My son’s gala was last week. Now that it’s over, I can really look back on the hard work that went into it. We made such an improvement over last year’s gala and it’s thanks to the efforts of people like Annie Bonner and Belinda Aquine who helped organize it. Alex Garcia and Ricardo Cardona donated the food and were generous enough to auction off dinner for 25 people at your home with them cooking, cleaning and providing the liquor and staff. When we got so many bids for that in the live auction, Alex even doubled the offer and gave it to two people. They were amazing. So was the entire staff at the Cristian Rivera Foundation. My son meant everything to me, so it really makes me feel good to be surrounded by other people who are as passionate about this foundation as I am.
The proudest moment of the night, without a doubt, was presenting Dr. Mark Souweidane with a $30,000 check. Dr. Souweidane was in California at the time and he flew back to New York early just to be at the gala and receive his donation. I’m so glad he was able to come. It’s so important that people see where their donations are going and learn from the source just how terrible this disease is and how promising his trials are. Pontine Glioma is the worst kind of tumor. It’s right on the stem of the brain, so you can’t operate. Within three to nine months, all the children who get it die. But Dr. Souweidane is trying to change that. He’s figured out a way to deliver treatment directly to the tumor and there’s a good chance that this will be the answer. Once the final totals come in from the live and silent auctions at the gala, I will to send him another check. He’s going to get every penny we raise after expenses. His research is that important to me.
In the lead-up to this year’s gala, all of the committee members came to my office to shoot a video, or they did videos from their home. Even though we weren’t able to show that video, just the fact that they came here allowed them to gather in my office and see a video of the disease and how it affects a young child. Now they understand more than ever. They were committee members because they loved me and Cristian. Now they’re committee members because they understand. They’re passionate.
So many committee members have stepped up now because of the education I provided. Anthony Mason was so moved that he made us his official charity. That’s an accomplishment, to instill passion in such powerful people. In fact, a lot of people have called me after the event and said that they want to continue supporting our cause because they get it now. That’s why it’s so important to educate people and why I’m so glad Dr. Souweidane was able to speak at the event. My only regret is that I was stuck in the office that night until after 7pm fixing a video that couldn’t be shown. My heart fell when that happened. If the 400 guests and staff who were in that room got to see the evolution of the disease and what it does to a normal, beautiful little boy or girl, they really would have understood what I’m fighting for.
After the gala, I said to myself that I have to keep getting creative with methods of raising awareness, and fundraising, so that people like Dr. Souweidane can get the money they need to cure Pontine Glioma once and for all. Every year I learn more about the disease. I meet more families who are going through it or lost their children to it. That makes me even more passionate and committed to curing this disease, and I look forward to sharing that passion with the world. I urge anyone who didn’t attend the gala to please make a donation. Every little bit helps bring us closer to a cure.