Jon Jon Rivero realized he wanted to be an occupational therapist while at his father’s funeral.
His mother had revealed that his father lived for 16 years longer than expected following surgery for a tumour that left him with brain damage and developmental delays. Rivero attributes his father’s prolonged life and rehabilitation to all of the activities the family would do to help engage him, including doing martial arts moves along to Bruce Lee videos and playing maracas to reengage his love of music.
I realized that I had essentially been an occupational therapist my whole life, and I wanted to share that skill with families like mine so people can increase their quality of life, regardless of their prognosis or diagnosis,” Rivero says.
A visit to the Philippines — a place his father had always wanted to take him — to discover his roots and perform hip-hop workshops was “life-changing,” and convinced Rivero to focus specifically on children with trauma and special needs. In 2007 he founded Qi Creative, a rehabilitation medicine practice that provides children and their families with trauma-informed therapy that incorporates music, dance, visual art and other creative activities. “To this day, children teach me more than I can teach them. I’m not afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve and lean into my artistic side to help the lives of people who are afraid to be themselves again.”