This past Saturday, July 17th the Cristian Rivera Foundation hosted its 4th Annual Cristian Rivera Foundation Full Steam Ahead 5K at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. After months of planning the event, our team at CRF was so excited the morning of the event. We had high hopes for a good turnout and were hoping to match or surpass our funds raised last year. The morning of the event, there were about 170 walkers that were registered to participate in the 5K (both virtually and in person) and while we were grateful for this turnout, we were even happier to see people in the area registering to participate the morning of.
Among our registered participants, we were grateful to see many CRF Board Members and DIPG families at the event along with their friends and loved ones. We also were honored to have a special visit from NYC Mayoral Candidate and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa during the event – red beret and all – along with Cindy Campbell, the Director of the Children’s Brain Tumor Project. The event kicked off with a few words from Carlos Yepez who sits on our Board of Directors about what DIPG is and why raising money and awareness for DIPG is so important. Our founder, John “Gungie” Rivera then gave a speech reflecting on what it was like to lose his six-year-old son Cristian to DIPG 12 years ago and how he has made it his life’s mission to find a cure for this horrific disease. Mr. Curtis Sliwa also took a moment to speak on how important it is to get behind this cause and how important it is to him to make sure that DIPG is eradicated from this world. One of our most treasured moments during the event was presenting Eric and Cynthia Buther the Golden Wings Award in honor of their son Santiago who they lost to DIPG last year on January 17, 2020. The Buthers flew in all the way from North Carolina to participate in the walk, brought an army of their family and friends in honor of Santiago, and raised an incredible amount of funds toward DIPG research. They gave an emotional speech on behalf of their son and family on what it meant to participate in an event like this and their hopes for a better future in which there is a cure available to children with DIPG.
After a warm-up session led by Lawrence Laurente, the participants were ready and eager to begin the race. The energy in the park that early morning, although the sun was shining particularly hard, was enough to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Even in the summer heat, you could see the determination shining in the eyes of each participant. Whether or not every single person has been directly affected by DIPG, they all had a reason to run. Then, they were off. Over time, participant’s in white CRF 5K t-shirts were taking over Van Cortlandt Park and before we knew it, everyone crossed the finish line with smiles on their faces.
While everyone was gathering post-race, a silent auction and 50/50 raffle were held and the 50/50 Raffle winner during this year’s event was none other than CRF Board Member Meiling Macias Toro! Our 1st and 2nd place winners of the overall race in the Adult’s Category were Cheetah Wilson and CRF Board Member Carlos Colon respectively. A special thank you to our sponsors Supermarket Italy, Patrick B. Jenkins, Koeppel Nissan, and American Door for their generosity in making this event possible. It was clear to everyone that, although many of the participants were strangers to each other upon arrival, everyone left with new friends and a new awareness of DIPG. It was only after the event that the CRF team realized we had raised more funds than ever before for one of our 5Ks! Though we are overjoyed to reach this milestone, we still know our job is far from over.
Every little donation helps. So, while there is still time, we ask that you consider spreading the word and visiting cristianriverafoundation.org/donation/ to make a donation. Donations will be accepted through Saturday, July 31st so we can make the biggest impact possible toward DIPG research!
From all of us here at the Cristian Rivera Foundation, we want to thank you for your participation in our events, your kind donations, and endless support. With all your help, we have hope that one day the world will be free of DIPG.