The Cristian Rivera Foundation will have a reason to celebrate when it holds its 10th annual fundraising gala to fight a rare childhood cancer on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
The foundation has been on a mission over the past decade to find a cure for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, a rare form of deadly brain cancer mainly affecting small children. Each year, roughly 200 children are diagnosed with DIPG, and nearly all usually succumb to the aggressive cancer within 18 months.
But the celebrity-studded gala, at Manhattan venue Capitale, will commemorate a rare success story: 13-year-old Lisha Ayalais, who was diagnosed with DIPG six years ago, has defied the odds and continues to show no growth in her tumor.
”Lisha is doing phenomenal. We are going on 6 years and she is still DIPG-free,” said CRF founder John (Gungie) Rivera. “This is evidence that the work that we are doing — the trials that our doctors are working on — are effective.”
Rivera, a local music producer and promoter, started the foundation in honor of his son Cristian, who passed away from the disease at only 4 years old and is the driving force behind the event.
Though Cristian did not win his battle with DIPG, Rivera continues it on his son’s behalf, raising funds annually to help underwrite clinical trials aimed at treating and hopefully one day curing the condition.
Lisha is currently in one of those trials at Weill-Cornell Brain and Spine Center in Manhattan, working with Dr. Mark Souweidane, a pediatric neurosurgeon specializing in DIPG.
This year’s event, hosted by foundation co-chair Darlene Rodriguez of NBC News, will feature such celebrity guests as Kenan Thompson of “Saturday Night Live.”
Honorees include actor Ramon Rodriguez, who will receive a humanitarian award for his recent work in Puerto Rico with the 100Roofs Project that aims to help those on the island still struggling after last year’s devastating storms by providing carpenters and training locals to become professional roofers.
“It was inspiring to see his commitment to Puerto Rico,” Rivera said. “It reminds me that I am not alone in my efforts to make a difference, even when facing major challenges.”
For more info on the Cristian Rivera Foundation, buy tickets to the gala or donate to the fight against DIPG, go to cristianriverafoundation.org.