Juliana Schafer Spirit of Hope Award

Honoring Volunteerism

Juliana Schafer and daughter Izzy

The Juliana Schafer Spirit of Hope Award recognizes and honors individuals, organizations or groups who generously donate their time and talents to further the ABTA mission. 

The award is named after Juliana Schafer, a long-time volunteer for the ABTA. Juliana was passionate about the ABTA’s mission, from the patient and caregiver resources to the funding of cutting-edge research it provides. 

Juliana, her family, and friends were dedicated to fundraising for and increasing awareness of the ABTA. Even from her hospice bed, Juliana was on her phone raising money through her Breakthrough for Brain Tumors 5K (BT5K) team, aptly named Team Hope. The pride she took in those efforts brought her comfort to the very end. Juliana passed away in 2021, but her spirit continues to live on.

Congrats to our 2023 recipient, Sally Walker!

Sally Walker accepting 2023 Spirit of Hope Award

Sally Walker embodies the meaning of “sticking to your word.” After her daughter Kristi was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma in 2001, the two became regular attendees of the ABTA National Conference from 2003 onwards. 

Invested in the ABTA mission, Kristi also got involved in the Chicago BT5K to raise awareness and critical research funds, until her tumor returned as a GBM in 2010. Kristi lost her battle in 2011 at the young age of 37. 

Stricken with grief and the tremendous loss of Kristi, Sally decided to turn her pain into passion—just as her daughter would. 

Sally and loved ones created a team at the Chicago BT5K, aptly named “Kristi’s Loving Life” to honor Kristi’s zest for life. Their team has participated in the BT5K every year since 2011, and combined with Kristi’s individual efforts, they’ve raised more than $200,000 for the ABTA. 

Sally has maintained her dedication and support of the ABTA mission for nearly two decades—traveling each year from Ohio to the Chicago BT5K—even choosing to miss her 60th college reunion to attend the 2023 event. Sally’s reason: “because that’s what Kristi would do.”

Steadfast in her belief that we will one day find a cure for brain tumors, Sally said she plans to keep traveling to Chicago for as long as she’s physically able to honor Kristi’s memory. 

Like Juliana Schafer, Sally is a force who shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. And just like her daughter, Kristi, she is an inspiration to all who know her. 

Sally Walker accepting 2023 Spirit of Hope Award

“Sally Walker epitomizes the spirit of HOPE through her endless dedication, immeasurable perseverance, and heartfelt empathy to those who have lost loved ones to brain tumors.”

Past Recipients

Deborah Rizzo, Brain Tumor Community Advocate

Deborah RizzoDeborah Rizzo truly lives every day to the fullest and makes a significant impact towards fulfilling the ABTA mission. Since the passing of her beloved college friend, Billy Misik, who lost his battle with GBM at the age of 21, and that of a close family friend, Lou Zucker, Deborah has devoted her time and effort to increasing brain tumor awareness and raising funds for brain tumor research. 

What started as a bucket-list item in honor of a friend turned into 10 years of racing, fundraising, educating, and advocating for the ABTA. In 2012, Deborah established “Team Carpe Diem” to inspire others to live by Billy’s motto, “Seize the Day,” his mantra while battling GBM. Deborah and Team Carpe Diem have since been running marathons, including the Bank of America Chicago Marathon (twice), half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks in several states. Their sole purpose: to raise funds for brain tumor research through the ABTA.

To date, Deborah’s efforts have raised nearly $20,000 for brain tumor research.

Like Juliana Schafer, Deborah demonstrates creativity, dedication, perseverance, and heartfelt empathy to those who have lost loved ones to brain tumors. As a music therapist, Deborah helps others, including brain tumor patients, process their emotions through the power of music.

As with Juliana Schafer, there is no quit in Deborah Rizzo. Her tremendous passion and unwavering support of the ABTA through her volunteerism continues to benefit the brain tumor community.