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Riverdale, Bronx teen headed to Florida for a very special RUN


Teen with autism embraced running at early ageAdam Rivera of Riverdale  shows off some of his running medals.


Adam Rivera of Riverdale shows off some of his running medals.

Fourteen-year old Adam Rivera is bound for Disney World - but not to meet Mickey Mouse.

The Riverdale teen is headed to Florida this week to take part in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Family Fun Run 5K.

“I’m not nervous, just really excited,” he grinned.

Adam, who has autism, will be one of five Achilles Kids athletes. The Achilles Kids program is part of Achilles International, a group that helps people with disabilities compete in mainstream athletic events.

The race, sponsored by the Cigna Foundation, will snake through parts of the famed theme park near Orlando.

Adam will be partnered with a Cigna staffer who will be his guide. He’s been practicing since October.

“I do my stretching and I practice jogging and running,” he said while relaxing at home.

“He’s been running ever since he was a baby,” his aunt, Ana Rivera chimed in. “He went from crawling to running, oh yes.”

His mother Gladys Rivera learned of the Achilles Kids program a few years ago through a friend. Every second Saturday, kids meet up at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan for free-play, games and activities.

“It’s done so much for him,” she said. “He’s made new friends and he gets to socialize. We go out for lunch afterwards and walk around and make a whole day out of it. It’s been great.”

Seeing her son embrace running has also been a special treat. She recalled one of his first Achilles Kids runs down Fifth Ave.

“Everyone was cheering. He loved it. He’s been running on and off ever since. He really seems to like it,” Gladys Rivera said.

“Running is fun,” Adam said. “I just like it. And I get to meet different people.”

Tall and slim, with an endearing smile, Adam is cool and confident about this natural ability. He has no special rituals, no good luck charms. He keeps his growing collection of medals in his bedroom.

When he’s not running, Adam enjoys the typical teen-aged indulgences: TV, video games, hanging out with friends.

He had one more practice meet on Saturday before heading to Florida. Nearly 65,000 runners in all are expected to compete in various events from Jan. 10 to 13. This will mark the 20th anniversary of the marathon event.

When asked if he plans to keep up with running, Adam nodded enthusiastically.

“Just not til I’m very old,” he said with a grin. “I don’t wanna break a hip when I’m old.”


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