). He is also the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center in New York City.
In August, 1999 he opened in NYC: Teatro SEA @ Los Kabayitos Puppet and Children’s Theatre. In celebration of its 25th Anniversary (2111), he opened a brand new state-of-the-art performance space at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Teatro SEA, now in its 15th successful season, is the only and first Professional Latino Children’s Theatre in the US. www.ManuelMoran.com
“I am honored to be a part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation. As a long-time advocate of the arts, I have worked hard and committed myself to enhancing children’s lives through art. So I feel a strong affinity for John “Gungie” Rivera’s commitment to children’s health. More than enhancing lives, he is working to save them. No one wants to see children or their families suffer. I have deep respect for the work of the Cristian Rivera Foundation to try and cure such an awful, deadly disease. I am very happy to team up and to do whatever it takes to support the Foundation and its mission.”
Michael is a 20+ year veteran of Wall Street Investment Banks as well as Owner and sole Proprietor of ANS Entertainment LLC, a boutique DJ and event services company started by he and his wife Claudia in 2005. Born and raised in the South Bronx, he is a graduate of Cardinal Hayes High School (’91) as well as the College of the Holy Cross (’96). He and Claudia reside in Ridgefield, NJ with their 3 children (Alexandra, Sofia, and Aedan). An avid sports fan and former HS and collegiate athlete, in 2010 qualified to run his first NYC marathon. Being raised with a sense of community responsibility and a passion for his Catholic Education, used this as an opportunity to raise $5,000 to create an emergency tuition fund for the at-risk families at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Harlem. After the recent loss of a family member (Santiago Buther) was inspired once again to use his network of friends and family to help fundraise and make DIPG a thing of the past.
“Being a Puerto Rican with a love for baseball, your Idol is automatically Roberto Clemente. His skill on the field was incredible but his works off of the field were well beyond that. To the point that it cost him his life. I have always been inspired by his quote: “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” In 2010 after reading his autobiography a few years earlier, this quote inspired me to raise money for these students at Our Lady of Lourdes, because I was once that kid and lived in an at-risk family. Sadly, this January when Santiago gained his wings, this sense of communal responsibility was awoken within me again. I am firmly committed to help prevent any other child and their family from having to suffer this type of loss. To not combat this disease would be a waste of my time on this earth”
William Pla was born in the Bronx in 1966, and was raised by William Sr., and Sarah, with his sister Becky. Currently he is a Captain in the NYPD, and the Commanding Officer of the 23rd Precinct. The 23rd Precinct is located in East Harlem, “The Barrio.” As Commanding Officer, he works diligently reducing crime and building relationships with the community.
William met his wife Norma while working in the NYPD. Norma is a Sergeant, and became his wife in 1994. She is the mother of his three children, Angelic, Nina, and Jonathan.
“As a father and a friend, I am honored to be a part of the Cristian Rivera Foundation. Cristian showed tremendous strength and courage while touching so many lives. During Cristian’s fight for life, John was an inspiration to my family, through his devotion and dedication. May God bless Cristian and John. May the foundation be a pioneer for a cure for Pontine Glioma.”
Anthony George Douglas Mason is a retired American National Basketball Association player. He averaged 10.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in his 13-year NBA career. Mason, who played primarily the power forward position despite his relatively diminutive stature (he stood at 6′ 7″ (2.01 m)), compensated his lack of size by his impressive musculature, which made him one of the most feared defensive players in the league. In addition to his physical strength, he could rely on a very good court vision and was a precise and effective passer. He was also known for shaving logos and words into his hair.
Mason’s long and accomplished basketball career includes a five-year stint with the New York Knicks. He was made part of the All-Defensive Second Team, as well as the All-NBA Third Team during the 1996-1997 season. Additional The NBA’s sixth Man of the Year in 1995 also earned the chance to play in the 2001 All Star Game as part of the Miami Heat.
Mason has made prominent appearances off the court as well. In the TV series New York Undercover, Mason appeared in two different episodes, playing himself in one. He also plays a pickup player in the 1996 film Eddie, and himself in Woody Allen’s Celebrity.
“Being on the Cristian Rivera Foundation Committee means a lot to me. Even though I never got the chance to meet Cristian, I have known Gungie since 1994 and I see what a loving guy he is. So I can only imagine what his relationship with Cristian was like. I know what it’s like with my own kids and though you can never know what it’s like for someone to lose a child, I can only imagine since I know how I feel when my kids only get hurt. So I want people to get involved and start doing the research to cure this disease because we as parents should not have to bury our children.”
MIRIAM COLON VALLE (Producer): Has been the Artistic Director of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre for the last 40 years, producing over 100 plays. Her film credits include the starring role in ISABEL LA NEGRA opposite José Ferrer and Raúl Juliá; ONE EYED JACKS and THE APPALOOSA, both starring Marlon Brando; BACKROADS starring Sally Field, and SCARFACE starring Al Pacino.
She joined the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis interpreting the role of Bernarda in Federica García Lorca’s THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA and repeated the same role for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre’s presentation, directed by René Buch. In 1993 she was awarded on Obie for Sustained Performance through the Years. In 1994 she starred in Eduardo Machado’s FLOATING ISLANDS at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, for which she won the 1994 Dramalogue Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre. Her last three film assignments are THE BLUE DINER, GOAL (starring Kuno Becker) and THE CRY (LA LLORONA).
“I feel honored to be one of the members of the CRISTIAN RIVERA FOUNDATON, because it gives me the opportunity to lend my energies to a cause dedicated to the research and study of Pontine Glioma, an inoperable brain tumor which develops mostly on children between the ages of 3 to 9.
For reasons I can not fully understand Cristian was affected with this disease and though he has separated himself physically from us, he is present in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our memories.
I joined because I want to contribute to the act of saving lives and helping to safeguard the education, the health and the welfare of the children of the world.
Cristian, although I never had the opportunity to meet you, I feel I know you because I have seen you reflected in the eyes of your father, my dear friend John “Gungie” Rivera. I’ve seen the transformation in his face, and in the tone of his voice, when he proudly shows us pictures of the two of you together in better days.
You left us the legacy of your innocence, your purity, and your unconditional love. You have inspired your father and his commitment and love has moved us all to be aware, to care, and to fight for the welfare of all the children.
Thank you Cristian.”