Pediatric cancer research got a major boost as The Cristian Rivera Foundation held its 4th Annual Celebrity Gala at the legendary Copacabana Supper Club and Event Space on Thursday, September 13. The event was held on what would have been Cristian’s 10th birthday, in the same location as the memorable fifth birthday his Mommy and Daddy, Jenelle Asencio and John “Gungie” Rivera, had for him before he passed away from DIPG.
Hosted by Cristian Rivera Foundation Committee Members Saturday Night Live star Kenan Thompson and Today in New York co-anchor Darlene Rodriguez, the gala featured an exciting carnival theme, complete with acrobats, contortionists and other circus acts that wowed the crowd as they enjoyed dinner provided by Cristian Rivera Foundation Committee Members and Celebrity Chefs Alex Garcia and Ricardo Cardona.
Cristian’s Mommy and Daddy, along with all the committee members in attendance that night, presented a check for $110,000 to Dr. Mark Souweidane of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and also marked the start of a new relationship between the foundation and Dr. Oren Becher of Duke University with a donation of $20,000. Not only were both doctors in attendance that night, but the Cristian Rivera Foundation was also proud to welcome the first patient in Dr. Souweidane’s clinical trial and her mother, who moved the crowd to tears as she shared the story of her daughter’s surgery and the continuing struggles with DIPG that followed.
Making the night’s generous donations possible were philanthropists and charity supporters that included celebrities like Dangerous Minds co-star Renoly Santiago, Mob Wives star Drita Davanzo, and America’s Next Top Model Cycle 8 winner Jaslene Gonzalez, and high-profile Cristian Rivera Foundation Committee Members like Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex; Real Housewives of New Jersey star Danielle Staub; former New York Knicks All-Star Anthony Mason; legendary DJ/producer John “Jellybean” Benitez; One Life to Live star Kamar de los Reyes; actor Modesto Lacen; founder of Teatro SEA Dr. Manuel A. Moran; and Roberto Clemente Jr.
Also making a special appearance were Cristian Rivera Foundation Committee Members including Aldo Marin; Andy Epstein; Dr. Ben Velazquez; Carlos Keyes; Carlos D. Nazario; Carlos R. Colon; David M. Garriga; Dennis Rodriguez; Dolores Catania; Elis Pacheco; Fred Garcia; Jeff Lavino; Jerry Chaparro; Jerry Salerno; Johnny Nunez; Karen Cerna; Katie De Florio; Kim Medina-Tibulac; Krystal Fessette; Mark Rosner; Matthew “Mateo” Rajkumar; Robert Vazquez; Solange Osorio; Steve Cox; Tony Ferrara; Vito Bruno; and William Padilla.