Our Highest Honor

The Joel A. Gingras Jr. Award

ABTA President & CEO Ralph DeVitto, Board Chair Jim Reilly and Johnathan Gingras present Fern Bomchill with the Joel A. Gingras Jr. Award during the 2019 National Conference.

Since 2011, the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) has awarded the Joel A. Gingras Jr. Award, our highest honor, to recognize an individual, organization or group that has made significant contributions to the Association’s mission through philanthropy, advocacy, discovery, or patient care.  

The ABTA’s highest honor, the Gingras Award pays tribute to Joel A. Gingras Jr., who died in 1988 due to complications from treatment of a choroid plexus papilloma, a rare, non-cancerous brain tumor.

The following year—channeling all of their grief and good intentions—the Gingras family created the Joel Anthony Gingras Memorial Foundation (JAG Fund) to raise money for and increase awareness of brain tumors. An already popular annual tube float organized by the family became the fundraising mechanism. Since then, the entire Gingras family and its board of directors have made an unprecedented impact within the brain tumor community, by raising much-needed funds to help the American Brain Tumor Association provide patient services and invest in research. Never losing sight of their mission, the JAG Foundation has donated $2 million to the ABTA over the past 30 years.

Serving as the pinnacle of our philanthropic honors, the Gingras Award is also a testament to the dedication of the Gingras Family and others like them, who continue to support the ABTA mission. Thanks to all past, present and future recipients, we may be closer to a cure for brain tumors.


2021 Joel A. Gingras, Jr. Award Recipient

Rick Sontag JAG Award 2021Rick Sontag 

The Sontag Foundation, The Brain Tumor Network, Inc. and The Spring Bay Companies

ABTA leadership is pleased to announce Rick Sontag as the 2021 Joel A. Gingras, Jr. Award recipient.

In 1994, Rick’s wife, Susan Sontag, was diagnosed with and began treatment for a Grade 3 Astrocytoma, the most common form of glioma. In the time that followed, the family experienced firsthand the frustration of dealing with a disease that was not well understood by either the medical community or the general public. That year a dream was born: to do something about brain cancer. Susan is a survivor and in March of 2002, Rick and Susan established The Sontag Foundation. 

Today, The Sontag Foundation is one of the largest private funders of brain cancer research in the United States. The foundation has awarded 51 grants to researchers at 34 institutions through its annual Distinguished Scientist Award. Since 2002, the Foundation has funded over $40 million in grants for brain cancer research.

In late 2014, Rick Sontag and The Sontag Foundation launched The Brain Tumor Network, Inc. (BTN), a nonprofit organization with the mission to aid adult patients with primary brain tumors who seek personalized information about treatment options-even beyond standard of care.

In early 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Sontag Foundation announced the establishment of The Sontag Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Patient Assistance Fund to provide financial support to patients affected with a brain tumor diagnosis or their caregivers who have been impacted by COVID-19. This fund helped eligible patients with the costs of their basic daily needs, including food, rent or mortgage, utility bills, car payments and other transportation expenses, childcare, and temporary lodging for medical appointments.

The Sontag Foundation has had a long partnership with ABTA. In 2001 and 2002, the foundation donated a total of $180,000 to ABTA’s research program. In 2003, the ABTA partnered with the Sontag Foundation and James S McDonnell Foundation, as well as other brain tumor organizations, to form the Brain Tumor Funders Collaborative (BTFC). We continue to work collaboratively with The Sontag Foundation through the BTFC to jointly fund brain tumor research projects that are larger than we would be able to fund individually. More recently, we have partnered with the Brain Tumor Network to jointly refer patients to each other’s services. We refer patients to BTN who are in need of high touch navigation or clinical trials, and in turn, BTN refers patients to the ABTA who are looking for educational information, resources and support around brain tumors. Also, in 2020, the Sontag Foundation was our National Conference presenting sponsor for the first time ever and we are very grateful for their support.

Since its founding in 2002, The Sontag Foundation has passionately supported people and organizations who make a significant and continuing impact in the lives of individuals with a major strategic focus on brain cancer research and support for patients with brain cancer. As such, we believe that Rick Sontag meets the criteria for this annual award recognizing individuals, organizations or groups who, through philanthropy, advocacy, discovery, or patient care and support, have had a transformative impact on the ABTA’s mission advancement.

Joel A. Gingras Jr.  (1961-1988)

Past Recipients



Priscilla Brastianos, MD


Fern Bomchill & The Bradley Benton Davis Foundation 


Joelle Syverson & Humor to Fight the Tumor Foundation


Carol Kruchko, Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, Founder and President


E. Antonio (Nino) Chiocca, MD, PhD


Paul Fabbri Memorial Fund Committee, Family & Friends


Lynne Adams & the Butler Family Foundation


Louis & Phyllis Jacobs


Dr. Steven Brem


Gina & Randy Porter (Justin’s Walk)

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