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Cranium Crusaders Holds 5K Run/Walk Fundraiser for UCLA Brain Cancer Research; Families & Friends Recall Those Who've Passed, Raise Sizable Sums Working For Cure


(May 13, 2012) -- Lakewood High's running track was a field of dreams on Saturday May 12, as supporters of Cranium Crusaders, a grassroots group created by two wives who met as their husbands were treated at UCLA for brain cancer, held the 6th annual Tom Atkinson Memorial 5k run/walk to raise funds for the UCLA Foundation for Brain Cancer Research.

Cris Zavaleta and Cindy Atkinson, who co-founded Cranium Crusaders, were both present. Hank Zavaleta, a Captain in the LB Fire Dept. diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme at age 39, passed away in April 2011. Tom Atkinson's battle with the disease ended in August 2006 at age 53.

Ms. Zavaleta, left, and Ms. Atkinson, middle, greet an arriving supporter. provided live video from the scene and has on-demand video below of closing remarks at which Ms. Zavaeta and Ms. Atkinson presented a check for over $33,000 raised this year to date to Dr. Tim Cloughesy (in photo below), Director of the UCLA Neuro-Oncology Program. Also speaking on the video: Dr. Linda Liau, a surgeon in the UCLA Neuro-Oncology Dept.

To launch the video, click here.

LBFD Capt. Zavaleta battled the same aggressive form of brain cancer that took the lives of Senator Edward Kennedy and LB athlete and scholar Jalen Thayer (age 15). Capt. Zavaleta fought the cancer for over seven years.

A number of members of the Zavaleta family (below) took part in the 5k walk.

Also participating: a large contingent from Lakewood High (in red shirts).

Firefighters from Long Beach and other L.A. County areas were present to honor Capt. Zavaleta. Among those we spotted: Capt. Rich Brandt (not in photo).

In photo below, Cris Zavaleta (left) and Cindy Atkinson (right) present a check to Dr. Tim Cloughesy (middle). And yes, we asked: Dr. Cloughesy is indeed related to LBPD Sgt. Phil Cloughesy (whose wife Kym also works with LBPD); Dr. Cloughesy said his father's brother is Phil's dad.

Organizers and supportive runners and walkers pose for this shot. Ms. Atkinson told that since its inception, Cranium Crusaders has raised over $400,000 to benefit brain cancer research.

Cris Zavaleta, whose husband faced the disease, says on

My purpose is to bring awareness to Brain cancer and help raise funds for research...[M]y husband was diagnosed with GBM at the early age of 39. Unaware and afraid, we were sent to UCLA and met an 2 incredible doctors- Dr. Linda Liau, neurosurgeon & Tim Cloughesy, neuro-oncologist. From that day forward, I knew I had to do something. A little later we met Tom & Cindy [below] and our friendship has blossomed with this passion to help find a cure and raise funds. Although Tom did not survive, Cindy has an amazing outlook to help others with this terrible disease and I continue to learn so much from her. We have met so many other "Brain Buddies", many who have not survived. Together Cindy & I feel it is well worth our time to raise funds and bring people together for one purpose. God has Blessed our family, so please help us to Bless many more. Join us in helping Dr. Cloughesy & Dr. Liau in there efferts to find a cure.

Cindy Atkinson writes on

Cranium Crusaders has evolved from the need to "find a cure."...[M]y husband Tom Atkinson passed away in August of 2006 from an aggressive form of brain cancer called Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) at the age of 53.

Cris Zavaleta and I met through our husbands who had each been diagnosed with brain tumors. Looking back, our beginning was prompted by mutual support -- knowing we werenít alone in our fight to save our husbands. We began to rally around other brain tumor "buddies," being surprised to find so many local people afflicted with the same type of cancer. We shared our concerns, our treatment options, our fears, and our hope for a cure.

Many who are given this diagnosis are only given precious months to pick the "right treatment" -- this may mean surgery, radiation, and trying several chemotherapy and immunological protocols. Luckily, there are also survivors who are living years after their initial diagnosis. Incredible discoveries are being made through immunological and genetic research that are leading to promising new treatments for brain cancer, many already being tested on patients in clinical trials. While the technology is available, finding the money to produce and test new medications is the limiting factor, and those with GBM are in a race for their lives.

Hence, the birth of Cranium Crusaders. Please help us to fuel this critical research. If you have not been directly affected by this deadly disease, Iím sure within a small radius of your family and friends you know someone who is.

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