After Dream Wedding, Vista Murrieta Grad Loses Battle With Leukemia

Leslie Rivera, 18, had recently wed her high school sweetheart thanks to Make-A-Wish and celebrity wedding planner David Tutera.

Leslie Rivera and Daniel Mendez are pictured on their wedding day with David Tutera. (Photo: Facebook/Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire)
Leslie Rivera and Daniel Mendez are pictured on their wedding day with David Tutera. (Photo: Facebook/Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire)
Updated at 4:11 p.m. Dec. 6, originally published at 11:52 a.m. Dec. 6

A 2013 Vista Murrieta High School graduate has lost her battle with leukemia.

Leslie Rivera, 18, died Wednesday, according to MyFoxLA.com. The TV news station had been following Rivera's story since she was treated to a dream wedding through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Orange County and Inland Empire Chapter.

With the help of celebrity wedding planner David Tutera, Rivera had recently wed her high school sweetheart, Daniel Mendez.

Click here to watch MyFoxLA's coverage of Rivera's wedding.

According to the report, Rivera had started a new treatment series at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles the day before Thanksgiving, her new groom by her side.

About Rivera's death, Tutera wrote this on his official Facebook page on Thursday: "It is with a heavy heart to tell you that my beautiful Make-A-Wish America bride, Leslie, peacefully passed away last night with her husband Daniel and her family by her side. The love and prayers that you sent to her were felt, she luckily knew just how much she was loved, and today my wish is for each and every one of you to remember how precious our time on earth is."

Patch was present when Rivera graduated in June from Vista Murrieta, and watched as she received her diploma.

Rivera started her senior year in good health, but was diagnosed in the spring. At the time, she told Patch she looked forward to successful treatment that would allow her to pursue a college degree. She was among the top 50 in her class on graduation day.

“We are devastated to know that Leslie passed away this week,” said Sarah Pizzaruso, director of development for Make-A-Wish® Orange County and the Inland Empire.

A savings account has been set up at Bank of America, according to Pizzaruso, to help the family pay for funeral arrangements. Donations can be made to the Sonia Rivera Family Fund. The account number is 325032610855, routing number 121000358.

Pizzaruso shared the following write-up about Rivera, her story and her dream wedding:

Leslie and Daniel began dating in October of last year, having met in a club on campus - a group of students taking a stand against racism.

Leslie was diagnosed with Leukemia in April of this year. Her diagnosis was aggressive, and she spent several months in the hospital. During her months going through treatment, her favorite way to pass the time was watching David Tutera: My Fair Wedding and "Unveiled" shows. And through it all, her boyfriend Daniel stood by her.

Leslie, 18 years old from Murrieta, was referred to Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire just before her 18th birthday (we grant wishes for kids between 2 ½ and 18.. they must be referred before they turn 18), and due to Leslie's condition, we knew we had to ask fast. Leslie didn't take long to decide on her wish. She wanted to be married to her boyfriend, and wanted David Tutera to help plan her day. Within days, David was on board.. and his team jumped into action to plan every single detail of her day. Vendors jumped at the chance to be involved in this incredible day, and David's website had hundreds of people reaching out to help.

The week before the wedding, Leslie went to Panache in Costa Mesa, CA for her dress fitting, where David surprised her by showing up to personally help her with her dress decision and plan the details of the day!

Photos of that day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/makeawishocie/sets/72157637635089554/

The wedding was Nov. 21 at Rancho Las Lomas in Silverado (Orange County, CA). Although rain poured down outside and last minute adjustments were made- David and his team did a PHENOMENAL job turning the location into exactly what Leslie had wished for... a wedding modeled after the one in the Twilight movie. Her two simple requests- a photo booth and chocolate covered strawberries were not missed either.

More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/makeawishocie/sets/72157637941197463/

Leslie spent the day before the wedding in the hospital getting transfusions. Nov. 21 showed the true "power of a wish" as we call it. Watching Leslie absolutely radiate in front of her guests, greeting people with a smile, staring so lovingly at her new husband as they toasted the crowd - you would have never known the challenges she is going through. And watching Daniel care for her, assisting her walking, holding her hands during the vows- there is no question these two are meant to be together.

David Tutera actually said it best at the dress fitting. "The best part of this day," he said, "is seeing that she's a normal bride." That's the goal of Make-A-Wish.. to give kids a chance to fulfill their truest wish.. a time to think of the happiest thing they can imagine - the anticipation of waiting for it to come true, the actual moment or time that it happens, and the incredible memories it creates- and give their families a chance to focus on something other than doctors, hospitals and needles. To give them a chance to just be truly happy, and make those around them in their support system happy. That's what David and his team made happen. Leslie, Daniel and their families had time to celebrate, laugh and dance—something that really hadn’t been in the plans for the last several months.

Brenda December 06, 2013 at 03:01 PM
God Bless her and may Leslie so beautiful, gracious, and a innocent young life Rest in Peace. And that her husband is wrapped in the arms of family and friends to keep him going, and getting through this devastating time :/ This is far to young to be taken from this earth.
Nancy December 09, 2013 at 05:23 PM
We do not understand here on earth why this happens at such a young age; You can see, however, Dear Father God, the whole picture and why, so we continue to always trust and rest in Your perfection because You SEE THE WHOLE THING AND ALL OF THE REASONS that we cannot see and know right now. Thank You for seeing and knowing all and for caring for every one of us and I trust You will all of my heart because You truly are good. Prayers and strength to all of the family and friends of Leslie; God will comfort and be near to all of those who ask.


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