“The Foundation is a way of showing who Ari was…”
– Dee Ford

Dee grew up playing football at South Miami Middle School, which led him to meet one of his best friends, Ari Arteaga. The boys would play against each other on different teams until Dee transferred to Christopher Columbus High School (CCHS) his sophomore year of high school. There, the boys competed together, side by side, wearing the same school jerseys.

Once Dee transferred to CCHS he became good friends with Ari as part of a friend group that called themselves “The Program.” Dee reminisced about his friendships at CCHS saying, “We were just a really close-knit group of friends.”

Dee shared that his time at CCHS was special to him because it didn’t feel like a chore to go to school. “You really just act yourself around those guys,” said Dee. “Everyone’s just being themselves and bonding and making a true friendship.”

Dee also explained that receiving a Christian education was something his mother had always wanted for him, “Growing up, my family was always a big Christian family. My mom instilled that when I went to high school, she wanted me to push for a Catholic or a religious school so I could get deeper in my faith while actually getting an education.”

The personal growth Dee experienced at CCHS was rooted in the school’s faith-based values. According to Dee, “I definitely think I benefited personally just by learning more about God and the relationship you’re supposed to have with him and how to treat others through Christ.”

As a personal friend of Ari, Dee shared that the Ari J Arteaga Foundation Inc. has become a reflection of Ari’s heart. “The Foundation is a way of showing who Ari was,” said Dee. “Ari was a very outgoing person and he always cared for others so that’s what the Foundation tries to do: show appreciation and care for others. It truly is amazing. They’ve started helping just about everybody.”