Valentino Tzigiwhaeno (“Lightning”) Rivera connected with every person he met. Being a lightning boy, it came naturally to him. Valentino could run like the wind and would launch himself into every challenge, but his true love was dancing. Son of former Pojoaque Pueblo Governor George Rivera and Felicia Rosacker Rivera, Valentino was born into a family living a healthy active lifestyle.
Valentino danced constantly, expressing himself and radiating the vast energy within. Meeting 7-time World Hoop Dancing Champion Nakotah LaRance, and Nakotah’s Coach and Father Steve, expanded Valentino’s world. Along with his friends, the Pojoaque Pueblo Youth Hoop Dancers learned from the best and performed throughout New Mexico, Arizona, California and Hawaii, and in 2014, they toured Europe for 3 weeks, with performances in Florence, Italy; Paris and La Rochelle, France; and Geneva, Switzerland.
In March of 2015, tragedy struck when a driver suffered a fatal heart attack and crashed into the vehicle in which Valentino and his sister Paloma were passengers. She emerged with a broken arm. Valentino suffered severe and life threatening traumatic brain and spinal injuries. He was airlifted from Espanola to Albuquerque and miraculously, following 14 hours of surgery, Valentino survived.
However, after recovering from the initial trauma, Valentino faced a long recovery at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD. Over the next 14 months, he endured 21 operations and persevered through countless hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy. On May 13, 2016, 8 year old Valentino passed away at home surrounded by his family.
To honor Valentino’s memory and warrior spirit, George and Felicia have created the Valentino Rivera Memorial Fund with the goal of removing barriers for, and providing opportunities to, New Mexico’s youth in pursuing their dreams in the arts, sports, education and rehabilitation therapies. Global Running Culture is honored to support the Riveras’ efforts:
Team Lightning Boy Felicia and George, accompanied by several family members, will run the Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon wearing the Lightning Boy T-shirt, and Aunt Priscilla Moya and several cousins will run the Lightning 5K. You can join Felicia, George or Priscilla and receive a special entry discount provided by Global Running Culture. In addition to the official race T-shirt, you will receive your own Lightning Boy T-shirt, and a $10 donation will be made to the Valentino Rivera Memorial Fund. For more information and to sign up, click here.
Donations to the Valentino Rivera Memorial Fund If you are not able to participate, but would like to honor Valentino and support the Riveras’ efforts to help challenged youth achieve their dreams, you can donate directly to the Valentino Rivera Memorial Fund by mailing a contribution to Felicia Rivera at 31 Turtle Circle Santa Fe, NM 87506.
Thank you for being a part of The Race Different and for helping the Lightning Boy’s memory live on.