News & Press

Happy Birthday to Cristian’s Mommy, Jenelle Asencio


The Cristian Rivera Foundation wants to wish a happy birthday to Cristian’s mommy, Jenelle Asencio. On January 25, 2009, she lost her son Cristian to DIPG and this loss sparked the foundation to spread awareness and raise money for a cure. Jenelle found a way to channel her grief positively, and has set off to become a nurse and help other children in their time of need. We applaud this courageous woman for showing so much strength while facing unbearable tragedy.

Innovative Clinical Trial Aimed at
Curing Rare Pediatric Brain Tumor
Treats First Patient

May 1, 2012—New York, NY—Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center took a major step towards finding a cure for inoperable pediatric brain stem tumor Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as work began on the first patient in a pioneering clinical trial spearheaded by Dr. Mark Souweidane. Through the innovative use of convection-enhanced delivery (CED), Dr. Souweidane’s clinical trials will be the first of its kind to administer radio immunotherapy to children with an otherwise incurable tumor.

Denise Pflaumer Downing is the patient’s mother and a Facebook follower of The Cristian Rivera Foundation. She expressed her gratitude for the efforts of the Foundation when she sent this message: “I am sitting at MSKCC in NYC. Right now, my 4 year old daughter is in surgery with Dr Mark Souweidane and his team as they perform the first surgery in a new clinical trial on my daughter. I am so thankful to your foundation for all you have done to support this research and make this trial possible. We must find a cure for DIPG, not only for my child but for all children. Thank you Cristian Rivera Foundation!”

Another sentiment soon followed, this time from Dr. Souwedaine himself.“Today, the first day of Brain Tumor Awareness month, we treated our first patient on our trial using local delivery of a radioimmunotherpeutic agent. The beautiful 4-year-old girl did fantastic and tolerated her surgery like a true champion. Today marks a day of hope for her family, an entry into a new treatment approach for these children, and the culmination of over 12 years of translational research.”

Through this groundbreaking work, Dr. Souweidane and his team aim to ultimately save the lives of approximately 200-300 children who are diagnosed with DIPG each year in the United States. DIPG is typically found in children between the ages of 1 and 9, who are given a bleak prognosis after the tumor is discovered. Median survival is less than one year and the two-year survival rate is less than 20 percent. Currently, there are no recorded survivors and all children diagnosed with the disease typically pass away within 3-18 months.

Helping make these landmark trials possible were donations from top cancer charities with the common goal of making DIPG a thing of the past, including New York City-based  not-for-profit 501(c)(3) The Cristian Rivera Foundation, which, to date, has donated approximately $150,000 to Dr. Souweidane’s promising research. John “Gungie” Rivera started the foundation in 2009, months after his 6-year-old son Cristian lost a more than two-year battle with the disease. The Cristian Rivera Foundation is committed to supporting DIPG families and finding a cure for DIPG through education and program funding.

“When my son Cristian was first diagnosed with DIPG, it seemed very unlikely, in fact almost impossible, that a cure would be found in my lifetime,” said Rivera. “Thanks to the amazing courage and interminable spirit of Dr. Souweidane and everyone at the Weill Cornell Pediatric Brain and Spine Center, I firmly believe a cure is within our grasp. Dr. Souweidane gives the DIPG community the hope they so desperately need and I am proud to give him the full support of the Cristian Rivera Foundation as he works toward a cure.”

Happy 14th Birthday Javier “Buji” Villamil


Happy birthday to DIPG Angel Javier “Buji” Villamil born April 26th, 1998. Buji was diagnosed with DIPG just short of his 11th birthday April 13th, 2009 and fought for eight and a half months until he left this world at peace in his own home with his mother and father on January 4th, 2010. Buji was a very athletic young man who enjoyed playing baseball in a pee-wee league and basketball on an all-star team. Our thoughts are with his family and his aunt, Cristian Rivera Foundation Committee Member Fulvia Lora on his 14th birthday today. Rest in peace, angel.

Happy 10th birthday Meg Wasley


Margaret “Meg” Wasley was born April 11th, 2002. Her love of fashion and style established her dream to model and walk a runway. In eight years, Meg was able to fulfill some of her dreams. Meg attended the Make-A-Wish Foudation-themed birthday party of Aoki Lee Simmons and was featured on Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, getting her hair and makeup done on television. Meg shows us that no matter what, you can still smile and be happy. Fighting for almost a year, this princess earned her wings on January 10th, 2011. Today, she is surely celebrating her 10th birthday in style in a carefully selected outfit. Meg, our thoughts are with your family today and we know you will continue to smile down on them to bring them the light you always did. Rest in peace, angel.

Remembering Delaney Starcher


Happy 8th birthday to DIPG angel, Delaney Starcher born April 1st, 2004. “Laney Bug” was diagnosed on October 9th, 2008 at just over 4 years old and about a year later on December 1st, 2009 this little angel earned her wings. She won her battle and found her place in heaven, where she watches over her mom and step-dad, sisters and brother. Delaney was the uplifting spirit to all around her and we’re sure that will never change. Happy birthday, angel.

Remembering Isaiah Ryan Garza


Isaiah was a strong spirit that surrounded him with friends. He loved for others to be happy and wanted to make a difference in the world. We applaud his strong will to do so. Born on July 21st, 1992, Isaiah was 12 years old when he was diagnosed with DIPG and it was two years later, April 1st, 2006 that he became an angel. Our thoughts reach out to Isaiah’s family on this day. You will never be forgotten, Isaiah. We’re sure you’re doing wonderful things in heaven. Keep watching over and rest peacefully.

Local Charity Raises $10,000 for Cancer Research with Charity Performance of
Award-Winning Musical!


Local Charity Raises $10,000 for Cancer Research with Charity Performance of Award-Winning Musical! March 23, 2012—New York, NY—New York-based not-for-profit 501(c)(3) The Cristian Rivera Foundation raised $10,000 for a pioneering cancer trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering on Thursday, March 22 with a one-night-only charity performance of award-winning bilingual musical DC-7, The Roberto Clemente Story at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre.or more information on the Cristian Rivera Foundation, visit