Valencia Viking Pedro “Javi” Roman was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2019. He died Feb. 1, 2021, from a relapse at the age of 17.
Studio 7 Foundation continues to keep his memory alive, and on the third anniversary of his passing, Alana Altmayer and her son Devan Altmayer, along with Roman’s friends held a day of remembrance and celebrated his life at the Vincent Hill Restaurant and Saloon on Sunday.
Local band Rebel Heart was performing while a group of young adults danced, all wearing orange ribbons on their chests. The orange ribbon represents leukemia awareness.
Photos of Roman were on display for attendees to look through and reminisce on the young boy who was loved and adored by many within his community.
Some photos were of Roman on family outings, a drive-by birthday celebration that took place at Central Park when people were required to social distance, and a photograph of dozens of teenagers comforting one another at the vigil after his passing. “Those two photos were only two months apart,” said Altmayer.
The curly haired teenager lives on through photographs, and through the love of his friends who continue to embrace his legacy every day.
“It helps keep his name alive,” said Altmayer. “It’s to memorialize him so he’s not forgotten, and to help the kids have a day to celebrate and have fun.”
Altmayer added that every year, the “boys” as she refers to them, who are now young adults have never missed an anniversary celebration, and always help her with anything that she needs to make the evening special.
Orange candles and custom-made shirts were for sale to further support the foundation and a way for attendees to take a piece that commemorated the evening remembering another year has passed without their beloved friend.
“Every year I make a new one,” said Altmayer. Her goal is to add one orange ribbon every year to eventually create a football with the design.
Devan Altmayer was talking with his friends when his mother called him over. Devan, who was a close friend of Roman’s, now almost 20 years old, reminisced on their friendship and what this annual celebration means to him.
“It kind of brings him back … kind of brings him with us,” said Devan. “That’s what makes me feel closer to him.”
Devan and his mother both described Roman as a jokester. Locker room talks during their football season were always fun, Devan added.
He was also a humble kid, who “worried about the underdog,” said Alana. He was the cool, good-looking teen but never made anyone feel left out. He was also rooting for the one who was overlooked.
Alana founded Studio 7 in honor of Roman and others who have lost their battle with cancer. Her goal is to provide additional assistance to those with brain cancer and other terminal illnesses that are often not supported through state grants and programs.
“The event in general just means a lot because it’s helping other kids that are going through the same thing he did and fighting. He went through the worst thing possible, so by doing this I hope that it inspires other people to come here and support what we’re doing,” Devan said.
Alana asked other vendors to sell homemade goodies at the event and Schalyn Rhambo and her mother had a table full of candy kabobs. Rhambo was also a friend of Roman and was recently diagnosed with lupus.
Rhambo said that she came out to be supportive because “it does bring awareness and I feel like it’s something that should be talked about.”
“As a young kid you don’t know what’s going on,” said Rhambo. “And you feel different than other people. It’s important to give back and spread awareness about it.”
Those who knew Roman continued to celebrate him and his legacy all afternoon long with live music, food, and spending time with one another.