#Aristrong Kickball Tournament and Car Show event on Saturday supports families in Colton and beyond

The annual event raises funds for those in need to honor the memory of Arianna Villalobos, whose tragic passing caused her family and friends to share her selfless spirit

Chris+and+Nikki+Villalobos+address+a+crowd+of+guests+at+the+2019+%2523Aristrong+Car+Show+and+Kickball+Tournament+event+in+Colton.

R. Corral, Richpics

Chris and Nikki Villalobos address a crowd of guests at the 2019 %23Aristrong Car Show and Kickball Tournament event in Colton.

By Edgar Lopez Perez, Colton High School - CA

On Saturday, November 6th from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Colton will host the 3rd annual #Aristrong Kickball Tournament and Car Show at Elizabeth Davis Park.

The #Aristrong event raises funds to support families and individuals in need. According to Rich Corral, one of the event organizers, this includes “people who are fighting cancer, people that have passed, people that really need help. We recently sponsored a girl at [Colton] high school who is trying to go to the Olympics—took $2000 to the high school on Wednesday. We’re helping everyone we can.”

Chris and Nikki Villalobos take a break from coordinating the #Aristrong event to enjoy a moment with WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia at the 2019 #Aristrong event. (R. Corral, Richpics)

This Kickball Tournament and Car Show event is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Besides the headline entertainment, there are meet-and-greets with celebrity athletes, vendors, and raffles being held throughout the day.

Despite all this, the true star of the event is its namesake. The #Aristrong foundation began in response to the tragic loss of Arianna “Ari” Villalobos. Ari passed away from brain cancer on October 1, 2019.

Before her diagnosis, Ari was a remarkable young woman who had barely started her first year at Grand Terrace High School. She loved soccer, and excelled in school, motivated by dreams of being a marine biologist.

According to Ari’s father, Chris Villalobos, at home Ari was “like a second mom” to her three siblings, Elijah (15), Noah (10), and Isabella (8). “Whenever they got out of line, she was the first to correct them. But she was also the first to praise them when they did something good. She was selfless; she always thought of others first.”

Arianna “Ari” Villalobos, seen here three months before her diagnosis of glioblastoma brain cancer at the 2018 Camp Pendleton First Command Mud Run, is the heart and soul of the #Aristrong Foundation, who seeks to honor Ari’s wish that her family use her passing to help those in need in Colton and beyond. (Courtesy Nikki Villalobos)

Things took a turn when Ari started having headaches and blurred vision. She would play soccer with her club team, but would have to come off the field because the headaches were too much to bear.

She was later taken to the emergency room at Loma Linda Medical Center, where her parents later heard the words no parent wants to hear.

Ari was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma brain cancer. She underwent surgeries, chemotherapy, and full brain radiation, all of which took a toll on her and her family.

In August 2019, Ari went into hospice, and the family kept fighting and praying for her healing. It was during this time, at home, as she and her mother watched “The Price is Right” on TV, that Ari said, “Momma, if Jesus takes me home, I want you—”

Nikki, Ari’s mother, protested, but Ari was resolute. “I want you to start something. Not just for kids with cancer.”

“She wanted it to be more than that,” her father said. “She had such a love for people.”

After her passing, part of Ari’s request was for her brain, spine, and tumor to be donated to science. The Villalobos family donated them to the research clinic at Stanford University, where they have been invaluable to Dr. Michelle Monje-Deiserroth and her team of researchers.

Chris Villalobos shared, “What has blown us and the doctors away is that the cell line in her tumor is surviving outside the body. That usually doesn’t happen, which has allowed the doctor to divide the tumor and send it to other researchers nationwide at other labs to get a piece to unlock the key to solving the cancer issue.”

We want to touch hearts, not just in Colton. We want to help the world.”

— Rich Corral, #Aristrong Event Organizer

The #Aristrong Foundation was born out of a tragedy which, like its namesake, is ambitious and selfless.

“We want to be big, like St. Jude’s,” Rich Corral said. “We want to touch hearts, not just in Colton. We want to help the world.”

The Foundation has been working toward that end. On their website, they have a link that allows people to request support. This has led them to help a father in Las Vegas, whose 8-year old daughter was struck by a car, a mother in Orange County with a cancer-stricken son, and many others.

Still, it all starts in Colton, where the Villalobos’ live. They have helped many in the community. For Chris, the one that stands out the most was the first family they helped shortly after Ari passed, right around Christmas 2019.

This family lived in Colton, and were in dire straits after the father abandoned them in the night, taking all their food, furniture, and belongings. When Nikki Villalobos visited the family, she called Chris and told him what she saw. He joined her, and was struck by the sheer loss.

“It just stuck. Nobody should live like that, especially kids,” he said.

This row of beautiful classic cars line up to be judged at the 2019 #Aristrong car show. Over 80 cars, motorcycles, and low-rider bicycles competed in the annual event. (R. Corral, Richpics)

Chris and Nikki reached out to the community through their church and local friends, and were overwhelmed by the amount of support they received in helping this family. “It wasn’t just people we were close to,” he said, “but it was also acquaintances reaching out, saying ‘I’ve got a bed.’ ‘I’ve got this.’ ‘I’ve got paint.’”

The experience was a blessing to the family, who were able to experience an authentic, loving Christmas for the first time. For the Villalobos family, it was a therapeutic experience that helped them heal and define their purpose.

That purpose includes holding one of Colton’s most popular events, which brings out people from all over Southern California to enjoy a day of kickball, cars, live music, vendors, and celebrities like professional boxers Mikey Garcia and Leo Ruiz, former Raiders legend Greg Townshend, and Rams’ great Frank Corral. All in support of a charity with a big heart.

“We’re doing a little bit of everything,” said Rubin Valverde, who is working alongside Rich Corral to organize the event. “Bringing everyone together as a team.”

This story was originally published on The Pepper Bough on November 5, 2021.