After Each Losing a Father to Brain Cancer, Chicago Couple Vows to Help Find a Cure

The co-chairs announce the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute Minds Matter 2015 Fundraising Gala for May 1, 2015

Mar 24, 2015, 17:05 ET from Northwestern Medicine

CHICAGO, March 24, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One day in 2009, Maria Nijim's father got behind the wheel of his car and realized he couldn't see out of one eye. An MRI showed a tumor and then surgery confirmed a devastating diagnosis – glioblastoma – the most aggressive type of brain tumor. While Maria and her family digested the news, Maria's husband, Faris Nijim's, heart sank. He lost his father to the same disease more than 20 years earlier.

"I thought here we go again, lightning is striking twice," said Faris Nijim. "Maria's family was reeling but I knew we had to get her father to the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute for the best treatment and for the most compassionate care available."

That's what they did. And while Maria lost her father to brain cancer in 2010 the desire to cure this disease lives on in the Nijims who are the co-chairs of the 2015 Minds Matter gala to raise money for the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute (NBTI). This year, the gala will take place the first day of National Brain Tumor Awareness Month on May 1, 2015 at 6 p.m., at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.  Since 2009, Minds Matter has raised more than $3 million for the research and treatment of brain and spinal cord tumors at the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute.

"Minds Matter is more than a fundraiser, it's grown to be a celebration of survivorship, advancement of groundbreaking brain tumor research, and of improving treatment outcomes and quality of life for patients," said NBTI co-director Jeffrey Raizer, MD, director of medical neuro-oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Lurie Cancer Center, and professor of neurology and hematology/oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It's a time to honor our patients and their families, as well as our dedicated team of scientists, physicians, surgeons, researchers, nurses, and social workers. For many patients and families supporting a cause that's close to their hearts like Minds Matter is part of the healing process."

Proceeds from the dinner will benefit research and programs at NBTI, a nationally recognized leader in the fight against brain and spinal tumors. The NBTI, a collaboration between Northwestern Medicine® and the Lurie Cancer Center, is dedicated to advancing brain and spinal cord tumor research and improving treatment, outcomes and quality of life for patients. Northwestern Medicine's neurology and neurosurgery programs have earned national acclaim, ranking 10th in the nation and first in Illinois on the 2014 U.S. News & World Report's annual Best Hospitals list. Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute serves and treats approximately 7,000 brain and spinal cord tumor patients each year.  

This year, broadcast journalist, author, and Chicago Tribune contributor Jennifer Weigel will headline the event. Weigel is the daughter of beloved Chicago sportscaster Tim Weigel, who died of brain cancer in 2001. Her brother Rafer Weigel, former ABC-7 sports anchor, headlined the 2013 Minds Matter event.

"Support for this event will hopefully move the needle, to extend the length and quality of life for brain and spinal tumor patients said NBTI co-director James P. Chandler, MD, surgical director of neuro-oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Lavin/Fates Professor of neurological surgery at the Feinberg School. "We deliver state of the art surgical care and thanks to Minds Matter, we're able to provide resources for patients and their families to help meet the daily challenges of living with a tumor."

Guests will have the opportunity to bid for live auction items, including a trip to the 2015 American Music Awards Show in Los Angeles and a "Top Gun Experience" which includes a fighter pilot mission for two people. The night will also feature music by The Gold Coast All-Stars.

Individual dinner tickets are $300 per person. The event's sustaining sponsors are the Bill Bass Foundation and Complete Cleaning Company/ Mary C. Dempsey & Kevin R. Hitzeman. To purchase tickets or learn more about sponsorships, visit or contact Jacqueline Evans at (312) 926-4199 or

About Northwestern Memorial HealthCare
Northwestern Memorial HealthCare (NMHC) is an academic health delivery system whose entities operate as Northwestern Medicine®. NMHC consists of 60 sites of outpatient care services throughout Chicago and Illinois' northern and western suburban regions, including four hospitals; Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Lake Forest, Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Delnor Hospital in Geneva and its flagship Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which is rated No. 1 in Chicago and Illinois, as well as 10th in the nation according to the U.S. News & World Report 2014-2015 Honor Roll of America's Best Hospitals. Additionally, the health system includes Northwestern Medical Group, more than 1,000 physicians who hold faculty appointments at NMHC Northwestern Medicine partner Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Cadence Physician Group, a local network of more than 250 primary care physicians and specialists on the medical staffs at Central DuPage Hospital and Delnor Hospital; and approximately 2,800 affiliated physicians.

About Northwestern Medicine®
Northwestern Medicine, anchored in downtown Chicago, joins the Northwestern Medicine Health System and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a shared vision to transform healthcare and positively impact people's lives through clinical innovation, educational excellence and breakthrough research.

In Chicago and its northern and western suburbs, Northwestern Medicine provides care through four hospitals and across 60 ambulatory sites that respond to the growing demand for quality healthcare close to where people live and work.  A combined health system and medical school workforce of more than 25,000 works to advance Northwestern Medicine with a focus on quality, innovation and excellence. More than 600,000 patients are now served by the health system through primary, specialty and hospital-based care. With a strong commitment to community, the health system contributed more than $565 million in community benefit last year.

About the Lurie Cancer Center
The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, one of only two National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Illinois, is committed to being a national leader in the battle to overcome cancer. 

To this end, the Lurie Cancer Center is dedicated to scientific discovery, advancing medical knowledge, providing compassionate, state-of-the-art cancer care, and training the next generation of clinicians and scientists. Outstanding basic, translational, and clinical research complements a full range of prevention, early detection, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care programs for all types of cancer. Learn more about the Lurie Cancer Center's patient care, services and programs, research and education, clinical trials, and faculty at


SOURCE Northwestern Medicine