Cristian was an extremely smart, incredibly happy boy who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) on January 22, 2007. He received care at Memorial Sloan Kettering and Weill Cornell Medical Center and was treated with promising medicines and alternative therapies to combat the tumor. After 2 years of fighting, Cristian gained his angel wings on January 25, 2009.
Anyone who knew Cristian personally could attest to his love for trains. He loved Thomas the Tank Engine and would even buy rare toy trains on eBay to expand his collection. Cristian always remained so happy and positive even throughout his battle with DIPG. We came up with #FullSteamAhead to spread Cristian’s message of perseverance – no matter what the circumstance. Many people may think that a cure for DIPG is not possible. Cristian’s bravery inspires us every day to keep hope alive and continue moving “Full Steam Ahead” toward a cure.
Cristian Rivera was the type of kid who made his presence known. He would sometimes come with his father, John, to work and everyone knew that the “boss” had arrived. Cristian even had his own business cards made to show that he was truly part of the company.
Our Board Member Carlos Colon used to work at John’s old company and became very close with Cristian. Carlos said, “Cristian was super smart and the happiest little boy. He would turn on the computer, navigate to his favorite websites, knew what he wanted, and no one could ever deny his requests. He would sit on my lap for hours, playing games and I couldn’t get much done. He was the boss!”
Cristian was always so active, affectionate and full of life. He enjoyed watching TV, swimming in the pool, going to Central Park, and was a big animal lover. Cristian’s two favorite stores were Toys “R” Us and FAO Schwarz where he would spend hours in the trains section playing with trains on the store’s tracks and looking at the new toys and collectibles. He was also very close with his father John. While Cristian was sick, John would often read books to him, watch movies with him, and give Cristian foot massages. He loved his family and friends and made an impression on nearly everyone he met.
Cristian had a very big heart and would always tell his father “I love you 10” because one time was never enough. We remember Cristian because he was unique and the memories of him light up the reality that hundreds of other children and families are still suffering through what he did. These are children who are just as special, who have their own quirks and personalities that will remain in the hearts of their parents for life.
The National Cancer Institute allots less than 5% of taxpayer funding to pediatric cancer research, and that’s for all pediatric cancers. Of that already slim percentage, DIPG research specifically takes a backseat in comparison to more common cancers. This is why saving the lives of children affected by DIPG is up to family foundations like ours.