At the heart of it, Paul Pristavec is a family man. Starting out as an only child and moving on to being married and raising 6 children – the youngest of which are 4-year-old twin boys – family is bound to represent a large part of one’s life. Even in his professional life working 25 years at Merrill Lynch, Paul says his job is to help people manage their money – especially families. Paul grew up in Staten Island where he currently lives. He majored in Business at Wagner College and was able to obtain a full-time position at Merrill Lynch during his Sophomore year giving him a 2 year advantage amongst his peers. In his free time, Paul coaches basketball on the teams of a few of his kids. He also enjoys working out, eating at great restaurants, and taking his family on weekend trips or vacations a few times a year.
The importance of family also speaks to what Paul is passionate about in life. He believes in making sure that his children are raised right, that they participate in sports, do well in school, and that they’re respectful to their elders. He lives by a simple but pure philosophy, “Be nice to everybody. Don’t be a mean person even if you don’t really like them. Just be kind.”
Living by this mantra gives a lot of explanation as to how Paul became involved with the Cristian Rivera Foundation. “I met John Rivera in Miami Beach in 2000 and we became good friends. I had known Cristian since he was born. When he was diagnosed with this disease it was absolutely terrible. Seeing John’s grief, I told him I’ll definitely help you. I have always gone to the yearly gala and in the last few years and helping with fundraising,” says Paul.
As someone who has been there since the beginning, Paul has also been present to see the growth of the foundation over the years. “Every gala I’ve noticed there’s a lot more people so they had to get a bigger venue. They went from 150 people to 500 people coming. That goes to show that people are noticing how great the work is that is being done,” said Paul.
Beyond the fundraising events, Paul says that what stands out about the foundation is the people that are involved. He describes, “There is a lot of passion behind all of the Board Members, myself included. We are working hard to find a cure. It’s an awful thing. God forbid one of my kids ever got sick. Every year I try to raise as much money as I can but the more people that we can get involved, the better.”
Adding more and more supporters to our mission is just one piece of the puzzle in finding a cure for DIPG. In our 12 years as a foundation, significant progress in research has been made and though the road toward a cure may seem long, hope and celebrating our current successes are important to help us move forward. Paul says that our successes as a foundation are shown because we are keeping kids alive a little bit longer and through that effort we are bound to find a cure someday.
When it comes to success in life, Paul says that, “Success is living to your potential. If you’re a doctor or a lawyer, do the best you can and be honest. Never cheat anybody. Have integrity, be honest, and always do the right thing.” Paul’s sense of honesty and dedication to family inspire us to meet our present circumstances with our best efforts and best intentions. Guided by this simple, but true philosophy, one could never go wrong.
By Sarde Laurente