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Friends of Rivera honor memory, raise funds for Shriner's Hospital

Date: 7/28/2009

By Amanda Lemon

Staff Intern

AGAWAM -- Jaime Rivera loved cars. He was an avid NASCAR fan and a proud member of the Valley Cruise's of Agawam until his death in July 2007.

On Aug. 2, all like-minded individuals are invited to come out and honor Rivera's memory at the second annual Benefit Car Show and Swap Meet. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Shriner's Hospital in Springfield, where Rivera received treatment for spina bifida.

Rivera's friend Pam Schuler described him as "someone who would give you the shirt off his back," never letting the disease -- diagnosed shortly after his birth in 1974 -- impair his spirit.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke cites spina bifida as "the most common disabling birth defect in the United States."

Throughout Rivera's lifetime, Shriner's Hospital provided him a number of corrective hip and ankle surgeries in hopes of preserving whatever mobility they could.

By all accounts, the hospital's efforts would seem to have succeeded in granting Rivera a semblance of a normal, independent life.

"Even with his handicap, he could do anything. If you needed something, he was right there to give it to you," Schuler remembered. "It didn't matter what it was, you could always count on him. If you were working on the car he got right under there with you. Anything at all."

A Web site created to honor Rivera's memory,, offered even more insight into his life. "Jaime was able to drive a car, work, live alone, and he even drove a go-cart at Whip City Speedway in 1998. Jaime drove quads, snowmobiles and anything else he could," the site explained.

Scott Gonyer, a long time friend of Rivera's, and one of the event planners, remembered his friend fondly.

"He would do anything for anyone," Gonyer said. "That's part of the reason we wanted to do this benefit. He cared very much for his friends and family. We all felt we needed to do something to honor him."

The second annual Jaime Rivera Benefit Car Show and Swap Meet will begin at 9 a.m. at Agawam High School. Cost for admission will be $10 for cars and $3 for spectators over the age of 12. Entry into the swap meet will be $15 in advance or $25 the day of the show.

The day's festivities will also include a raffle, filled with prizes to suit just about anyone. Prizes include tickets to Six Flags, the Boston Red Sox and the Basketball Hall of Fame; Dale Earnhardt Jr. paraphernalia; movie tickets; and gift certificates to such restaurants as Paisano's, Village Pizza, Tucker's and the Summer House.

Trophies will be rewarded to the top 25 cars as well as to best of show.

"I hope we can raise a lot of money for the kids [at Shriner's Hospital]," Schuler said. "To be able to give a good amount of money back to the people who helped [Jaime] so much."

For more information, visit