Residents asked to ‘Walk by Faith’ on Sept. 16
The Rivera family's journey over the past three years shows that nothing is “impossible”, especially with the help of faith and family.
King-Aaden Rivera, the fourth of five children of Marcus and Shonda Rivera of Barnwell, was involved in a serious car accident as he and his three cousins went to school on September 15, 2014. King-Aaden suffered severe head trauma and had to be revived two or three times in the first several hours at the hospital. At one point doctors told the family they didn't think the three-year-old would survive.
However, the Riveras didn't give up hope. They kept their faith.
“You’ve got to have some kind of faith to keep going,” said Marcus Rivera, who along with his wife missed a lot of work and income due to long stays in the hospital and rehab facilities. “More good has come from this accident than bad.”
One of King-Aaden’s injuries was a stroke at his brain stem, which has caused the now-six-year-old to have to relearn all of his fine motor skills. “Today King-Aaden is doing a lot better, but still has a way to go. As parents my wife and I made a commitment to him and each other that we would do whatever is necessary for him to be as independent as possible,” said Marcus.
Recently, Shonda said, King-Aaden told her he wanted to see how long he could stand up. When he felt like giving up, “I said no, try it again. You’ll get it.” He didn’t give up.
A trip to Texas in August for an “intense and elite therapy program” called Walk This Way helped King-Aaden with a lot of core strengthening. Before the Riveras returned home, the therapist gave them a workout plan to utilize at home in the hopes of furthering his ability to walk more independently. The therapist told them she believed King-Aaden would be able to talk on his own in six months if they continued to work with him, said Marcus, who is also grateful for the donation of a treadmill to help with the workouts at home.
Marcus and Shonda expressed their gratitude to everyone who supported them financially so they could go to Texas, which cost approximately $8,000. They are also grateful to those who prayed and sent well-wishes. “King is one blessed child who has loving people that support him,” said Marcus.
The Riveras said their family, friends, neighbors and the community as a whole have embraced them over the past three years. That support has made it easier to deal with everything.
That support led Marcus to create Boyz2Men two years ago. The organization mentors at-risk males between the ages of 12 and 18 by providing advice, guidance and professional opportunities.
“I vowed to God that if he would spare my son’s life then I would give back to the community that gave so much to us,” said Marcus of why he founded the organization.
Thirty-two young men are involved in the new session of Boyz2Men. They meet weekly on Wednesdays, which is also the day they dress up. They also go to church as a group twice a month, perform community service and have an activity one Saturday per month.
“We want to expose them to as much as possible and teach them that they are responsible for their success or failure,” said Marcus. “It’s been a beautiful thing.”
All seven of the seniors involved last year in Boyz2Men graduated high school in June. Four of those are now in college while one is serving in the military and two are working.
To raise funds for a scholarship for future graduates, Boyz2Men is sponsoring the inaugural “Walk By Faith 3K Walk” this Saturday, Sept. 16 at 8 a.m. Participants will depart Fuller Park at 8 a.m., walk to Wal-Mart and then back to the park. Last minute registration will take place at 7:30 a.m. For more information, call Marcus Rivera at (803) 300-4644 or Thomas Davis at (803) 571-1966.
While the walk marks the three-year anniversary of King-Aaden’s accident, “most importantly it represents optimism, and believing in the impossible even when the possible seems to be the only thing that is visible. This is exactly the message we deliver daily at Boyz2Men, that even impossible spells ‘I’m possible’,” said Marcus.
In addition to an appreciation of his community, Marcus said everything his son has gone through has “made me a better dad.” As many parents do, he used to tell his children to be quiet when they got noisy. However, when King-Aaden was in the hospital and couldn’t talk, Marcus longed to hear his son speak. King-Aaden has since regained his voice.
“It makes you appreciate the smaller things in life. I’ve got so much to be happy for,” said Marcus, who strives daily to be better than he was the day before.
“You can’t take anything for granted with children. King’s got a will beyond anyone I’ve ever seen,” said Eddie Ford, King-Aaden’s uncle. His daughter, Journee Ford, who was five at the time of the wreck, was also in the car and was the one who flagged down help for her cousin.
Shonda said she’s heard from countless people who said her son’s story of survival has inspired them and “brightened up their day.”
King-Aaden has prayed that he will be able to run and play with his older brothers again. His parents believe he will and are committed to providing all the care, support and assistance they can to ensure he meets his goal.
“You can’t put limitations on yourself. If you do, then you’re selling yourself short,” said Marcus, who said King-Aaden’s teachers have noticed improvements in the kindergartner’s performance.
King-Aaden continues to go to speech and therapy in Aiken each week. He also receives therapy at school.
To keep up with King-Aaden’s journey on Facebook, go to the “TeamKing Walking by Faith” page.