A Father's Promise

Victor Villarreal lost his son, but he will continue his legacy through sport

A father lives up to his promise despite a life-altering tragedy. Last year, Victor Villarreal made a pact with his son Antonio. They would spend the summer race season competing together. That season came to an end this weekend, but Victor had to compete without his partner. We explain how this father is now honoring his son by helping others.

The National Ability Center Summit Challenge is Victor Villarreal’s final race of the summer.

"What my son taught us was that yes living for tomorrow is what the goal is, but you have to enjoy today," Victor said.

His son, Antonio, had a genetic condition called Charge Syndrome. While it affected his development in many ways, Antonio always wanted to stay active. So this dynamic duo competed in marathons, triathlons, even rode together.

"We had been working on getting this bicycle for him for what felt like a year," Victor said.

They used that bike for the first time during the 2016 Summit Challenge.

"It got us out; it showed that he enjoyed being out there. We already knew that he did, but it just confirmed it,” victor said.

So victor made his son a promise; they would do as many of these races as they could in 2017. But in January, right after Victor made the call to enter their first race, Antonio passed away.

Heartbroken, Victor had to call the race director back just days later.

"When I informed them that he passed away, they asked if they could dedicate that race to him. So that was my first race without him," he said.

That’s when Victor decided he would fulfill the promise he made to his son but he wouldn't continue to do the races alone.

"Victor is taking Antonio’s love of the races, and the running and swimming, and biking, and sharing it with other kids who wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity," said Antonio’s mom, Erica Villarreal.

Race after race, different children with all levels of abilities hopped into Antonio’s chair a hit the road with Victor. For this final race, his partner is Dustin Johnson, one of Antonio’s oldest friends. Dustin’s mom, Cathy, is so happy to see her son slide into that seat.

"It’s an incredible honor because this is a continuation of a legacy that Antonio has started," Cathy said.

A legacy that will show countless other children the joy of not just living life for tomorrow but truly enjoy today. It was Antonio’s life lesson that Victor will continue to share.

"It’s a positive way to translate his grief into something that's of service to others. It's been phenomenal to watch," Cathy said.

"It’s something that he would have wanted us to do. He loved racing, he loved being out there," Victor said.

Victor and Dustin completed their 50 mile race in 5 hours, 52 minutes. Victor said he's already working on his line-up of races and partners for 2018.


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