Cranium Crusaders to hold final event at The Gaslamp

Cranium Crusaders’ 8th Annual Long Beach Firefighters & Friends will hold its final evening in memory of Captain Hank Zavaleta of Long Beach Fire Department who died of brain cancer.

It will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18 at The Gaslamp, 6251 East Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach (corner of Loynes and Pacific Coast Highway.

There will be thousands of dollars with of opportunity drawing prizes.

All proceeds from the evening will benefit UCLA Brain Cancer Research

Last year the event raised more than $21,000.

Cranium Crusaders was created by Cris Zavaleta, of Long Beach, the widow of Hank Zavaleta, and Cindy Atkinson of Huntington Beach, whose husband, Tom Atkinson, also died of the same kind of brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM).

“My purpose is to bring awareness to brain cancer and help raise funds for research,” Zavaleta said. “My husband was diagnosed with GBM at the early age of 39. Unaware and afraid, we were sent to UCLA and met two incredible doctors – Dr. Linda Liau, neurosurgeon and Tim Cloughesy, neuro-oncologist. From that day forward, I knew I had to do something.”

A little later, the Zavaletas met the Atkinsons and their friendship blossomed with a passion to help find a cure and raise funds.

“Cindy has an amazing outlook to help others with this terrible disease and I continue to learn so much from her,” Zavaleta said. “We have met so many other ‘Brain Buddies,’ many who have not survived. Join us in helping Dr. Cloughesy & Dr. Liau in their efforts to find a cure.”

Atkinson’s husband was diagnosed at the age of 53.

Tom Atkinson owned and operated his own paving company, Atkinson Paving and Grading. He also owned the Coffee Cup Café with his wife and co-owned O’Malley’s on Main in Seal Beach With Brian Kyle. He was also a business partner with Kyle in many real estate ventures.

“Looking back, our beginning was prompted by mutual support – knowing we weren’t alone in our fight to save our husbands,” Cindy Atkinson said. “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…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.”

Atkinson explained how this would be the last of the annual events.

“We will help with events at UCLA but we won’t be able to do our yearly event any longer,” she said.  We just don’t have the help that we use to have and we all have jobs.

“We have more tha $18,000  so far in prizes to raffle off this year. That’s including a two-night stay at any Montage resort, Summer vacation for Two to Catalina Island, staying at Hotel Vista Del Mar, a week’s long holiday at a timeshare in Palm Springs, a case of wine from a private cellar. We also have many gift certificates to local business including restaurants, hair salons, spas, skin care studios, coffee houses, chiropractors, esthetician’s, personal training, auto details, cheese tastings and Aquarium of the Pacific tickets and a Go –Pro. We will be collecting more items this week, so that number will change.

“This year we are adding a Casino Night, which includes blackjack, roulette and craps. The grand prize will be $250 cash. There will be other prizes including a getaway for two to Catalina, gondola ride for six with wine and a Seal Beach getaway for two. All proceeds go directly to UCLA Foundation. We are a support group of UCLA.

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